Guest Post: Is Stress Affecting Your Sex Life?
Many of us lead busy lives in this 24/7 digitalised culture, so it’s no surprise that we feel stressed from time to time. However, the effects of stress upon your body can cause both mental and physical health issues, which in turn can impact on your sex life.
When we feel stressed, we tend to reach for a bottle of wine or can of beer, light another cigarette or eat comfort foods to overcome our feelings, yet these too can all affect our sex lives.
Stress can cause a drop in your sex drive and lead to sexual issues such as erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness and tightness, all of which can lead to relationship problems, thus creating more stress.
When you feel stressed, your body produces cortisol, blocking the production of testosterone. Reaching for that beer may not only impact on your erectile function but also increases the metabolism and elimination of testosterone from your bloodstream by reducing the rate at which your body can produce testosterone. Alcohol can affect your liver function too, which is responsible for regulating the availability of free testosterone in our body.
In the UK, it is estimated that 20 men out of every 100 will experience erectile dysfunction problems of some sort during their lives. Recent research has found that sexual performance problems are far more prevalent among men under 40 years than previously thought as a result of stress.
Stress can cause many sexual health problems for women too, including vaginismus, pain during intercourse, vaginal dryness, low libidio, difficulty reaching orgasm and lethargy. Comfort eating piles on the pounds, which in many cases leads to body image issues. Researchers from the University of Florida (2016) found that a protein may be to blame for your inability to lose weight when you are under constant stress.
A study at Yale University (2015) found that Yale University found that chronic overeating and stress are tied to an increased risk of depression and anxiety, both of which can affect your sexual function.
Reducing your stress levels to boost your sex life
Eat a healthy diet
You are what you eat and what you put into your body can energise you or make you feel sluggish. A healthy balanced diet can actually reduce your stress level, increase your energy, and improve your body image too, all of which may boost your sexual libido and arousal. Men who lose weight often find their erectile dysfunction disappears and they gain an extra inch on their erection as their stomach fat shrinks too.
Women gain more body confidence, helping them to shed off inhibitions in the bedroom and enjoy more sex .
Take regular exercise
All forms of exercise boosts your endorphins, also known as feel good hormones, which can help to increase your libido by reducing your stress levels – a major contributory factor in low libido.
It can also improve your circulation, increasing blood flow around the body and especially to the genital area, boosting sexual function. Exercising also produces a glowing complexion, making you more attractive to your partner.
Taking regular exercise actually gives you more energy, and even 20 minutes three times a week can make a difference in your energy level and overall health.
Exercising in general has both physical and psychological benefits to health by helping you lose weight and tone your body which, in turn, increases your body confidence, making you feel and look more attractive. It reduces stress, raises self-esteem, improves your mood and increases self-confidence, all of which can contribute to a more enriched sex life.
Research suggests that there is more to cuddling than meets the eye. The benefits of cuddling go beyond just feeling nice, it is fantastic for improving our health and well-being.
As well as making us feel great physically, cuddling causes the release of oxytocin, a hormone produced in the brain which makes you feel good and creates a sense of well being and happiness. It also creates a feeling of intimacy too. Oxytocin, the body’s natural love potion, helps couples fall in love and mothers bond with their babies,
Often people who feel stressed for long periods of time have high levels of cortisol, a hormone released during stressful events in response to a fight or flight situation, which can affect their health. Oxytocin, a neuropeptide (a chemical released in the brain) which is secreted by the pituitary gland has been found to reduce cortisol.
Have more sex
It may seem mad to suggest that you have more sex when stress is affecting your sex life but increasing your sexual activity can boost your testosterone levels. Regular sex can decrease stress levels and promote a better night’s sleep as well as lowering your blood pressure. The endorphins produced when you have sex make you feel happy and can promote a feeling of well being and harmony.
Often your sleep can be disturbed if you are stressed, increasing your lethargy and affecting your mood, which in turn impacts upon your sleep. Many people, not just men, fall into a deep sleep after sexual intercourse due to the release of endorphins, including oxytocin released after orgasm which lower blood pressure, inducing a state of relaxation. This applies to masturbation too.
Many people rely upon masturbating to get a good night’s sleep and it’s more fun than a glass of milk!
Masturbation allows you to focus on one thing; therefore, if you feel stressed, take time out for a little “me” time. When we think of sex, our brain releases dopamine – a chemical which gives us a feeling of pleasure. When we engage in any form of sexual activity, endorphins are released which create a sense of well-being within our bodies.
Occasional masturbation to release stress is beneficial but it should not be relied upon all the time to relieve stress as it could become addictive behaviour.
Sex also boosts your immunity, something which can be affected by stress, making us more prone to illness and infections. Having sex once or twice a week has been linked with higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A or IgA, which can protect you from getting colds and other infections.
Make time for Sex
Try having sex in the morning. Set the alarm a little earlier to enjoy the health boosting benefits morning sex can have to start your day in a better mood. Even if your stress levels start to creep up later in the day, the memory of the great sex you had that morning can help to relax you and put a cheeky secret smile on your face.
teasing, intimate touching or foreplay to release those feel good hormones to boost your mood.
Use Sexual Lubricants
Stress can cause vaginismus whereby the muscles of the vagina tighten, making sexual intercourse feel uncomfortable or painful. Reducing your stress levels and learning to relax can help release the vaginal muscles. Try using plenty of lubricant and a slim vibrator.
Stress can also impact upon vaginal lubrication so even if you do feel aroused you may not feel lubricated so incorporate sexual lubricants into your sexplay to make it feel more pleasurable.
By reducing stress in your life you can begin to enjoy better sexual intimacy and pleasure.
Written by: Samantha Evans
Sexual health expert and co founder of Jo Divine