14 Ideas to Combat Cortisol

By Brenda Jank

The definition of insanity has played a part in altering the terrain of my life and heart on a number of occasions. Have you ever heard it?

The definition of insanity is doing what you’ve always done, but expecting different results. The idea can be traced back to the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous (1983). It’s given me pause more than once – especially in the arena of cortisol overload.

Last week we spoke of easy tweaks. This week we need to roll up our sleeves and dig in, but you will find most of these suggestions deal with delight more than duty.


  • Take Five. Go outside intentionally. Five simple, quiet minutes outside enhanced the well-being of people fighting depression, across the board. It was an astounding finding. Set a timer. Go. Step outside. Look for the moon. Watch a bird or a bug. Listen to the wind. You won’t be disappointed. Every day – eight weeks.
  • Give yourself a bedtime – for one week. If you’re a guy, start the process 10 minutes ahead of time. If you’re a woman, make it an hour. Assess and repeat.
  • Drink all the caffeine you want – before 1 pm.
  • Make sure all snacks have some protein. If a snack is all carbs, the sugar slump will lay you low. (Same goes for meals, especially breakfast.)
  • Take a 10-20 minute power nap. Do some deep breathing while you’re at it.
  • Daniel prayed 3 times a day. Do a Daniel. We too easily forget that God is near, attentive, Almighty, compassionate. His Presence makes a difference.
  • Cuddle. The warmth of sustained contact puts us on the fast track of cortisol reduction.
  • Read the Serenity Prayer twice every day. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” (Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892–1971)
  • Don’t forget to breathe. Do it now. Breathe out through your mouth. In through your nose. Use your abdominal muscles. Keep your shoulders low. Don’t let them rise.


  • We were made to move. Exercising 20-30 minutes most days is a tremendous reducer of cortisol. Tremendous. Walking is a great place to start. Don’t have 30 minutes? Walk for 10 minutes morning and evening. Invite God to join you. He’s been known to do that (Genesis 3:8).
  • Learn the art of massage. Give them. Receive them. Back rubs. Hand. Feet. Ears. Scalp. Face. Touch is a powerful thing.
  • Are you discouraged by how little you get done each day? That fact increases cortisol production. Chunk your time in order to tackle a project. Allow no digital distraction. No email. No phone calls. No Facebook. No Twitter. Some larger engineering companies recognized that productivity was waning among workers, yet hours-on-the-job were increasing. Mandatory “silent/no tech” times upped productivity and lowered work hours. Give it a try.
  • Are you carrying a heavy load of past hurts? Do what you need to do to set healing into motion. Unhealed wounds fester. The cortisol damage is insidious.
  • Evenings. Create and guard quiet nights at home. Mark them on your calendar. Feel no guilt when something else surfaces. Simply reply, “I’m sorry, I have a prior commitment – to SANITY!”


  • Cortisol wreaks havoc on our sleep. Sixty percent of Americans wrestle with insomnia occasionally or regularly. Does the shoe fit? The lack of sleep is devastating. People who get less than 6 hours of sleep at night have a 50% increase of cortisol the next day. Working HARD at getting 7-8 restorative hours of sleep most nights will place you light-years ahead on the road to rest and restoration. Prioritize sleep – for you and everyone in your family.
  • Check out this website. It’s a wealth of compassionate care, insightful truth and helpful resources.


What is a manifestation of insanity in your life?

Are you ready to try cortisol reduction?

Will it be duty or delight?


Note: This post is part of our original series on rest. We are re-posting some of our favorite articles because we believe they are just as important today as ever. We hope to encourage and inspire you and those you love and lead to REST WELL through this time of COVID-19 crisis, comeback, and recovery. Onward!

  • Would you like to start at the beginning and read this whole series? Click here.
  • Would you like to read the post that preceded this one? Click here.
  • Would you like to read the next post in this series? Click here.
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