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 – 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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Stress Relief Tool – Ask The Pendulum

Remember Disney’s Snow White when the wicked queen asks, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?” Well, a magic mirror doesn’t exist, but something almost as good does. It’s called a pendulum, and you can use one to ask yes or no questions to help you make a decision that is causing you stress.

Take a pendant on a chain and hold it in one hand, letting it hang down vertically. Make sure it is steady, and then ask “pendulum, show me yes” and watch to see if the pendant moves in a particular direction. If you see a slight movement, you can ask it to “amplify.” Do the same process for “no,” calibrating the pendant for both yes and no.

You are now ready to ask the pendulum yes or no questions.

This process can be used for both small and large decisions, although the larger and more troublesome the decision, the more likely the pendulum will swing with a clear answer. The trick is to ask very specific yes or no questions. For example, you could rephrase the question “should I quit my job?” to “should I quit my job tomorrow (or next week, month, etc.)?” Your body and mind will work together in harmony to help you get clarity on your decision at hand. Chances are you know what the right decision is; the pendulum process simply helps confirm it.

While this might come across as a bit “woo-woo”, the fact that your body and mind align to help you make a decision is the bottom-line benefit of this process.

In other words, making a decision provides you with stress relief.

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Stress Relief Tool – Write Your Own Eulogy

What a sad ending to your life it would be to be lying on your death bed worrying over a decision that you did or didn’t make. If there is a better reality check than this, I can’t imagine what it would be. I certainly know I won’t regret that I didn’t spend an additional hour a day working.

When we write about how we’d like to be remembered, we can examine our priorities and goals from a broader perspective.

If you are game, here is how you do it:1

Draft two eulogies to be read at your funeral. The first one should be as if you were to have died today. Visualize the first three rows and be brutally honest about your impact on those people who are likely your closest friends and family, compared to the others who are sitting in rows 10 through 20 (your acquaintances, clients and customers).

Now write the second eulogy that encompasses all your future achievements, keeping in mind the same people in those first three rows. Compare the two to re-evaluate how you are spending your time and the decisions you are making. When you are true to yourself, you start releasing the anxiety caused by the expectations of others who don’t matter as much.

This activity also helps remind us of what truly matters in our life, and whether our time spent is in proper alignment with our true self.

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Vision Board or Binder

This isn’t a quick exercise, but it is an easy and fun one. Creating a vision board or binder allows you the opportunity to reflect on what you want when things are not going your way.

You start by writing down what you want in life. For me, that included a healthy body, a career in which I make a difference, economic security, travel opportunities, wonderful family relationships, and a beautiful home.

Let me caution you, though: don’t focus just on acquiring “things.” Acquiring stuff (bigger houses, fancier cars, etc.) causes anxiety because you have to keep working hard to maintain the costs of supporting these new acquisitions. This situation was one of the main culprits that lead to my divorce (and additional stress, as anyone who has been through a divorce can attest).

Research has shown that material things don’t make you happy. People living in extreme poverty experience a significant increase in happiness when their financial circumstances improve, but it drops off quickly above $20,000 in annual income. When you make a habit of chasing things, you are likely to become unhappy. Why? Because beyond the disappointment you experience once you get them, you discover that you’ve gained them at the expense of the real things that bring you joy such as friends, family, and hobbies.1

Once you have your list, start collecting a bunch of images, either printed from the internet or from old magazines and then decide where it will live. If you have space on your wall, pin-up your vision board, or to have it handy, create a vision binder to carry around. Once you decide your format, start organizing your images on your board or your binder until you have enough images to reinforce what you are striving for.

Use your vision board/binder any time work gets challenging, or when experiencing any other stressful situation. Your vision board/binder will remind you of why you are working so hard and where you ultimately want to go, and it will have a calming effect on your demeanor.

 

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Guest Post – Eliminating Stress: Less Talking, More Writing

Guest Post – Eliminating Stress: Less Talking, More Writing

This guest post is an extension of my original blog post about journaling.

To address and successfully overcome any challenge in life it’s critical to understand it first. Knowledge is power – understanding something enables you to act with certainty and success. It’s hard to win against something you do not understand.

With that in mind, let’s talk about stress.

According to recent studies, approximately half of all Americans admit to dealing with some level of stress on a regular basis. So if you’re feeling stressed you can take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. What makes your situation unique is how you deal with it.

It’s no surprise, then, that there is a lot being said these days about stress. What is a surprise, though, is how few people really understand stress — what it is, what it does, and how to effectively address it. I’ll say it again: it’s hard to win against something you do not understand.

So first, let’s take a closer look at stress, the factors that create it, and the ways in which it reveals itself. Stress is different for everyone. What stresses you out may not even bother family or friends, and vice versa.

