The growing field of epigenetics believes that a person is the result of the situations that occur in their life and the way they react to them, and that these experiences change the way their genes work. Depending on experiences, genes are activated or not activated, and at the same time, experience and genetics feed each other. According to this theory, disease is an external, bodily expression of imbalance. It is the body’s warning that something is wrong. For the PhD in Psychology Mailén Barreto, Mariela Garabello and Melody Varisco.
Many diseases, especially chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), are the result of the way of life that is led, including a certain way of thinking and perceiving reality that is maintained, conditioned by beliefs that determine emotions and reactions.
In the development of NCD, the way a person processes what happens to him, how he faces every situation, whether in an assertive or dysfunctional way, concealing himself and ending up in harmful channels that often become habits (vices), is of great importance.
Currently, NCDs are the leading cause of death in the world. Among the main harmful habits or risk factors that increase the likelihood of their occurrence and increase are: smoking, alcoholism, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and hyperstress.
Smoking mainly affects the lungs, which metaphorically according to Gestalt are a symbol of life, because without air and without breathing no one would do it. Breathing is an automatic process, which is usually not given too much attention and importance. The same happens with autonomy and communication. A cigarette comes to cover what one wants to say, a decision that one wants to make, which was not made for various reasons (fear, insecurity, comfort, a feeling of lack of restraint, etc.), everything that leads a person to feel anxiety, nervousness and to look for a certain sense of peace in this addiction.
Faced with an urgent desire to smoke, what a person really needs to do is connect with his emotions, accept and recognize them, that is, connect with the here and now so that he can contemplate what is happening and calm his mind and body; rather than becoming more and more automatically or impulsively into the act of smoking. Thinking about the past is very disturbing and thinking about the future is very anxious. Hence the importance of performing breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, returning to the present and facing what can really be solved, contemplation, acceptance and recognition of one’s emotions and asking oneself: what should be communicated in relation to the experienced emotion? What do you really want to do but can’t make up your mind to do it?
Alcohol consumption is consistently identified as a risk factor for many diseases, including hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by a ruptured blood vessel. However, the truth is that not all people who drink alcohol do so excessively, developing an alcohol use disorder, which consists of problems controlling what they drink, worrying about alcohol, or continuing to drink even when it’s causing you problems.
However, even by not developing this disorder, it is not possible to minimize the risks and how harmful alcohol consumption is to health, even occasionally. Drinking alcohol can be counterproductive if you are on a healthy plan, not only because of the amount of extra calories you will add to your diet, but also because the act will make you more vulnerable when making decisions, making the behavior more relaxed and consequently allowing yourself to lose control of in some situations, such as “pecking”. In general, it will be more difficult for you to avoid behaviors that would be easier to control when sober.
At the same time, it is important to realize that alcohol consumption currently affects reasoning and the ability to control behavior, which would go in the complete opposite direction of building a healthy lifestyle.
Therefore, alcohol consumption has negative effects on mental health, such as causing memory problems, depression or anxiety. Alcohol consumption is often used to recover positive feelings or to avoid or reduce negative ones, which would be the wrong way to channel emotions.
That is why it is important to work on building tools that allow us to recognize and accept emotions as such, and not to avoid them by consuming alcohol, tobacco or food, which, although successful, is only temporary because in the long run that emotion still exists, only which is covered by consumption. If you can recognize and accept it as such, you will be better prepared to channel it in a healthy way.
On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle is a lack of activity, an excess of passivity, outside of work that every person does at some point in the day. It is a way of life in which almost no physical activity is carried out, most of the time is spent in a passive position, sitting or reclining, expending minimal energy. In addition to the clinical problems created by a sedentary lifestyle, this type of passive, minimal-effort behavior sends a devastating unconscious message to the brain about a lack of rewarding incentives, which ultimately creates a sense of meaninglessness in life. The pleasure that can be felt after a well-deserved rest when recovering energy after a certain activity, becomes laziness when it exceeds what corresponds to recovery, when prostration becomes an “activity” in itself.
