How Stress impacts our sex life.

It comes as no surprise that Australians and our world in general are experiencing an increase in stress which as a symptom can lead to many health and wellness issues.

 

Prior to COVID-19 a survey performed by the Australian Psychological Service recorded that approximately 85% of Australians reported to be affected or had felt the effects of Stress.

 

With so much uncertainty in our current world it only makes sense that our stress levels are growing even further. Stress can impact our health in many ways, physically, mentally, it can affect our concentration, our focus, our ability to produce certain neurochemicals and the list goes on.

 

But did you know that it can affect the libido and sex?

 

During COVID-19 it has been recorded through online surveys that several groups of people have noticed in either themselves or their partners that a) they have a decreased libido  or enjoyment of sex or b) have noted an increase.

 

Neurochemicals

Stress releases a hormone known as Cortisol and Epinephrine. Cortisol and epinephrine are best known for their fight and flight response, pumping adrenalin through the body and using up the neurochemicals usually for sex, to fuel this stress response. This will lead to being in a state of “on edge” and not in the good way.

 

Mind Racing

With many things happening in our minds, it can often be hard to remain present and in the moment during sex. Being present during sex assists in reaching orgasm but also with connecting with your partner. While sex has been known to relieve stress and frustration, it may not be the most intimate of experiences for all partners involved. If using sex as a way to diffuse and release frustration or pent up tension, your partner may begin to feel used, or a lack of connection.

 

Stress in men, or the stress-sex connection is common in a something you may have heard as erectile dysfunction. When a man is aroused, nerve impulses send signals that cause the blood vessels to dilate and allow a healthy and steady stream of blood to pump into the penis, causing the organ to become erect and maintain erect throughout interourse. However when the body is stressed, those nerve impulses are disrupted and the signals aren’t communicated as well causing the blood vessels to only partially dilate or sometimes not dilate at all which results in a lack of blood supply. A lack of blood supply sadly will mean either a shorter lasting erection, an erection that cannot be sustained, or a lack of an erection. This can then put pressure on the person known as performance anxiety “last time I was unable to _____” “what if this time is the same” and it becomes a vicious cycle which leads to more stress.

 

Similarly women also suffer the stress sex connection. Without the necessary arousal it will come as no surprise that most women are unable to reach orgasm when in a space of extreme stress. Without the necessary arousal, certain neurotransmitters and signals will not be activated and without those the “pleasure” centres will not be stimulated and there can be no sense of release. Without proper arousal, a cis woman’s vaginal canal will not properly elongate will could also mean that sex could be quite uncomfortable which I’m sure you could only imagine would provide yet another stress source rather than a stress release.

 

SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?

During these high stress times there a few things that you can do if you are in a sex oriented relationship and you have found that your libido is suffering due to stress. (note: I am not strictly referring to whether or not you are married or in a romantic relationship, you may be open, be friends with benefits, release friends- any relationship where your libido is affecting communication or mindset)

 

Talk about it: it seems simple enough, but also super scary but talking about your stress and saying that it’s really affecting you sexually can go a long way to taking some of the pressure off you and getting your partner on the same page. When they are aware that you are feeling stressed and what are some of the triggers that are causing you stress you can work towards maintaining better boundaries and being respectful around those for eg if one of your stressors is work and you explain this to your partner, then in a week when you have a big meeting, your partner may instinctively know that you will be stressed and give you some more space. Understanding and compassion and very important when it comes to dealing with stress and sex and will make a big difference .

 

Focus on other intimacies: This will mean different things for different people. Some partnerships may enjoy touch, so kiss for 20 seconds longer, hug for just that little bit extra. Acts of service may include doing the dishes, or getting them a cup of tea of coffee when they look more stressed than normal. Focusing your compassion in other ways will bring your bond closer in other ways that may ignite that spark in ways that might not start off sexual but don’t necessarily mean they won’t lead there.

 

Self love: a broad broad umbrella term for looking after yourself, make sure that you are getting some form of exercise, eating well, drinking more water and less alcohol, getting enough sunshine and taking time out for yourself. These are all extremely important in regulating stress and bringing yourself back to the present to be able to function well sexually.

 

Try masturbating: it can seem all too easy when we are stressed or depressed to get into habits of not doing things such as not cooking dinner or stopping by that fast food place on the way home. Sometimes it is important to remember that not having sex, or not masturbating can also become a habit. I am not suggesting scheduling in sexy time, just keep it on the radar. You don’t even need to masturbate until you reach orgasm, view it as a self exploration exercise, touch, explore, caress and stimulate to keep in mind that yes, my body is beautiful and hell yes, this feels good to be touched, even if just for a moment.

 

At your Service

Tiffany

Oh Zone Adult Stores Sales assistant, educator and fellow stress head.

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