Professor Pete Alexander

A seasoned professional with over 30 years of Sales and Marketing experience, Pete has battled the negative effects of stress head-on and has developed the LIGHTEN™ stress relief model that motivates his peers to take action and overcome their self-imposed barriers to success using clever yet simple tools and techniques.
A seasoned professional with over 30 years of Sales and Marketing experience, Pete has battled the negative effects of stress head-on and has developed the LIGHTEN™ stress relief model that motivates his peers to take action and overcome their self-imposed barriers to success using clever yet simple tools and techniques.
Stress Relief Tool – Be Compassionate

Stress Relief Tool – Be Compassionate

When we show compassion for others in need, we build a stronger ability to deal with stress ourselves.1 As social creatures by nature, we are nurtured by support from others. Think about when you interviewed for your last job. Were you nervous? Probably. Did the person who was interviewing you do anything to calm you? Maybe not, but that would have been nice.

Being compassionate also extends to your personal time. For example, if the car in front of you has broken down, don’t honk your horn in frustration. Think about what it would be like if that was you in the disabled car. Instead, just maneuver out of the way without frustration and, better still, offer to call a tow truck if you have time. When you are kind and compassionate to a stranger, your own anxiety will be mitigated.

For example, be compassionate when you are interviewing someone for a job, and they are displaying obvious signs of nervousness. Offer them something to drink, take them for a short walk, and/or tell them a funny story about when you interviewed at your company. Your compassion will be appreciated.

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Limit Your Contact With Negative People

Stress Relief Tool – Limit Your Contact With Negative People

Dealing with difficult people is frustrating, exhausting, and highly stressful for most. If you have to work with a negative person, try to limit the amount of time you spend interacting with him or her, whether in person, phone, or other communication method.

When you need to engage with a negative/toxic person, take a deep breath and resist the temptation to comment and/or encourage a negative conversation. By not encouraging the negative talk, that person will likely look for someone else to dump on and free your time for more positive activities.

If you need to confront a toxic person, approach the situation rationally. Identify your own emotions and don’t allow anger or frustration to fuel the chaos. Also, try to consider the person’s perspective so that you can find solutions and common ground. And if things completely derail, take the toxic person with a grain of salt to avoid letting him or her bring you down.1

On the flip side, try to surround yourself with positive, happy people to reduce your anxiety. Yale researchers have found the following:2

  • People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected.
  • A person’s happiness extends to three degrees of separation, meaning that it can influence (and be influenced by) their friends, their friends’ friends, and the friends of people who are friends of their friends.
  • Each additional happy friend increases your chance of happiness by about 9 percent.
  • Geography matters. Our happiness increases when we live close to happy friends and family members.

Bottom line: Make it a habit by hanging around happy people and avoiding negative or toxic people.

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Random Acts of Kindness

Stress Relief Tool – Random Acts of Kindness

This is a simple yet very rewarding and effective form of stress relief. At the start of each day, take one minute to write an email or send a text praising or thanking someone you know for something they did.1 What you are thanking them for doesn’t have to be anything big: the fact that you noticed and thanked them for it can go a long way to making that person’s day. This also works for friends and family you haven’t connected with in a while. A simple message saying you were thinking of them works wonders.

If you have a little more time, master networker Adam Rifkin suggests his five-minute rule: every day we should do something selfless for someone else that takes under five minutes. The essence of whatever you do should be the difference it can make to the person receiving the gift. Usually these favors take the form of an introduction, reference, feedback, or shout-out on social media.2 It can also be something like helping someone carry boxes or offering to pick up lunch or coffee for somebody who is stuck working at their desk.

Here’s the caveat: don’t expect a response. If you set expectations, you set yourself up for disappointment. Instead, send the thank-you note just because you want to. And if you do get a response, consider it the cherry on top of your ice cream sundae and enjoy a jolt of positive energy to soften any difficulties you might be experiencing.

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Stress Relief Tool – Resist The Need To Be Liked

Stress Relief Tool – Resist The Need To Be Liked

Nobody is universally liked, largely for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with them. You are going to be liked by some, loved by others, criticized by a handful, and disliked by a few, whatever you do with your life. Therefore, it makes the most sense to do what you want, regardless of how other people will respond.1

If you’re too caught up in others’ perceptions of you in the workplace, over which you have limited control, you become stressed, and this will affect your work. Ironically, once you shift your focus from others’ perception of your work to the work itself, you’re more likely to impress them.2

This has always been a hard one for me. Growing up in a severely dysfunctional family, I always wanted my dad’s approval. I didn’t feel like I received it until later in life when I earned my college degrees and landed high-quality jobs. As an employee, I would frequently get uptight if somebody wasn’t friendly to me. And as a professor, I would focus on the one negative student evaluation instead of the 40 highly positive ones I would receive at the end of the course.

Fortunately, I came to realize that I cannot please everyone – I’m not pizza. And with it, the burden and anxiety of not acting like myself went away. It was another important learning moment for me.

So if you get the sense that someone doesn’t like you, think about someone else in your life (friends, family, coworkers, pets, etc.) who does like you. That simple mind-shift will minimize the stressful temptation to waste time getting that other person to like you.

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Stress Relief Tool – Touch Someone Close To You

Stress Relief Tool – Touch Someone Close To You

When you are frustrated, worried, or any other form of stress is manifesting inside of you, a shoulder rub, simple touch or hug from someone important to you makes a big difference in relieving your anxiety. It’s because we are humans, and one of our five primary senses is touch. Hugging has a particularly strong calming effect on us and reassures us that everything is going to be all right.

