By: Lyndsey Harper, MD
Your mental health matters more than you might realize when it comes to your sex life. In fact, stress is the number one libido killer for women. And the challenge with stress is that it’s all around. We get stressed at work, we have stress with our partners, and stress from our children. Some women are stressed because they are worried about getting pregnant if they have sex. Other women are worried because they’re afraid that their child is going to walk into the room while they’re having sex.
When our bodies experience stress, there are several mental and physiological processes that take place as a natural response. While your brain and body focus on combatting the stressors, desire for sex typically takes a back seat. If your mind is too wrapped up thinking about work emails or family schedules, you don’t have time or brain space to think about sex. In the same vein, when your body releases stress hormones, other hormones (like the ones that promote desire) decrease, further contributing to a diminished sex drive. Understanding this relationship between stress and libido is a great first step toward finding a solution to the problem. While we all know its impossible to eliminate stress, there are evidence-based techniques proven to decrease stress (less stress, more sex!).
What?! We know…that sounds backward, right? Well, it’s true. Having sex (think: masturbation, partnered sex, etc.) is a proven (and powerful) way to relieve stress. Sex and orgasms release those feel-good hormones like oxytocin leaving you feeling relaxed + satisfied. Sex doesn’t have to mean to penetration or even lead to orgasm to be to help relieve stress. Studies have shown that simply hugging, cuddling, and touch can produce the same results.
Exercise both releases endorphins and reduces stress hormones creating a feeling of relaxation and improving overall mental and physical health. Even more, recent studies have proven just 20 minutes of exercise increases arousal before sex. (Which if you didn’t know, for many women, arousal comes before the desire to have sex.)
Easy enough, right? Breathing exercises can work wonders in not only decreasing stress but also improving your mood and giving you an energy boost (a boost that could be used for…sex). There are several different techniques you can use and it’s important to find one that works for you. Some of these include box breathing or 5 finger breathing. Similar to breath work, meditation is also a great tool to reduce stress. Mindfulness meditation can help you focus on the present moment and remove thoughts that are causing stress. Practicing just 10 minutes a day can positively impact your stress levels and anxiety.
Sounds counterintuitive, we know. There’s not much sex going on while you’re sleeping but first things first. Lack of sleep is a huge contributor to stress and mental health concerns all while also depleting your energy and motivation. Focus on getting quality sleep at night so you’re less stressed during the day (and maybe even up for some morning sex?).
There you have it. Four simple steps to combat stress and improve your sex life. Have sex, exercise, breathe and sleep. To be honest, if you can master these techniques, you’ll not only be stress-free and more sexually satisfied, you’ll be prioritizing your overall mental and physical well-being.
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