Think Positive: Navy psychologist Marc Taylor surveyed Olympic athletes about whether they practiced positive mental skills such as silently voicing affirming thoughts. It may sound mushy, but Taylor has found that athletes who did the Stuart Smalley routine were significantly more likely to survive the intense pressure of elite competition and reach the medal stand. “If a coach can work with a promising young athlete to pay attention to his or her internal dialogue, and to stop negative thinking,” he says, “it can really change their performance.”

Change the Frame: Instead of panicking in the face of a crisis, try to see the situation from another perspective. Consider the larger context and the good things that might come along with the bad. When a crisis seems overwhelming, try to see the situation from another perspective. Try to understand the larger context and to identify the good things that might come along with the bad. “Write out best case and worst case scenarios, and how likely they are to come about,” recommends Rick Harvey, Assistant Professor of Health Education and Holistic Health at San Francisco State University. “When you can say to yourself, ‘You know what, the worse-case scenario isn’t very likely,’ then you can stop worrying.”

Think Small: A truly daunting task can drive even the toughest into discouragement. One trick is to just focus on the little piece in front of you. If you’re bogged down in a massive project at work, then, don’t let yourself despair at the hugeness of the task. Break it down into pieces small enough that you can do each one in an hour or less, and focus all your attention exclusively on that. “I can’t influence a giant thing like, ‘What am I going to do when I graduate from college?'” says Harvey. “But I can influence a thing like, ‘How can I go Monster.com?’ or ‘How can I scan the job listings on the job board?'”

 

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