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 – Don’t Multitask

Do a simple search on Google about multitasking and hundreds of articles will come up supporting the perils of multitasking.

Unfortunately, our brains just aren’t equipped for multitasking work that requires brainpower. When you’re trying to accomplish two dissimilar tasks, each one requiring some level of consideration and attention, multitasking falls apart. Your brain just can’t take in and process two simultaneous, separate streams of information and encode them fully into short-term memory. And when information doesn’t make it into short-term memory, it can’t be transferred into long-term memory for recall later.1

In fact, the true cost of multitasking multiple projects can be enormous on the actual time we spend on each project. Each time we context switch, where we move from one project to the next, it costs us valuable time ramping up to mentally be ready to work on that new project. So when we are only concentrating on one project we can focus 100 percent of our time to that project; when we have five projects we are only able to provide four percent of our time during the day to each of those five projects – making the completion of those projects much slower.2

Bottom line: multitasking works against you. It’s making you less efficient, not more. And when you are less efficient, the work piles up. And when the work piles up, your stress level increases. Do yourself and your career, peers, family and friends a favor and be fully present for each of your responsibilities – not split between multiple projects because your brain doesn’t work proportionately to your priorities.

 

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Realize You Cannot Do It All

I grew up a perfectionist because I was always striving for my father’s approval. No matter what I excelled at as a child, my father always found something to nitpick. Fortunately as an adult I got over that using various self-help techniques, and I even had the wonderful opportunity to make amends with my father when he was in hospice. I came to find out during his last days that he was truly proud of me, and that helped me reduce my need to be a perfectionist.

Not being a perfectionist means that to be good at one thing, you have to be bad at something else. So what should you do once you realize you can’t do everything? Come up with a strategy. As author Jon Acuff says: “You only have two options right now: 1. Attempt more than is humanly possible and fail. 2. Choose what to bomb and succeed at a goal that matters.”1 Assuming you choose option 2, try delegating the ones you cannot possibly get to and/or complete satisfactorily, and be OK with not being a perfectionist.

 

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Detox From Technology

Disconnecting from your electronic communication leash (also known as your work cell phone) is very important, because if you can’t find a way to remove yourself electronically from your work, then you’ve never really left work.

Making yourself available to your work 24/7 exposes you to a constant barrage of stressors that prevent you from refocusing and recharging. If taking the entire weekend off handling work e-mails and calls isn’t realistic, try designating specific times on Saturday and Sunday for checking e-mails and responding to voicemails. For example, check your messages on Saturday afternoon while your kids are getting a haircut and on Sunday evenings after dinner. Scheduling short blocks of time will alleviate stress without sacrificing availability.1

And if you can spare a few days away from the office, a great way to detox from your phone is to go camping in a location that has no cell service or WIFI. On the first day I usually go through an electronics detox, and on the second day I realize that the world hasn’t ended and I can be fully present with my friends and family.

 

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Deep Breathing

When we get stressed and/or anxious, our breathing typically starts to escalate. A very simple and effective tool you can use is slowing down your breathing. By consciously slowing your breathing down, you tell your body that it is okay to calm down. It is also something you can practice wherever you are – in the office, car, commuting on public transportation, etc. Just follow these steps:1

  1. Sit on a chair and keep your spine straightened. Relax your shoulders and try to release tension from your body.
  2. Close your eyes and breathe normally for 30 seconds. During this time, try to relax your body even further.
  3. Inhale deeply and exhale to the count of four. Pull your navel in as if you’re trying to connect it with your spine.
  4. If you have more than one minute to spare, repeat the process for a few minutes more.

 

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Exercise

I’m not going to waste your time by telling you that exercise is good for you – you already know that. However, what you might not realize is that exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. According to the Mayo Clinic, being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries1. I know because hiking and cycling did wonders for my mood when I was going through my divorce. So did stretching my back and shoulders when I got home from work.

It doesn’t take a lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator. Take a 10 minute walk at lunch. Whatever it is, just move more if you are generally sedentary during the day. Your body and mind will thank you.

