fly the airplane.
maybe something is distracting you in the plane, or in your mind, or out in the world. maybe you're out of fuel or lost or ate too much at lunch, or you missed a radio call or screwed up a radio call. whatever. fly the airplane. maybe you're not sure which airport you're over and worried about landing on the wrong runway... you'll probably figure it out. UNLESS you pitch up too far into an uncoordinated stall and and lose hundreds of feet of altitude because you weren't paying attention to which way the nose is pointed! then you're in trouble... so don't do that! fly the airplane.
it's good life advice, anyway. I think about it a lot on a stressful day when I'm not in any airplane, just have a lot to do. It's closely related to the Hitchhiker's Guide first rule: don't panic.
I bring this up because there was a great episode of Fresh Air last week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of our moon landing, where astronaut Chris Hadfield was talking about overcoming fear with training, procedures, routines, and keeping your head about you. his heartwarming quote I will commit to memory:
There's no problem so bad that you can't make it worse
This might not make you feel better in life, it's kind of scary! But it is a logical reason to keep your head about you and think calmly about your next step when a problem arises. Prioritize. ask for help. brainstorm next steps. take a break! but don't tune out or forget the basics.
see also: hoosiers. yeah, the basketball movie, where a determined coach teaches his frustrated players to act as a team and train the basics. and the tougher the situation, the MORE you depend on your basics. Always go back to them. It might seem like your boring passing drill, but you can do it and it will get you through this, that's why you practiced it so much.
Enough examples, they all say the same thing. It's harder than it sounds. Humans like to freeze up or freak out. We have to get around a lot of instincts to stay focused when the going gets tough. It takes drilling into your head. It's worth it.