Train your brain to combat stress

by Gina Roberts-Grey

You know that feeling when you’re too mentally exhausted to think straight? Not only can it be problematic because it leaves you feeling frazzled and unable to remember what you need at the grocery store or where you left the car keys, mental exhaustion is toxic, too.

A tired, overwrought brain can lead to stress. That contributes to the formation of bad habits like watching the television instead of watching what you eat and not watching how physically active you are, says Jason Selk EdD, former director of mental training for the St. Louis Cardinals and the bestselling author of a new book, Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance (McGraw-Hill, 2011).

Selk says you can revitalize your mind to eliminate a lot of stress and boost mental energy with a strong brain. And just like your biceps or abs, your mind can be strengthened.

“A 100-second mental workout is an incredibly powerful tool that will put you in a position to consistently execute at a higher level,” says Selk, who has created an exercise routine that helps your brain relax and recharge. “It that will put you in a position to mentally detox and the great news is that it only takes 100 seconds of your day.”

By making mental workouts a habit, Selk says you will set yourself on a trajectory toward developing mental toughness, focus, and clarity as you have never experienced. “Just as your body responds to consistent strength training, your mind responds to regular mental workouts.”

In 100 seconds, you can think up a crafty Facebook status update, have your favorite barista whip up a latte or boost your brain. “I suggest carving out some time now to try out the 100-second mental workout,” says Selk.


The workout:

Step 1: The centering breath

Take a deep centering breath to get calm and focused. This is a controlled breath where you breathe in for 6 seconds, hold the breath for 2 seconds, and then slowly exhale for 7 seconds. Selk says the centering breath will control your heart rate and allow your mind to get into a natural and effective work pattern.

Step 2: Identity statement

Think of a personal, financial, professional, etc., goal. “Then state out loud who you are as if you’d already achieved your goal. This statement is essentially a personal mantra that reflects who you are and what you hope to achieve,” says Selk.

An example of an identity statement is ‘I am confident and I thrive on pressure; I am the most focused and successful CEO in the country.’

Step 3: Run your personal highlight reel

“The personal highlight reel is 60 seconds’ worth of visualization in which you spend 30 seconds remembering 3 things done well in the previous 24 hours and then imagining 3 things you are going to do well in the upcoming day,” says Selk.

Doing this will boost your confidence and set your brain off on a path that processes things in a positive manner, rather than getting bogged down with stress.

Step 4: Repeat Step 2

Selk says repeating your statement will further drive home your self-image of success.

Step 5: Repeat Step 1

“Do this to remind yourself of the feeling of being calm and in control,” says Selk. You’ll give the calmness time to ‘take root’ in your brain in order for your mind to fully recharge.

If you should miss a day here or there, don’t panic. “Just like one missed appointment with your trainer won’t sink your overall physical fitness, the occasional missed mental workout won’t kill your progression to clarity and reduced stress,” says Selk. If you do miss a day, simply make the commitment to get back on track the following day.

Jason Selk EdD was director of mental training for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006, when they won their first World Series in 20 years, and when they won it again in 2011. He’s the bestselling author of 10-Minute Toughness (McGraw-Hill, 2008) and a new book, Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance (McGraw-Hill, 2011). Trainer of the world’s finest athletes, coaches, and business leaders in Mental Toughness. He’s a regular television and radio contributor to ABC, CBS, ESPN, and NBC, and has appeared widely in print. Learn more at

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