Is stress impacting my sex life?
We all know too much stress isn’t good for us. It can bring on headaches, stomachaches, sleepless nights, low energy, mood swings and more. But did you know it can also take a toll on your sex life? Stress can affect your body and mind in adverse ways that lead to low libido.
When we are stressed, we release the “stress hormone” cortisol. Nature intended this hormone to give us short bursts of energy needed to handle stressors. Chronic stress, and therefore prolonged exposure to cortisol, suppresses our sex hormone and consequently lowers our sex drive. In times of stress, we are designed to focus on survival, not procreation.
Most women, however, find that stress affects their mind more than their body. Having that “busy brain” you can’t quite turn off doesn’t lend itself to sexual thoughts and desires. If you are distracted before or during sex, it’s much harder to focus on arousal, pleasure and orgasm.
When you are stressed, sex may be the last thing on your mind or just one more thing on your to-do list. And when one person in a relationship wants sex more than the other, it sometimes causes conflict which can in turn contribute to even more stress!
So what can you do?
Stress management is important for your overall mental and physical well-being, not just the added benefit of perking up your sex life! Start to become more aware of when and how you experience stress so you can get to know your stress "triggers" as well as your stress "solutions." Many people find that getting enough quality sleep, eating nutritious foods, making time for rest and play, getting outside, exercise and spending time with friends and family can help diminish stress.
Guess what else helps reduce stress? Having sex! It’s definitely a chicken and egg dilemma, but the feelings produced from sex are natural defenses against stress.
To help get you in the mood, be sure to intentionally de-stress before being intimate. Establish a clear break between your stressful day and the rest of your day or evening. A few techniques to explore:
- Take a bath - The warmth of a bath both calms us and relaxes our muscles. Dip in, and enjoy some guilt-free “me time.”
- Meditate - We all know the benefits of meditation by now. Haven’t quite mastered it yet? Try just taking several deep breaths in a quiet space. You could also do this together with your partner.
- Practice mindfulness - Try really focusing on your body and all the sensations you are feeling. Is your mind wandering? That’s OK. Gently bring your thoughts back to the present moment.
- Massage - Before diving into sexual touch, ask your partner for a calming massage to help transition your brain into a more relaxed state.
- Turn off screens - While it seems like we are relaxing when we binge our favorite Netflix show, our brains are still highly active and it’s easy to lose time that could be spent on more healthy activities like the ones above.
If you’ve seemed to try everything to reduce your stress and help lift your libido, don’t be embarrassed to speak to a mental health professional as well as your gynecologist. Your sex life is an important part of your overall health and well-being, so be forthright about any concerns you may have.