Still, our bodies react the same to stressors. That’s because the stress response is your body’s way of dealing with difficult situations. It causes hormonal, respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous system changes. For example, stress can make your heart beat faster, make you breathe rapidly, sweat, and tense up. It can also give you a burst of energy.

This is known as the body’s “fight-or-flight response.” It’s this chemical reaction that prepares your body for a physical reaction because it thinks it’s under attack. This type of stress helped our human ancestors survive in nature. Stress is a normal, physical, and chemical reaction to danger, to change, to deadlines, to the unknown.

Stress can be good and bad. It can motivate you to action and help you meet the challenges of everyday life, including avoiding things that might harm you mentally or physically. That’s good. But it can also cause you to freeze in the face of adversity and prevent you from acting in a positive way. That’s bad.

Stress can be caused by variety of factors, including:

  • Bad relationships
  • Working too hard
  • Marital conflicts
  • Bullying
  • Difficulties at work or school
  • Family problems
  • Health issues
  • Death of someone close
  • Dramatic changes in daily life
  • Financial troubles

Stress can show itself in both physical and emotional ways, including:

  • Loss of sleep
  • Moodiness
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches and muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite and/or sex drive
  • Hypertension
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Depression

Kicking stress to the curb

The good and bad news is that stress starts with you. It’s an internal issue. By that I mean stress results from how you react to an event or situation. It’s self-imposed. The good news is that because stress starts with you, it can end with you. You can decide you want no part of it. Once you understand stress, you can start to take positive action to defeat it.

Therapeutic journaling: Writing your way out of a stressful situation.

Therapeutic journaling helps you know yourself better to understand the triggers of the stress affecting you. It helps you examine the way you are behaving and reacting to situations and discover where your stress comes from. Through journaling, you can begin to deconstruct all the issues, roadblocks, and conflicts that create your stressful condition and reveal options about how to deal with life’s challenging situations to reduce or even eliminate that stress.

Understanding your thoughts and behavior patterns enables you to understand how you create your own stress. Journaling will help you choose to change the way you respond to stressful people and situations so you are healthier and happier. If you want to learn how to manage the stress and strains of life, please download the eBook titled The Journaling Guide to Manage The Stress and Strains of Life.

About the Author

Mari L. McCarthy, Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer of CreateWriteNow.com, shows health-conscious people how to use Journaling for the Health of It to heal the issues in their tissues and to grow and transform their life.

Her first book, Journaling Power: How To Create The Happy, Healthy Life You Want To Live won a 2018 Bronze Award from the Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR) and a 2019 Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association.

Her 2nd book in the Journaling Power Trilogy, Heal Your Self With Journaling Power, is now on sale.

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Stress Relief Tool – Create Your Joy List

We’ve all had those days we just want to forget. Nothing seemed to go right, and the more we stressed about things, the more things snowballed—am I right? It’s easy in those situations to get down, so this is an easy and fun tip to get your mindset back on a positive track.

Create a list of what your sources of happiness and joy are; have as many resources to draw on as you possibly can. Your list is unique to you, there is no right or wrong way to feel joy: pictures, songs, nature, comedy, you name it. Whatever works for you.1 My list includes watching movies with my wife, hiking, attending/watching San Jose Sharks games with my kids, and petting my cat. It also includes the sound of whoopee cushions, funny jokes, favorite music, and connecting with my friends. I could go on, but you get the point: your list can have anything on it that makes you smile.

Your sources of joy will bring you back into alignment whenever you’ve strayed from your path and don’t feel good. If you take a picture of your list on your phone, you can easily reflect on the list for just one minute when times are tough – and it will help your stress level come down in the process.

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Discover Your Personality

Understanding what your preferences are in certain situations, and how your personality interacts with others, can be quite beneficial to helping you minimize unnecessary stress. Behavior tests, only if you are completely honest in your responses, can give you an accurate description of who you are and why you do things the way you do. You can also learn what really drives, inspires, and worries other types of personalities, helping you build more meaningful relationships.

Two of my favorite behavior tools are the following:

  • 16 Personalities. This is a free test based on the Myers-Briggs model. This is great for helping you determine your preferable working style and those within your work team (assuming they all take the test and share their profiles). As an example, I am an ENFJ: a natural-born leader.
  • Personality Colors. This test and book are great tools to help you communicate with your significant other by understanding what is important to both of you. I found that my temperament is a cross between Orange (“let’s all get along”) and Green (“let’s experience it all”). Search for the book Love…What’s Personality Got to Do With It? by Carol Ritberger Ph.D.

Whether you want to communicate better at work or at home, these two tools can be a great start for you.

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