LIGHTEN Stress Relief Page

LIGHTEN™ Model For Stress Relief

The LIGHTEN™ Model for Stress Relief helps identify what areas of your life need to be in alignment for you to benefit from long term stress relief.

One of my first clients referred me to his boss who was dealing with a lot of personal issues that were causing him stress. I scheduled a time to call him, and the first thing he asks me when I called was “so what do you do?” I responded with my elevator pitch: “I inspire working professionals with stress relief tools that help them overcome their barriers and obstacles to success.”

“Interesting,” my friend’s boss says. “I’ve tried a few techniques myself but I haven’t been able to make them stick.” And that was an aha moment for me. I had been working with several clients already, and many of them didn’t have the foundation necessary to maintain success after they had worked with me. My bad – I was so eager to help these clients right away that I jumped into application work before fully assessing and educating them on the importance of their foundation for success.

From a business perspective, it was like I was implementing tactics without developing an overall strategy for my clients to overcome their stress. In other words, I was providing stress relief tools (tactics) without a foundation of balance that each of my clients should strive for (strategy).

The basis or groundwork for effective and holistic long-term stress relief success (and avoiding burnout) is what I call the LIGHTEN™ Model. Since I am a visual person, I like to demonstrate it in a simple drawing that was inspired by what a Southwest Airlines flight attendant once described as a “hairy light bulb” button passengers should push if they needed additional lighting (please forgive the amateur drawing – this is really how I draw it for people):

From a visual standpoint, the image represents the idea (hence the light bulb) that the following seven areas need to be nurtured and in alignment for maximum stress relief efforts:

L – Livelihood (career)
The average American spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime1. Think about that. We are likely to spend more time at work than we spend with our loved ones, and many of us with workaholic tendencies will work more hours than we sleep. If your career is sucking every available hour of our day, or even if it just seems that way, getting some balance will be extremely important. There are a ton of stress relief tools you can try quickly and easily to get you moving in the right direction.

I – Imagination
If you are old enough to remember the “Calgon take me away” commercials from the 1970’s and 1980’s, you know what imagination can do to help you get out of a stressful situation. Many stress relief tools will require you to imagine something, so you will need to let the creative side of your brain have a little fun as you visualize overcoming your stressful situation. Your active, conscious mind – which makes up five percent of your brain activity and includes your inner critic and control freak tendencies – allows you to focus and visualize something that is totally new and unique – something you’ve never physically experienced before.2

G – Genius (unconscious mind)
The fact is most stress is mental. It’s imperative that you find stress relief tools that work for you to calm your mind. And while the imagination part of your conscious mind is important, equally important will be your ability to get in touch with your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind is your auto pilot. It runs your body 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also is in charge of things like:3

  • Memories – such as what your telephone number is, how to drive a car without having to consciously think about it, what you need to get from the shop on the way home etc.
    Current programs you run daily, such as behaviors, habits, mood
  • Filters (such as beliefs and values) to run information through to test their validity according to your perception of the world
  • Sensations taken in via your 5 senses and what it means to you.

Based on all my training in neurolinguistic programming (NLP), real and sustained change happens on the unconscious level, so you have to make sure your unconscious and conscious minds are in alignment.

H – Health
The most important part of the LIGHTEN™ Model, hands down. This is the inspiration for my career as a stress relief expert. If you don’t have your health, all else doesn’t really matter. You won’t have the energy nor the willingness to take action. Think about it – when you have had a bad flu, do you want to do anything other than sleep? Me neither. Don’t take your physical health for granted.

T – Time
Similar to health, this one is easy to comprehend. Time is important because you need to take action. Taking action like trying a few tools and techniques TODAY – not tomorrow or next week. Right now. Why? Because humans by nature don’t like change, and experimenting with a new stress relief tool is indeed change. So commit to taking action and trying different stress relief tools included until you have a handful of “go-to” techniques you can rely on.

E – Environment
Your environment – whether it is at work, school or home – is critical to your success. Some tools you will need to have silence around you to implement. Some tools will need you to sit down while you implement them. Whatever tool(s) you decide to implement, make sure the environment around you is supportive of your efforts.

N – Network (relationships)
The people in your life matter. Your family, friends and significant other play a huge role in your stress level, and your stress level plays a huge role in your interactions with your personal relationships.
Stress depletes us, sapping our cognitive resources. It also increases vigilance. This means when you are stressed you are more likely to notice negative behaviors and less able to stop yourself from reacting badly to them. It also means that you are less patient and less able to give your relationships the benefit of the doubt when they behave badly. Stress also makes people more irritable and hostile, which increases the likelihood of fighting. When fighting, stress may make people less able to listen or show interest and empathy. In short, stress turns non-issues into issues and prevents your ability to deal with the issue constructively.4

The Reality of the LIGHTEN™ Model
OK, I bet I know what you are thinking – that if you had every aspect of the LIGHTEN™ Model in alignment you wouldn’t need stress relief. And you are right!

Think of the LIGHTEN™ Model as the utopian that you aspire to achieve. Each part of the model needs care and nurturing. Sometimes you will need to focus more attention one one or two areas of the model more than others. That’s okay because the model is flexible and designed to work within your parameters. The model’s intent is to serve as a reminder that each area plays a role in your stress relief efforts.

And think about how fun it would be to explain to your friends, family and coworkers how a hairy light bulb has helped you reduce your stress!

Please note that there is no guarantee a particular stress relief tool will work for you. Thus you must take complete responsibility for using them and for your own physical and emotional wellbeing. Further, Professor Pete Alexander is not a licensed health professional. Please consult qualified health practitioners regarding your use of any stress relief technique. Medical advice must only be obtained from a physician or qualified health practitioner.


  1. Pryce-Jones, J., Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital for Success, Wiley, 2010.
  2. The Mind Unleased – The Conscious, Subconscious, And Unconscious Mind – How Does It All Work?
  3. The Mind Unleased – The Conscious, Subconscious, And Unconscious Mind – How Does It All Work?
  4. Psychology Today – Is Stress Killing Your Relationship? Why You’re Not Alone.