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 – Listen to Music

One of the positive effects of music comes from its ability to remind us of previous memories and environments. Scientifically, it is tapping into our context-dependent memory. Let’s say college was the happiest time of your life. If you start listening to the music that you were listening to at that time, it can help you feel more connected to that happier time in your life, and reminiscing about it can help reduce your stress.1

If you currently feel like you’ve hit a wall and can’t move forward, sometimes you need to switch up your routine to get going again. One simple change you can make is to listen to different music. If you always listen to the same tunes during your commute or workout, you might be reinforcing your current negative mood or habits.2 Try finding new music to help stimulate or calm your mind. Classical music, in particular, has been shown to relax the body and reduce blood pressure.3

Note: “Theme from The Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not)” is a song composed by Mike Post with lyrics by Stephen Geyer, and sung by American singer Joey Scarbury.

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Stress Relief Tool – Find Something Nostalgic

There is a specialty candy shop not far from where I live, and every time I walk in there, I’m reminded of my favorite childhood treats. As soon as I pick up one of those candies and read the label, I immediately get nostalgic. Interestingly, those proficient at reminiscing—looking back on happy times, rekindling joy from happy memories—are best able to buffer stress.1

Is there an old toy you have from your childhood sitting in a box waiting to comfort you? Maybe it is an old photo album you haven’t looked through in years. Or maybe you just need a bite of your favorite childhood candy. You can probably find anything that brings up positive nostalgia for you simply by Googling it.

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Hakalau

Hakalau is a light meditation suited for calming you before you need to present. It originates from the ancient Hawaiian Huna system called “the walking meditation of the kahuna” because the kahuna (a wise man or shaman) who practiced it were able to walk around and function while remaining in the state. There are five steps to this form of meditation:1

  1. Pick a spot on the wall to look at, preferably above eye level. Your field of vision should bump up against your eyebrows, but not so high as to cut off the field of vision.
  2. As you stare at this spot, just let your mind go loose, and focus all your attention on the spot.
  3. Notice that within a matter of moments, your vision begins to spread out, and you see more in the peripheral than you do in the central part of your vision.
  4. Now pay attention to the peripheral. In fact, pay more attention to the peripheral than to the central part of your vision.
  5. Stay in this state for as long as you can. Notice how it feels.

You are now calmer and more aware of your surroundings, and you are now more present and more ready to give a great presentation. As you practice Hakalau more and more, you will find that it can help dissipate your stress in other situations like conflict management with your peers and/or loved ones.

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Label Your Stress

The word stress is used generically to describe any kind of anxiety, agitation, anger, fear, guilt, or sadness we are feeling. However, if we simply describe the emotion that is fueling our stress in a few words, it will help reduce the charge of the emotion.1

For example, when I feel that someone has let me down (oh those dreaded expectations), instead of thinking/saying “I feel disappointed” I describe it in a few more words such as “I feel disappointed because …” By describing your emotions with a little more detail, this identification process can help you to start relaxing.

 

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Stress Relief Tool – It’s Either HELL YES! or No

If you are stressing over making a difficult decision, consider putting the resolution to an extreme test. If you feel a total and utter conviction to do something (HELL YEAH!), then the answer is yes. Anything less gets a thumbs down.1

This simplifies your decision-making process and eliminates lingering stress. If you are concerned about trying this technique with a big decision, try it with a minor decision first and work your way up to the more important decisions as your confidence grows.

 

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Avoid The Victim Mentality

This was an important lesson for me in my quest to reduce my stress. The severe family dysfunction I experienced as a child turned me into an angry young adult who liked to blame others for everything: my boss, my parents, family, and friends. Fortunately, I discovered a 12-step program called Adult Children of Alcoholic and Dysfunctional Families (ACoA) which taught me to take responsibility for my own actions and become my own loving parent.1 I have been an active member of this program since 1990.

I’ve also been inspired by Regina Hartley’s presentation about Scrappers. Scrappers reframe childhood Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as Post Traumatic Success Decision. They are driven by the belief that the only person they can change is themselves. They figure if they can survive their upbringing, the challenges of business are a piece of cake.2

Most everyone has a story of a struggle to share. Some people define themselves by it; others act in spite of it. The important thing to remember is that your past will only be your future if you carry it there.

You can take action at any time to change your attitude, especially if you ask yourself this question: “Is there anyone on the planet having it worse than me right now?”

