Deadlines, political news, impending climatic doom. There are currently plenty of factors contributing to high levels of stress. As a result, 35% of people worldwide report suffering from acute stress.
While stress is a crucial mechanism that keeps humans safe and alive, prolonged periods of stress can have many negative consequences: from higher risks of cardiovascular diseases to strain in personal relationships. There is, however, one particular issue high levels of stress can cause that is not much talked about: A dip in libido. In other words, stressed people often have less desire for sex.
In fact, people of all genders report suffering from lower sex-drive as a result of long periods of stress. And to make matters worse, less sexual desire can lead to pressure and anxiety, which can turn the high-stress/low-libido swing into a vicious cycle.
In this article, we will go into the biological relations between stress and sexual desire, how to manage your stress levels, and how to improve your sex life even in tense periods of life.
How does stress affect your libido?
Sex hormones and cortisol levels
Cortisol – that is the hormone triggering stress responses in the body, and it is naturally produced in higher quantities in stressful periods. It can also be the culprit for eroding your sex drive.
The catch is that it is made of the same building blocks as sexual hormones, testosterone, and estrogen. So basically, your body has less resources to produce the right substances to turn you on.
But that is not all; high cortisol levels can cause other symptoms which can reduce libido such as weight gain, fatigue, and insomnia. Our mood is also negatively impacted – making it hard to have brain space to think dirty thoughts.
How to fight off stress?
Many times over, it has been proven that lifestyle changes are the best remedy in combating high-stress levels. While being able to make these changes is not always easy, here are some of the ones you should definitely consider:
Exercising regularly is one of the best methods to regulate your stress levels. It does not have to be extensive gym hours every day; just going for a 10-minute walk every morning or doing some stretches with the help of a YouTube video can make a great difference. The secret is finding an activity that gives you joy and to slowly make it part of your routine.
Breathing exercises, yoga, meditation – these can all be powerful allies in keeping the stress at bay. Again, the idea is not to feel frustrated if you cannot do an hour-long meditation. Go slow, find some guided meditation online, journal: these are small steps in practicing mindfulness that works for you.
With a hectic schedule, nutrition can take the backseat. Forget diet culture and eating to lose weight; the goal is to nourish your body and provide it with all it needs to function well. Remember that when you are undereating or lacking in some nutrients your body reads that as a sign of scarcity or danger, and this increases your stress levels.
Reducing everyday stress
This one is not an easy step either, but it is very necessary. You can start by writing down all the most stressful factors in your life today; the long commute is one of the things you dread the most in your week, having no help with the kids after work is driving you crazy? Then start thinking about feasible solutions that can help alleviate the stress load. And remember; the best course of action is always to ask for help from those around you. You might be surprised at the response.
I am going through a stressful period, and I can’t change my circumstances, but I still want to enjoy sex. How can I do that?
Sometimes life gets tough, and you still deserve to enjoy pleasure and connection during those times. There are tips and tricks which can help you navigate that.
How to improve sex life in stressful periods?
Accepting your circumstances
Having stress take away from things you enjoy can be very frustrating but adding pressure to it will only make matters worse. Accepting that your sex life might be impacted by the moment you are in is the first step to getting the pressure off yourself.
A lot of people turn up their nose at this idea, because there is a belief sex should always be spontaneous. But there is a lot of value in scheduling sex, especially in periods of time scarcity. It will ensure you take the space to prioritize your sex life and will even give you something to look forward to in stressful moments.
Lube is an inexpensive way to improve sex in multiple circumstances, but this is particularly true when it comes to stress. High cortisol levels can affect lubrication, and a little lube is a fast solution to that which makes things that much more enjoyable.
Try new things
Stress can make sex feel like a chore, but sprucing things up is a way to combat that. How about thinking outside the box and trying new things to refresh your sexual life? You could try edging for the first time, or even listen to some audio erotica to help you get in the mood.
Sometimes when things are very stressful, all we want is to escape ourselves for a while. Well, with roleplaying, that is possible. By stepping into somebody else’s shoes, you might be able to let go of every day worries and enjoy sex in a completely new way.
Trying no-orgasm sex
The pressure to orgasm can be crushing for a lot of people, and when you add high cortisol levels into the mix things only can get worse. One solution to that is removing orgasms completely from the equation.
Try having sex with a rule; no orgasms allowed. It lowers the stakes and can allow you to enjoy the moment – not to mention without the rush to get off you might discover new sensations and techniques which can improve your sex life altogether.
Living completely stress-free is a longshot for most of us. However, there are measurements we can take to reduce our stress levels, and also make sure they do not completely kill our sex drives. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to pay attention to yourself and take active steps to prioritize your pleasure.
James, N. M. D. (2022, October 31). How stress affects sex drive — and what to do about it! Women’s Health Network. https://www.womenshealthnetwork.com/adrenal-fatigue-and-stress/stress-and-sex-life/
Raisanen, J. C., Chadwick, S. B., Michalak, N., & van Anders, S. M. (2018). Average Associations Between Sexual Desire, Testosterone, and Stress in Women and Men Over Time. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47(6), 1613–1631. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1231-6
Wismann, M. (2021, February 4). 3 Reasons Stress is Affecting Your Sex Drive and What to Do About It. The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/3-reasons-stress-is-affecting-your-sex-drive-and-what-to-do-about-it/
Zauderer, S., & Zauderer, S. (n.d.). 67 Workplace Stress Statistics In 2022. https://www.crossrivertherapy.com/stress-statistics-and-facts