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How to Build Mental Resilience Like an Athlete


Four psychology–backed techniques for high performers.

The mental health of athletes has garnered attention in recent years, and there’s an increased awareness of the pressure related to performance. That pressure extends even beyond the realm of sports, however. “Elite athletes and high–performing executives and entrepreneurs are equally susceptible to experiencing mental–health challenges,” says Dr. Ben McCutchen, Chief of Psychiatry at The Residence at Homewood, a treatment facility specializing in mental health and addiction. To stay mentally well and thrive under pressure, “the goal is prevention,” says McCutchen. Whether in the stadium or the boardroom, cultivate resilience in high–stakes scenarios with these techniques.

July 2, 2024
Portrait of Dr. Ben McCutchen

Dr. Ben McCutchen
Chief of Psychiatry at The Residence at Homewood

  1. “An overfocus on the past or future, which any of us can be susceptible to, can impact our performance,” says McCutchen. “Mindfulness involves deepening our connection to the present moment.” Try an online guided meditation, some as short as just a few minutes, to bring your focus to the now.

  2. Another crucial tool is self–talk. “Better self–talk can help you overcome cognitive distortions and self–doubt.” For instance, if you experience a setback, self–talk may involve reminding yourself that others also face challenges. You'll also take note of your strengths and achievements to rebuild a more balanced view.

  3. Visualization is a technique that “goes beyond imagining positive outcomes,” says McCutchen. “Instead, mentally rehearse high–stakes situations to prepare for success and cope ahead with anxiety, whether walking up to the first tee or presenting at a board meeting.”

  4. Most high performers have big goals. “To be a better player or a better team member at work, practice SMART goal setting. This means setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time–bound,” says McCutchen.

The side patio of The Residence at Homewood during a sunset
The Residence at Homewood

If expectations and performance pressure are interfering with your life and causing mental health challenges, help is available. Learn more about tailored treatment options offered by The Residence at Homewood.