When Stress Puts the Squeeze on Your Sex Life

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It’s baaaack. Over the summer, many of us have had a break from the daily grind. But now it’s September, and school, work, meetings, new projects and new goals have returned with a vengeance.

All of this can be exciting and dynamic, but hurry and change also lead to stress. Responsibilities at work, responsibilities at home, pets and children, friends and family, personal self-care and relationships – it’s an endless juggle.
shutterstock_259619198It probably comes as no surprise that stress affects our sexuality and sex life. Stress can impact our psychological, spiritual, mental and social wellbeing. And stress has a physical impact as well. As Dr. Logan Levkoff writes in the Huffington Post:
“Hormones affect our bodies in numerous ways from childhood to adolescence, pregnancy, menopause and beyond. Cortisol is one of the hormones produced by stress….If elevated levels of cortisol are being produced for a prolonged period of time, they suppress our sex hormones. Lower quantity of sex hormones equals lower libido.”
When your days are chock-full of duties, you might be so exhausted by the end of the day that the last thing you can think of is sex. You know when you’re having fantasies about getting to the bottom of the laundry pile rather than getting it on that stress is having its way with you!
The irony is that although stress may derail sex drive, sex is actually a great stress reliever. Feelings of closeness and intimacy, orgasm and release, and other pleasurable bodily sensations have a wonderful way of undoing the tension of stress.
Given that sex may be hard to get into when we’re feeling the pressure, here are some tips to find your way back to pleasure:

Carve out some space

As a long time sufferer from insomnia, I’ve picked up some tips to improve my “sleep hygiene.” One common recommendation is to keep your bedroom as a sleep-and-sex zone only. No working on the bed, no playroom for the kids, no TV; your bed is for sleep and sex only. I think this recommendation is good for both the sleep- and sex-deprived. It’s important to have a space that feels inviting: even if the rest of your home feels chaotic, at least you can shut the door and find a sanctuary there.

Have sex from a sexually neutral state

I want to be really clear here I am not promoting nonconsensual sex or having sex when you really don’t want it. Being in a sexually neutral state means not actively wanting it and not actively not wanting it. Sometimes when we start touching from this state, we are reminded about the deliciousness of sex. If we have a lot of stress in our life, our minds may not “go there,” but our bodies can help it along.
Is it stress?“Stress” is a big, overarching term. We may say we are stressed, but sometimes there’s something else going on too. We may be angry, sad, overwhelmed, resentful, or any number of other emotions that may affect our sex lives and relationships. Maybe you are more stressed – and resentful – because you are doing the bulk of house duties? Maybe you are coping with loss and grief? Maybe you are in an unsafe relationship, at home or at work?
It may feel easier in the short term to just dismiss it all as stress, but take some time to really identify what you are feeling. We all inevitably live with stress; but if there is something more going on, you deserve the support, time and care to heal from or change the situation.

Invite play

I’m sure we’ve all done “sex math” before. You know, when your partner touches you in exactly that right spot just as you are dozing off. Oh,  it feels so good. But then you can’t help but start thinking “we’ll do this and then do that and … oh no, it’s going to be 2 AM before it’s done and I can go to sleep.”
I always encourage couples and single people to engage in nonlinear sex play, which means touching and exploring each other – or yourself – without it necessarily leading to intercourse or orgasm. Playing can help keep sex alive and exciting because there’s not the same pressure to perform or “conclude.” Especially when we have to perform or achieve in other parts of our lives, it’s imperative that sex can be a safe, playful haven.
Run awaySex therapist Evelyn Resh encourages us to follow the 4 to 6 by 36 rule in her book, Women, Sex, Power and Pleasure. This rule demands that every four to six weeks we should take 36 hours with our partners – or alone – and spend it in pleasure mode.  You don’t necessarily need to go on holiday – you can follow the rule at home – but we all need to take a break from chores, work and the “to-do” list.
Resh has discovered from both her personal adherence to the rule and from reports from her clients that,  if it’s done on a regular basis, the 4 to 6 by 36 rule can refresh and recharge sexuality, creativity and connection.Unfortunately, there seems to be no end to stress. We usually don’t get permission or encouragement from the world to take a break to get it on. We need to become our own pleasure advocates and find ways to ensure that sex and intimacy aren’t always last on the to-do list.I’d love to hear from you.
Contact me at adinacoach@gmail.com with comments, questions or if you’d like to learn more about how working with me can help you reclaim your sexy confidence.
Adina head shotAdina Lakser is a Winnipeg-based sex coach, writer and mother. Visit her at nakedparts.wordpress.com or her Aquarian column Pillow Talk


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