Take your answer to heart, pick yourself back up, and notice your outlook improving and your stress level reducing.

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Stress Relief Tool – Reframe Your Fear

Fear is an emotional response to an actual threat, and it’s a fundamental survival mechanism that dates back to the Stone Age, when survival from predators was of primary concern. Fear is also a true emotional response when we’re about to lose someone or something that’s important to us. And it’s not just about our personal safety: we can fear the loss of a loved one to illness or our home to foreclosure.

The solution to your fear may just be reframing it. Do you know what the acronym F.E.A.R. stands for? False Evidence Appearing Real. It is an illusion, something we fabricate in our own minds that feels real. It’s a fairy tale we tell ourselves that keeps us from doing what we really want.1

The best way to move out of your fear is to get out of your comfort zone and visualize what it would be like to overcome your fear. Is there a clear path to getting there? Ask yourself what you would attempt if you knew you could not fail.2 You might surprise yourself with what your active and unconscious mind comes up with.

If that doesn’t work, try a slightly different approach. Ask yourself, “what is the worst that can happen?” And then follow up with “and then what?” “Okay, and then what?” and “Okay, and then what?” By going through this process of following a line of thought, you may find that the particular fear no longer has a hold on you.3

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Affirmations

Affirmations are simple statements designed to flood your brain with positive self-talk to overcome your inner critic and get you into a more upbeat, stress-free state. To employ this tip, all you need to do is read one you like over and over again; just Google “positive affirmations” to find a list that appeals to you.

Pick one or more and copy them into your phone for easy reference.

Another option is to use a mobile phone app, like Think Up to help you overcome challenges. You record affirmations in your own voice and listen to them just like you would your favorite music.

To improve the effectiveness, consider speaking your affirmation out loud as you look at yourself in the mirror. Regardless of how you use them, affirmations can be helpful to use right before you have a stressful event such as an important meeting, presentation or conversation.

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Stress Relief Tool – Talk To Yourself

I’ll give you one guess what your biggest challenge is. Yep, it’s you. We all have that inner critic inside of us, that voice that constantly is putting us down and telling us we are not good enough. The critical inner voice is formed out of painful early life experiences in which we witnessed or experienced hurtful attitudes toward us or those close to us. As we grow up, we unconsciously adopt and integrate this pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others.1

Rather than listening to negative self-talk, be proactive and start talking to yourself in a more constructive way. It’s as simple as tweaking the way you speak to yourself. Asking ourselves questions rather than issuing commands is a much more effective way to create change.

When you catch your inner critic flinging accusations, think, how can I turn this statement into a question? Asking questions encourages greater exploration and opens up more possibilities. Here are some examples: Am I willing to do what it takes? When have I done this before? What if [insert worst case scenario] happens? How can I…? This type of self-inquiry powers up problem-solving areas of the brain, helping you tap into your innate creativity. You’re able to greet negative thoughts with curiosity instead of fear, thus minimizing the unnecessary stress we put on ourselves.2

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Stress Relief Tool – Your Perception Is Your Reality

Have you ever gotten stressed just thinking about a particular situation, only to find out later it was no big deal? This used to happen to me all the time. More recently, I was enlightened to the fact that how we perceive the world around us becomes our reality, even if that reality is indeed false.

For example, if we think something is going to be stressful, we manifest that anxiety internally and we exert energy to deal with that negative thought without knowing the true facts. What we have done is change our actions based on what we think might be the outcome, when the situation may not be stressful at all.

Another example of this phenomenon is when you are running late. Have you noticed that when you are rushing, you are more likely to hit red lights instead of green lights? Or that you can’t find your car keys, wallet, etc. when you know you need to be leaving? Every negative reaction we have to the fact that we are running late adds to our anxiety, and we become frazzled with each minute more that we are delayed.

Conversely, “perception is reality” also works when there is a positive in your life. For example, if you are in the market for a new car, or just bought one, have you noticed that you see more of that same make and model than you did before? It isn’t that more people are magically driving that model, it’s that you now notice those vehicles on the road more because your perception has changed.

When a problem occurs that you perceive as a big deal, ask yourself the following question: will this matter 5 years from now? Or even 5 weeks from now? Honestly, think about that for a minute and you will notice your stress level coming way down as your perception likely changes as reality sets in.

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