MERGE with Mental Toughness


How do you define mental toughness? I define it as a set of 5 skills.

M: Mindfulness. Be aware of the present. Two things out of our control: the past and the future. One thing in our control: the present. What do you notice about your breath right now? What do you observe with your five senses? When you criticize yourself for a past mistake or worry about a future outcome, notice what’s happening right now. Focus on the process.

E: Energy. Do you like to be chilled out? Pumped up? Really relaxed or really intense? How’d you feel before your best performance? Know your ideal energy zone, and learn how to get yourself there through breathing, self-talk, focus, and imagery skills.

R: Resilience. How quickly do you bounce back from mistakes? If you linger on mistakes, take a deep breath and tell yourself, “Everybody makes mistakes. Focus on the next play.” Imagine locking the mistake in a closet, or watching it float away in a swift river. Learn how to be more compassionate of yourself by noticing the facts.

G: Grit. Do you have deep determination and drive? Do you have something to prove? Or do you give up easily? Grit is passion and motivation to persevere no matter what challenge you face. Why do you play your sport? Tap into your passion, and set a goal for each practice. There will be days you don’t want to be there…uncover your motivation and get something out of each practice. Feed off inspiration from teammates and coaches.

E: Emotions. That tightness in your chest—what emotion is that? Can you recognize and express emotions? How well do you manage your emotions? Cope effectively with your feelings to become mentally tough. Learn how to experience an emotion without reacting to the emotion. Feeling nervous doesn’t mean you’ll blow it—it just means your body is preparing to rise to the challenge. Notice frustration and write about it or tell a friend.

Learn these skills with sport psychologists Dr. Jen Carter ( or Dr. Steve Graef ( at OSU Sports Medicine. Call 614-293-3600 to schedule.

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