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REF NO.: 51

SUBJECT: Newfoundland physiologist and hypnotherapist to lead Lifelong Learning-sponsored stress management and relaxation seminar

DATE: Oct. 21

Memorial University's Division of Lifelong Learning is sponsoring a stress management and relaxation seminar to be held on Thursday, Oct. 30, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Holiday Inn in St. John's. The $129 seminar - which includes lunch (1-2 p.m.) and resource materials -- will be led by Newfoundland physiologist and certified hypnotherapist, Gary Summers. Pre-registration is required.

Mr. Summers, a self-admitted workaholic, understands all too well the effects of stress. "No matter how busy I am I rarely turn down work. And I'm constantly becoming involved in business ventures; this on top of the demands of a full-time career."

"I find it difficult to say no," he notes somewhat ruefully. "I have this driving need to overachieve and to feel in demand, and people are only too willing to accommodate me," he explains. Understandably, that puts a lot of strain on his family. "There's less and less space for my family . . . or for myself for that matter," he says. Yet another tension he has to deal with.

He is, in a sense, the personification of today's stressed individual. Fortunately for Mr. Summers, he's also steeped in the business of recognizing stress and responding to it in a healthful manner.

"As a trained physiologist and a practising stress management and relaxation counsellor, I understand the relationship between the physiological and psychological implications of stress, so I'm careful to guard against the kind of damage improperly managed stress can cause you," he explains. And the potential for damage is very real, Mr. Summers says.

"Anger - which is a key component of stress - and its inappropriate suppression, leads to the chronic secretion of stress hormones, such as cortisol, that depress the immune system," he explains. "When anger is not expressed in a healthy way, hormonal imbalances can induce the immune system to mutiny against the body resulting in such things as increased stomach acid secretion, increased blood clotting, increased fatty deposits, and increased cardiovascular workload."

According to Mr. Summers, the observation that inefficient processing of emotions predisposes us to all kinds of illness, is quite common in the medical community, and has been the subject of much research, all of it published in mainstream medical and psychological journals.

"Stress follows a typical pattern," he explains: Alarm - where the body recognizes the danger; resistance - where the body mounts a defense, and finally exhaustion - where the body and mind simply give up; the "fallout", as Mr. Summers describes it. And with that fallout comes the temptation to respond to stress through inappropriate lifestyle choices such as smoking, increased alcohol consumption, caffeine fixes, abnormal eating patterns and a reduction in exercise, which only serve to exaggerate the problem.

There are two keys to managing your stress successfully, Mr. Summers asserts. The first is to set limits on what you can reasonably expect to achieve. "You can have anything you want, but you cannot have everything you want so you need to decide what is important in your life."

The second key is what Mr. Summers calls "personal empowerment"; that is, taking back control of your life, especially in the context of lifestyle choices. "So often I see people walking around with patches to help them stop smoking or fad diets to help them lose weight when all of us have the ability within ourselves to effect change . . . including controlling our stress." It's this strategy that Mr. Summers focuses on in his stress management and relaxation counselling. Through techniques such as self-hypnosis he is able to help people relax, to alter negative behaviours such as anger suppression.

"The point is, I can teach you to recognize stressors and how to respond to them, and I can alert you to the dangers of negative lifestyle choices, but the determination to change has to come from within," he says.

It's the message Mr. Summers will be emphasizing at his Oct. 30 seminar. Anyone wanting information about the seminar can call the Division of Lifelong Learning at 737-7979.

Mr. Summer has also developed a program for our youth called "Discover the Magic Within You" where he teaches youth about the dangers of smoking, drinking and drugs, along with helping them make sound lifestyle choices. The program has received the support of the provincial departments of health and education as well as the RNC, RCMP and the Home and School Federation. Mr. Summer has been presenting this program to the province's schoolchildren since 1996.

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