Stress is a part of life, especially over the last few years. Modern life seems to be constant buzz of anxiety and worry which can have a negative impact on many areas of our metal and physical health but also our sexual health. Stress reduces the amount of time we have for pleasure which impacts on our ability to become physically aroused.
Hamilton & Meston (2013) in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, “Psychologically, stress can interfere with sexual activity through both emotional and cognitive changes that distract the individual from focusing on sexual cues. These psychological responses can distract the focus of the participant toward the stressful stimuli and away from the appropriate stimulus.”
We write about being mindful during sex regularly. The importance on being present in the moment and sensations but we also know that stress can creep in and disrupt that, like anything it takes practice. Everyday stress is natural, but experiencing high stress over a long period of time can affect your mental, physical, and sexual wellbeing. Our reaction to stressors also plays a big role in how it impacts our mental, physical and sexual health.
However, it is important to note that sex is proven to be a stress-reducer. Sex has other physical and psychological benefits. Liu, Waite & Shen (2016) in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, found that as a physical activity, sex releases endorphins, specifically, it releases oxytocin, a bonding chemical that can reduce stress. Satisfying and pleasurable sex has many other health benefits and with the bonus of orgasms you can tap into other benefits as well. In the same study, “Not only is stress relieved during intercourse and the moment of orgasm, but elevated mood may persist for some time, and have a positive impact on health.”
Here are a few things that help reduce stress and free up some head space for sex.
Decrease External Stress
We know we can hear you saying – talk about stating the obvious! Decreasing your external sources of stress as much as possible can have an overall positive impact on your life. It is not something that is easy to achieve in one big chunk, it is best to take small daily steps to make a change and be kind to yourself along the way.
Things like setting boundaries at work, using the various do not disturb settings on your phone and making a conscious effort to spend time away from your screens. The time these steps free up can be used to focus on yourself, your partner or a friend. Another top tip from members of the bliss team is to look if there are parts of your life that you can reasonably outsource, like cleaning your house, making dinner, or support with childcare, consider doing one or a few of those from time to time.
One of the things that we find needs to be practiced most diligently is saying no to things that are not in your area of responsibility, that you don’t have time for or that you don’t want to do. Give yourself permission to set these boundaries and not feel guilty, know that you are worthy of what can feel like a luxury and utilise the time you take back your time and energy for things that bring you pleasure.
Spend Five Minutes Relaxing
It can feel overwhelming when someone says to you that you need to relax by exercising, taking a bath, cooking a great meal, or catching up with a friend because they can all take a up larger chunks of time. When you are first starting to set boundaries and trying to take back your time and destress big things can actually make you feel stressed when you can’t do it. Baby steps are perfectly ok to start with and one baby step we suggest is give yourself 5 minutes to relax in a day.
How you say? Set and alarm to schedule it if you need to and use a timer so you don’t cut it short.
What do I do with the 5minutes? Start simple, blast your favourite music and sing at the top of your lungs or dance like no one is watching. Not your thing, lay on the floor and focus on your breath. Write in a journal. Play a short game with your pet or child and allow yourself to laugh even at the smallest things. Light some incense. Introduce small moments of relaxation or as we like to call them small pops of pleasure into your life and notice how your mood shifts.
Have Sex Anyway
No one is saying you should have sex if you really don’t want to. When we say have sex any way we mean if you do want to have sex, but you feel too stressed out for it, try having it anyway. Sometimes desire can be responsive, this means desire builds given the chance as you start to sexually engage. It is a matter of giving it a chance.
Next before you do get to the point of creating intimacy take a moment to set yourself by starting to by eliminating distractions. That could mean declutter your space. Close/lock the door and make sure your pets or children are asleep or occupied. Set the scene, it could be lighting, music, having the lubricant handy, sex toys, towels, or anything else you think you could need.
When you are ready to go a good way to keep mindful or present in the moment is to use your 5 senses. What are you seeing? Smelling? Tasting? Touching? Hearing? Drop into your body and not all up in your head and stay in the moment. Breathe. If you find yourself getting distracted and starting to think about your to do list acknowledge it, and let it move past. Return to your 5 senses and the being present in the sensations and the moment.
This is a like any other behaviours it takes practice. The more you practice the better you will get at it and the easier it will get for you to stay in your sensations and body. You will in time be more able to have sex even when you’re stressed. Building habits and behaviours that can support you in being able to have sex even when you are stressed can create a positive feedback loop where sex reduces stress, which allows you to have more sex.