In this sense, hyperstress plays its role, because it exhausts you, you often feel as if you have run a marathon, when you may have spent most of the day in a passive attitude, thinking about problems, etc. The body feels that it must “rest”, but in reality what must “stop” is the mind, and the best way to clear it is – as opposed to prostrating, sitting, being silent to watch television, etc. – doing some physical activity, whatever it may be; Otherwise, the result that paradoxically is not achieved is not the desired appeasement, but rather an intensification of stress symptoms and a kind of dependence on passivity, on the lack of stimulation.
Life is movement, movement contributes to mental cleansing and connection with the external, which favors creativity and perception from different perspectives; Processes that are locked tend to crash more easily. Movement is also closely related to the release of feel-good hormones and mental rest, which is not solved by sleeping or lying down.
Any activity is welcome. It is everyone’s responsibility to try until they find the most suitable one, the one that is more in line with anyone’s taste, schedule, availability and capabilities, and to maintain it regularly over time until it becomes a habit, a healthy habit that is not a maintenance of effort, but something that motivates and rewards.
Obesity is a product not only of an inadequate diet and a sedentary lifestyle, but also, and to a greater extent, of the way we deal with stress – and thus anxiety and worry – since the mind, as mentioned at the beginning, leads to setting certain cognitive and behavioral patterns according to the belief system of each of them, to the way in which each situation is interpreted.
Obesity is largely a consequence of an unconscious way of protecting a person, the need to set boundaries. Those who suffer from obesity usually have difficulty in prioritizing themselves (self-esteem) and setting limits to the demands of others, trying to reflect this burden and overstrain in their physical body. Hence the importance of reconnecting with oneself in order to reflect, recognize and accept what one really wants, and from there practice setting boundaries, the ability to say no, not now, I can’t today; to be able to express what you really feel, to give yourself, in balance, the necessary time for self-care and self-respect.
Meanwhile, hyperstress occurs when a person has already crossed the normal threshold of stress that is needed to somehow survive. It is a consequence of overload or excessive stress. This is generated by the accumulation of situations in which the person feels great discomfort, to the point of emotional overflow, but remains passive, complains or vents and channels dysfunctionally.
In the face of hyperstress, it is necessary to take a proactive attitude, which implies recognition and acceptance of the problem, and then the assessment of functional coping strategies, as well as the activation of the right side of the brain, the creative one involved in solving, in solutions. ; unlike the left, which is active most of the time, prone to cognitive and behavioral automatism; to undertaking, for example, the same attempted solutions over and over again, which not only prolongs the problem, but intensifies it, gradually weakening feelings of self-efficacy and personal security.
In order to avoid falling into hyperstress, it is very useful to maintain a daily schedule and organization in which time is available for recreation, physical activity and socializing with positive people. Knowing how to cultivate friendships intelligently is key. Building strong, positive relationships provides needed support, guidance, and acceptance in both joyful and stormy times. In this way, it is possible to create a solid support network that can support everyone in the most difficult moments.
It is also very important to always keep in mind what can be controlled and what is out of your control. When reality cannot be changed, it is crucial to work on what can be controlled and changed, namely our own emotions and the way we react to the difficulty.
The same position should be taken in relation to the past and the future: to be able to create a habit of complete presence, to have a great capacity for acceptance, is essential, so that past events become part of yesterday, cease to be part of the present, disturbing, a source of guilt, apologies or anxiety. The events that took place cannot be modified, but the way in which they can be reacted to, therefore the ability to resign from the past, however difficult it may be, and to take advantage of that experience is fundamental. The same in relation to the future: whether its share of uncertainty overwhelms the mind and body with worries depends only on each individual. What can be done in these cases is to occupy ourselves and organize in such a way that what happens finds us better prepared to deal with what comes next.
Editor’s note: Article published in Icarus Centro de Salud & Longevidad Educational Material, for Pios-Pec and Pios-Pec PER patients, corresponding to October 2022, assigned for publication in AIM.