Q: I know the whole world is stressed right now. I think I have done pretty well with it all up until recently. I don’t know if it is the build up to Christmas or just lockdowns ending and life getting busy again, I have no fucking clue really, I just feel more stressed than I can remember being for a long time. How can stress impact my sex life? I want to know so I know if it is something I should be concerned about or just part of the process?
A: Great question, so very relevant right now for so many people. I also love that you can see that it is part of a process, a normal process of adjustment and the influence of changes in in life. I love that you can see it is not likely to be a forever thing and that you want to understand how stress can impact your sex life. Understanding is so important; it helps you move towards positives and find your way forward. Love it.
Stress can have such a huge impact on our lives. We also know how it can impact our health but we don’t often talk about how it can impact our sex life. From relationship problems and arguments with friends or family, to financial worries and work deadlines, stress if pretty much a part of life. Stress is a normal human response to difficult circumstances, and we have plenty of those recently.
Stress and sex have quite a strange relationship. Stress can make it hard to get in the mood but on the flip side if you can get in the mood, sex can reduce stress. Worst case scenario stress can lead to people behaving in ways that can put them in a vulnerable sexual situation – think drinking too much and making poor decisions or just being plain vulnerable (no one ever has the right to take advantage of that, it is rape and there is no other way of putting it). Also let’s be honest when we are stressed we don’t eat well, some exercise too much while many don’t exercise enough and our overall health suffers which can impact our sex drive. I will focus on the cycle of stress negatively impacting your interest in sex but also being a great stress reliever if you can get in the mood.
Vagina owners, stress, and sex.
Vagina owners or if you prefer women usually experience an increase in Luteinising Hormone or LH, right before and during ovulation. Stress inhibits the production of LH, which can then have negative effects on fertility. Stress can also impact other hormones that create other issues relating to fertility if you are trying to fall pregnant.
Often vagina owners or if you prefer women (so can penis owners) place a strong emphasis on the emotional aspect of sex. So, throw stress in the mix and it can be hard to shift out of the stress related emotions and feel any kind of intimate or arousal related emotions. It is not uncommon for any sex related by a partner to be seen in a negative light, which can increase stress levels and stress makes it hard to move towards the brain experiencing pleasure.
Penis owners, stress, and sex.
When a penis owner is or if man if you prefer gets aroused, blood fills the penis and creates an erection. This blood filling the spongey tissue (corpus cavernosum contains spongy erectile tissue) which is creates the erection. Keeping the blood in this tissue is the ischiocavernosus muscles and bulbospongiosus muscle that together create a sphincter which contracts and holds the blood in place for the erection. Dealing with the stress response in the body is considered a priority and for this most part this means that blood is diverted to react and resolve the stress response so blood flow to the penis can be disrupted. Stress hormones released during the stress response blocks the release of Luteinising Hormone Releasing Hormone (LHRH) and this can in turn cause a drop in the hormone responsible for testosterone and sperm production.
Stress, Sex and life
Stress can feel so overwhelming and all encompassing. It can hijack most areas of life and lead to unhealthy habits, like excessive drinking, overeating, not exercising, and showing a lack of self-care. All of these factors play a part in how you feel about yourself and can impact your interest in sex.
Drinking alcohol is a depressant one part of its impact on our bodies is slowing down reaction times and the experience of sensations we feel including pleasure. That means it slows down or even inhibits the ability to orgasm and ejaculate. Bad habits like overeating and a lack of exercise can cause one to feel sluggish and tired, they can impact blood healthy blood flow throughout the body including to our genitals which negatively impacts arousal levels. Not engaging in self-care can have a negative impact on self-esteem, how comfortable we feel about our bodies and the idea of getting naked. Can you start to see how stress can impact different parts of your health and behaviours which in turn can have a big influence over your libido, sexual drive, sexual function, and arousal responses in your body.
On the flip side
I mentioned before that stress can make it hard to get in the mood but on the flip side if you can get in the mood, sex can reduce stress. Why is that?
- Orgasm increases the number of endorphins that are released (the ‘feel-good’ hormone), which means that a healthy dose of pleasure and orgasm can boost your mood.
- Here is a good one, research has shown that orgasms can stabilise blood pressure during stress periods.
- One of my favourites is orgasm as a pain management. Research has shown that an orgasm can reduce pain and for some may also increase pain thresholds.
- Orgasm reduces the release of stress hormones like cortisol which can help improve mood.
- Another favourite is that orgasm aids in better sleep and sleep is important for our physical and mental health.
Sex toys are great stress relievers.
If stress is impacting your life and finding it hard to get in the mood or to reach orgasm when you do have sex, then a sex toy can be a great tool to use to get you there. Sex toys can offer a little bit more oomph or stimulation that you need to get things started or to get you over the line when stress is the way. Then you can enjoy the benefits of pleasure and orgasm in combating stress.