The definition of insanity has played a part in altering the choices I make in my life 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.” Have you ever fallen prey? The idea can be traced back to the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous (1983). I am indebted for this insight. It’s given me pause more than once –especially in the arena of cortisol overload.

Getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night is a game changer, but there are other commitments that can usher in a new measure of sanity into your life. The first list only requires minutes of your time. The second requires a greater investment of time. The third is a list we need to seriously consider. Nothing hard here, just rich rewards.

Do you know that our bodies are chemical factories? All of these cortisol-busting suggestions have solid science behind them. Each one plays a role in enhancing our body’s ability to pump out calming hormones or slow down the outpouring of cortisol and adrenaline. Give them a try.

List #1

TO-DO:

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. Seven extra hours of sleep each week will give you the equivalent of one extra night of sleep. You may end up feeling like a million bucks.

Drink all the caffeine you want – before 1 pm.

Make sure all your snacks have some protein. If a snack is all carbs, the sugar slump will lay you low. (The same rule applies to meals, especially breakfast.)

Take a 10-20 minute power nap. Do some deep breathing while you’re at it.

Daniel prayed three 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)

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!”

List #2

TO-DO:

Learn the art of massage. Back rubs. Give them. Receive them. Hands. 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 e-mail. 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.

We were made for community. Many of us are lonely. Reach out. Join a home Bible study. Invite an old friend to lunch.

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. Go to AA. Find a counselor. Check out a Christian 12-Step program. We weren’t meant to go at it alone. Ever.

List #3

TO-DO:

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 in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. Invite God to join you. He’s been known to do that (Genesis 3:8).

Genesis 3:8

Has exercise lagged behind as one of the last things on your “to do” list? It’s been that way for me, especially while we were raising our kids. It was a luxury of time I did not think I had. We’ve known from years that exercise is good for the body, but there is a truck load of evidence saying that it’s even better for the brain. It may very well be THE best thing we can do to stay emotionally healthy and cognitively sharp.

If time allows, check out this comprehensive article from the Center for Disease Control article on the benefits of moving your body. The list is pretty staggering.

The Benefits of Physical Activity

Take a look at all three lists. Choose a cortisol-buster and pursue it. Write it here and share with your strength coach for accountability to take care of yourself.