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5 Tips for Building Mental Stamina

3. Plan for Setbacks continued...

"One of the things that separates elite athletes is their ability to hold up after a setback," says Corb. "They don't spiral out of control."

Again, this isn't just about your personality -- it's a skill you can learn. How can you regain your focus when things go wrong? "You need to practice techniques to re-center yourself," Corb says.

There's no one way to do it. Some athletes have a ritualized physical routine -- like a specific sequence of stretches. Others have a specific phrase that they repeat to themselves. Some play a specific song -- in their heads if they can't turn on their iPod. Others will take 30 seconds to do deep breathing.

The point is to know what to do when the pressure mounts. Having a plan in place -- even if it's as simple as a word you repeat to yourself -- will boost your confidence.

4. Manage Stress

Feeling stressed before a competition? Try techniques like meditation or progressive muscle relaxation -- in which you consciously relax each muscle group, from your toes to your head.

Of course, channeled the right way, stress can be your ally right before an athletic performance.

"Not all stress is bad," says Geier. "The fight or flight response can push you harder during an athletic competition."

Corb points out that positive stress (excitement) and negative stress (anxiety) really have the same physical effects. Your heart rate and breathing go up. Your pupils dilate.

The difference is how you experience these effects. If excitement before a competition gets you amped up, that's good. If it's tipping you into panic, that's bad. Remember that when you feel stress building, you have some control over how to interpret it.

5. Sleep More

Not only does sleep help athletes physically -- allowing your body time to repair itself after a workout -- but it also has mental benefits. Studies have shown that getting enough sleep can improve reaction time and split second decision making.

How much sleep do you need? Aim for at least seven to nine hours -- and more if you're under a lot of stress or doing intense workouts.

Develop a Plan to Build Your Mental Stamina

Of course, these tips are easier to read than to put into practice. No one gains mental stamina overnight -- it's a skill you have to learn.

"When you watch Olympic athletes getting ready to perform, every single thing they do is intentional," says Corb. "They're focusing their minds with techniques they've learned and practiced for years. It takes a lot of hard work."

Start working now to improve your mental stamina. You may not have the time to practice eight hours a day like an Olympian. But building your mental stamina has a lot of benefits for your game, your career, and life in general -- and it doesn't even require a gym membership.

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Reviewed on July 08, 2013

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