Scientific proof shows us that touching is one of the primary ways to release oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” because it elevates during hugging and orgasm. Touching someone you love has also been scientifically proven to reduce pain.1 And giving is just as good as receiving; giving a hug to someone who needs it can also help reduce the stress you feel.

Of course, before you offer a hug be mindful of the other person’s boundaries – including whether or not you both should be wearing face masks.

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Bedroom Makeover

Stress Relief Tool – Bedroom Makeover

So many things about a healthy and happy life (e.g., sleep, sex, relaxation) revolve around the bedroom, therefore it should have a high priority when you are designing your living space. Implement the following suggestions for developing your bedroom as a sanctuary:1

  • Turn your bedroom into a luxury hotel suite. Think of the feeling you get when you escape to a nice hotel on vacation. Capture that in your home every day.
  • Invest in comfort.Buy comfortable, quality sheets, pillows, bedding, and mattress.
  • Don’t skimp on window treatments. Blocking out light will help you sleep better.
  • Remove the television. Bedrooms are havens for sleep, sex, and contemplation, not screen time. That also includes your phone or other electronics.
  • Make the bed. Making the bed starts your day off with a small accomplishment, and you can end your day returning to a tidy, welcoming retreat.

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Surround Yourself with Colors

Stress Relief Tool – Surround Yourself with Colors

Drab office environments with blank walls and fluorescent lighting bring me down, so I always enliven my workspace with sports pennants and memorabilia of my favorite teams and venues I have had the pleasure of seeing live. These vivid colors perked me up during the day and allowed me to have an identity within the typical office environment.

Research in neuroscience and psychology has shown the colors that we surround ourselves with on a daily basis can affect how we feel, so the choice of color in our workplaces is important.1

“Color psychology” looks at the properties of certain colors in relation to mood, and it has shown that green is a mood-enhancing, stress-busting color. Therefore, natural elements such as plants can help create buffers between anxiety triggers and employees.2 I’ve seen this phenomenon work firsthand after installing hundreds of indoor plants in client workspaces with the interior landscaping business I have had the pleasure to own since 2005.

So consider buying yourself a small plant and put it on your desk. Name your plant something fun for you to remember, and then care for it as per the instructions included in the soil stick. Greet your plant by its name in the morning and/or evening. Add other colorful elements to your work environment to perk you up and dissipate your stress.

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Stress Relief Tool – Wear a Costume to Work

Stress Relief Tool – Wear a Costume to Work

If you are totally lost it with this suggestion, hear me out. The benefits of wearing something fun at work has amazing benefits. When you are in a costume, you get to be a persona that may remove your typical limitations or lack of confidence, especially if you struggle with being an introvert. You become much more approachable because people love creativity.

This technique can work for Halloween, your organization’s holiday party, your birthday, or for any day where you think “this would be fun to wear.” And it doesn’t have to be an elaborate costume. Something as simple as a funny T-shirt or hat for casual Fridays can do the trick.

I’ve worked at many organizations throughout my career, and while I did incredible work and was a high performer, many of my former coworkers remember me most for my creative costumes. I’ve been known to come to work as Batman, a life-size whoopee cushion (with sound effects), a walking billboard of now-hiring ads (for our competitors’ employees), Leisure Suit Larry (in 1970’s tight clothes), an astronaut, Gumby (the 1960’s claymation character), Dracula, an old man with suspenders and pants up to my breasts, and many, many more.

This worked so well that one of my former coworkers had this to say to me via LinkedIn: “Pete, I think that you brought a lot of joy for all of us when you went all out at Halloween or any cool event the company was hosting. I wonder if there is a Ted Talk about the act of participating and dressing up that makes the environment more fun and friendlier at a company.”

I’m still contemplating that idea.

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Stress Relief Tool – Spend Time In Nature

Stress Relief Tool – Spend Time In Nature

Do you like gardening? Going to the beach? Riding on a bike or a boat? When the dreaded stress bug bites, nature might be calling you. If you are motivated to get out in your yard, go to a local park, or pull out your bike from the garage I applaud you: you already know that nature works wonders on your body and mind to reduce anxiety. And a clinical study backs this up: respondents with a high amount of green space in a three kilometer radius were less affected by stressful life events than respondents with a low amount of green space in their radius.1

However, if you need more group support to get you motivated, then check out meetup.com. I found all my hiking groups here. Those groups helped me get through my divorce because I met people who were willing to listen and provide suggestions while at the same time getting out in nature. It was a real “win-win” for me.

There are groups for all kinds of nature experiences, and for all skill levels. It’s a great place to find new friends and get some much-needed vitamin D. And even if they are only meeting online until the pandemic calms down, you are getting ready for adventures with like-minded people in the future.

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Minimize Social Media

Stress Relief Tool – Minimize Social Media

I get it: social media can be so much fun! Funny videos and finding out who’s dating who or what a friend is up to can help you decompress and escape for a little while. The problem comes when that “short while” becomes a “long while.”

Social media can run the gamut from being fabulously uplifting to being totally depressing and exhausting, and this applies to all ages. If you check social media at all hours of the day and night, chances are you’ll complain about being tired. It impacts your sense of yourself and your identity and can make you anxious. Social media has created a new sense of impulsivity and urgency, and it can make you feel overwhelmed by what is happening in the world. These factors can be fatiguing and can impact how you sleep.1

The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to limit your social media usage to one hour or less per day. Consider blocking time in your calendar for your social media fix and stick to the time allotted so that you don’t go overtime (otherwise you will set a bad precedent for your other calendar commitments).

 

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