Sex, with its rush of endorphins and other happy brain chemicals – not to mention the exercise you get – is a great way to relieve stress. Unfortunately, thinking about the million and one things you need to do tomorrow at the office or everything left to prepare for a 50 person family reunion does not exactly get you in the mood. What’s worse, not being able to get into the mood for sex with your partner can add even more stress to the situation
But never fear! You can put that squishy stress ball down and read a few strategies for taking a step back from stress so your sex life doesn’t suffer.
The Connection Between Stress & Sex
The connection between stress and sex isn’t merely something that’s just ‘in our heads.’ As Psychology Today puts it:
As with any stress response, a variety of hormones are disrupted as well. Endorphins, which block pain during stress, also block the release of LHRH (luteinizing hormone releasing hormone). In turn, a decrease in LHRH causes a drop in LH (luteinizing hormone), a hormone important in testosterone production. FSH, which stimulates sperm formation, also declines. To add fuel to the fire, cortisol, the main stress hormone, makes the testes less responsive to LH. The underlying power behind all these reactions is the mind. Reconditioning the brain is the key element in reversing it.
Of course, erectile dysfunction isn’t the only effect of stress. When both women and men repeatedly associate trying to have sex and being stressed (and vice versa) this can cause a negative association that makes it hard to get aroused even when we aren’t stressed out.
So if stress is affecting the very hormones in our body, does that mean that once you’re already stressed, sex is off the table?
How to Cope with Stress in the Bedroom
Exercise is great for stress – not only does it trigger the flow of brain chemicals to make you feel happier and more relaxed, you can also work through your frustrations with cathartic workouts like boxing or zumba.
Make Time & Space
In our hyper-connected modern day life, the lines between work and home get more and more blurred as many of us will still see work emails at home, even if we don’t reply to them. Even if our stress isn’t work-related, clutter around the house and habits like relaxing with TV in bed before sleeping can muddle the lines we place around certain activities and mindsets.
Reclaim the bedroom as a place for sexy-times by making it exactly that – a place for sex and not for other activities like answering texts or watching Game of Thrones. When you make a point of leaving these distractions at the threshold, soon you’ll start automatically making that association. If you consciously decide earlier in the day that you’re looking forward to sex – may we suggest planning something special and kinky or even gifting a new toy to yourself – then when the time comes around, you will be!
Trying not to think about something by telling yourself not to is pretty darn difficult, and if you’re having trouble focusing during sex, you may need a little bit of practice. The are several great mindfulness exercises for couples you can do with your partner that will help you both focus on each other and that are incredibly intimate in a brand new way!
Take Another Path
Nothing add to stress more like feeling like you’re disappointing your partner. While erectile difficulty and inability to become lubricated can be addressed in several ways, you can also restructure the way you think of sex. If penetrative sex is something stress is making impossible, then simply don’t do it. Try sensual massage, mutual masturbation, even just watching your partner masturbate with their favorite sex toy; these all ‘count’ as sexual intimacy and taking the pressure off of yourself (and your partner) will let you get just as much out of it!