How Stress Affects Your Sex Life, and What You Can Do About It
As we’ve covered so extensively here before, sex and pleasure are very beneficial to your mental as well as your physical wellbeing. 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.
And it’s true, sex can help relieve stress but not avoid it. Sometimes it’s the thinking (or overthinking) issues in the office, our family lives, school or any underlying source of stress that gets in the way of our good time, sexually speaking. Sex can reduce stress, but sometimes you can be too stressed to have sex. There’s the entire issue, put simply.
When reacting to stress, our bodies are primed for the well-known ‘fight or flight’ response for a sustained period of time. This can mess with everything from our heart rate, erratic breathing, high blood pressure and more as it prepares itself for some perceived threat. During times of increased stress, your body will classify sex functioning as non-essential to survival, which diminishes libido.
Aside from the physiological effects of stress, there is also the matter of hormones our bodies release in order to help deal with it. Increased amounts of cortisol and epinephrine that our bodies release when stressed diminish libidos as your mind wanders around and simply won’t focus on sex.
And lastly, an extended period of stress can cause one to act out in unhealthy ways, like excessive drinking, overeating or just with poor lifestyle choices. A sudden decrease in one’s overall health and wellbeing can further compound stress’s negative effect on sex.
Okay, but it doesn’t all have to be so bad. Here are some of the ways in which we around the LELO offices get out of our own ruts and give stress the boot. You’ll be surprised by the positive effect these can have on your mood as well as your sex life!
Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Getting your sweat on will also boost your body’s circulation activity, which has very positive effects for male and female sexual response.
Make time to take time.
Getting into bed? Trying to relax on the couch with your partner? Then put your damn phone away. One big factor that causes stress to get n the way of sex is that it totally take us out of the moment, and having a constant reminder of all the things we’re not doing at a given moment, like work emails and calendar reminders, keep us from focusing on what;’s right in front of us.
Reclaim your house or apartment as a refuge from outside stressors by setting true boundaries as to your own time and the time you spend on other people or tasks. Specifically in the bedroom, make it a place for restfulness, relaxing and intimacy by banning activities like answering texts or scrolling social media in bed. When you leave these distractions outside, you’ll begin making the association of what your bedroom is truly for.
Get good at relaxing.
We know, you can’t simply tell yourself to not think of something and *poof!* it disappears out of your brain. This is where issues of focus getting in the way of intimacy come into play. Remember the previous tip about making your bedroom a sexual sanctuary? Well, it doesn’t JUST have to be for sex. Intimacy is more than being sensual, oftentimes it just means being with your partner, being close and feeling appreciated. Allow yourselves a short amount of time to simply be close in a space together without distractions, and you’ll be surprised how quickly this can reignite a spark of passion and get your mind off your worries.
Remember; intimacy isn’t simply sex and sex isn’t just climax.
If stress is negatively impacting your sex drive, remember that the basic notion of sex (P-in-V penetrative sex) doesn’t have to be the end goal. A sexual experience can include sensual massage or mutual masturbation, and you know what? These kinds of experiences will almost surely get you both back in the groove. Also, don’t be afraid to utilize the many tools around you for intimacy. Introducing sex toys into the relationship can be a total game-changer, but ultimately everything relies on communicating your needs and desires with your partner.