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Stress Relief Tool – Laughter

You’ve probably heard the old adage “laughter is the best medicine”, and science backs this up. Many studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of laughter. Laughing during a humorous film elevates the pain threshold and can help break the cycle between pain, sleep loss, depression, and immunosuppression. Laughter lowers blood pressure, epinephrine, and glucose levels, and increases glucose tolerance. Humor and laughter produce a discharge of endorphins with both euphoric and calming effects that provide stress relief.1

Think about how good it feels to laugh out loud, and if you are lucky – laugh so hard that tears come to you eyes. And one of the great things about laughter is that it is contagious. Have you ever been in a room where other people are laughing hysterically and you can’t help yourself but smile and laugh also?

And the really amazing thing is that you don’t need a humorous film, joke or funny situation in order to use laughter to your advantage. Using the technique of Laughter Yoga, you simulate a deep hearty laughing session and you still get the clinical benefits of laughing – 28 percent drop in stress levels2 – even though there is nothing funny you are laughing at.

Here’s a quick and easy Laughter Yoga exercise to give a try:

  1. Imagine receiving a bill that’s due or a report card that isn’t complimentary.  Pretend to open it in your hands and start laughing.
  2. Show the imaginary bill or report card to others and keep laughing – the louder the better!
  3. Breathe in deeply, notice how good it feels to laugh, and you are now ready to get back to your day.

 

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Stress Relief Tool – Visualization (Imagination)

Visualization is a fun way of getting stress relief using your imagination. To use this technique, stop what you are doing, close your eyes and let your mind go blank. Picture yourself in an environment that is relaxing to you, such as sitting on the beach, floating in a swimming pool or taking a walk. Imagine yourself interacting with your surroundings. For example, if you imagine yourself outside taking a walk, feel the wind on your face, smell flowers or search for seashells.

Stay in your relaxing space as long as necessary, although you will likely feel a calming sense within the first minute of this exercise. Come back to yourself slowly, open your eyes and keep the feelings of relaxation with you. Tell yourself that you are now calm and relaxed.1

Give visualization a try the next time you need stress relief.

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Stress Relief Tool – Smiling & Sunglasses

“Smile! It increases your face value.”
– Truvy Jones (Dolly Parton) from Steel Magnolias (1989).

I love that quote because it’s so true – think about when you see someone smiling, you wonder what they are smiling at because you don’t want to miss out and smile too! OK, not everyone wants to smile, as I have encountered many curmudgeons who prefer to remain miserable, but the vast majority of people I have interacted with enjoy smiling. I’ve tested this walking down the street thinking about something funny, with a smile on my face, and the majority of strangers I make eye contact with smile back.

When you frown, your brain thinks “Oh, I must not be feeling positive emotions.” Whereas when it notices you flexing those muscles upward on the side of the mouth it thinks, “I must be smiling. Oh, we must be happy.”1 And you don’t even have to be happy to get the benefit – just hold that smile for 60 seconds and notice yourself feeling better.

You know what is even more amazing? Research shows smiling gives the brain as much pleasure as 2,000 bars of chocolate, or $25,000.2 Now, that’s a lot of chocolate and a lot of money. Smiling comes calorie and tax free though.

And if you find yourself smiling outdoors in the daylight, maximize the benefits of smiling by putting on sunglasses. When you squint, that tells your brain that you are worried. So smiling and sunglasses makes for a powerful stress relief combo.

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Stress Relief Tool – Gratitude

Gratitude – being grateful for someone or something you have – has the ability to attract what you want in life, improve your relationships, improve your health, reduce negativity and help you learn. If you don’t believe me, take a look at all these articles and resources on Google.

I make it a nightly habit that right before I go to sleep, I ask my wife what she is grateful for, and she does the same for me. I typically start with my health, and then recap other things that happened during the day that I am grateful for. I’m also mindful to not only say what I am grateful for and why, because it makes it specific in my unconscious mind and I can continue to train my mind to think in a more grateful way. For example, I might say “I’m grateful for my health because it allowed me to participate in a hike today – thank you thank you thank you.” I learned to say thank you three times from a favorite book of mine.

I also use gratitude for simple stuff such as making a stale green light, having a meal I like, hot water in the shower, etc. We take a lot for granted, and if we start appreciating the little things more, we will be prepared more for the more difficult challenges.

Challenges like not wanting to be at work. If this resonates with you, try writing down 5 things you are grateful about your job when you first get to your desk. It could be the paycheck because it pays your bills, the health benefits you receive to keep you healthy, the friendship(s) you have established, etc. By doing this at the beginning of your workday, you set yourself up for a less stressful result.

Try gratitude for one week and see how you feel.

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