Sex occurs primarily in the head. You’ve heard this many times but only sometimes become actually aware of it. When we are stressed, we often feel unsexy, our libido decreases and sex slides down to the bottom of our to-do list. But sexual discomfort is also a recurrent theme in mental illnesses, a symptom of burnout or depression for example.
On the other hand, a full sex life can hugely positively impact our general well-being. Studies have shown that the combination of loving relationships, physical contact and sex result in health benefits – and the fact that good sex reduces stress is something we all know to be true.
1. Recognize stress as the reason for sexual reluctance and address its roots
Stress is not only fundamentally unhealthy, but as previously mentioned the ultimate lust killer par excellence. Take a closer look at what personally causes you stress, ideally do this before it manages to cripple your love life. Especially if you’ve been feeling stressed for a longer period of time, the causes should be addressed and permanently dealt with. Are you experiencing too many deadlines, conflicting roles, too many or too higher demands in your everyday life? Maybe you just need a vacation, but maybe you just in general don’t make enough time for yourself. Saying no to some chores and cutting down on some social obligations (when possible of course) can really work wonders.
In order to temporarily ease the reluctance to have sex, some relaxation exercises and dedicated time with your partner can help you to both commit and get you in the right mood. If you’re often having sex, this can even reduce your stress levels: the release of the hormone oxytocin breaks down cortisol (the hormone responsible for stress) and its further production is therefore controlled.
2. Self-worth and relationships
It is particularly important that sex in itself does not become a factor of stress in your life. The feeling of having to sleep with someone out of a sense of duty is an enormous emotional burden nobody should have to carry. Before this happens, you should take the time to listen to yourself, clearly communicate your limits and never let yourself be put under any sort of pressure. Sometimes, we don’t want to have sex because our focus is just on something else – and you know what? That’s fine.
The reason for which we may be reluctant to have sex may also lie in the relationship itself, which doesn’t necessarily mean that our partner is no longer physically attractive. This being said, unresolved or unspoken issues often first come to the surface on a physical level. The best advice here is open communication: to talk honestly and constructively about what is not going well and remain un- judgmental and empathetic.
3. Phubbing, cell phone addiction and the effects of technology
Never heard of phubbing? It’s the combination of the words phone and snubbing and describes the habit of using one’s smartphone while being with one’s friends, colleagues, family members or partners. Not only is this often seen as rude and results in a neglect of some social relationships, but also to use technology too much in our everyday life impacts our libido.
According to a study from the “Foundation for Future Issues”, people have significantly less sex today. One of the reasons for this is that most of our free time is spent with us using our laptop or cell phone. If two people are constantly clenching their cell phones in bed, it may not set a very erotic mood. Additionally, there are more and more studies supporting the fact that constant cell phone use hugely impacts stress levels. Mobile-free time is an absolute must even outside of the bedroom to be able to switch off mentally. Why not completely ban tech devices from the bedroom and just use a good old fashioned alarm clock?
4. Balanced nutrition and exercise
The positive effect of exercise on mental health is common knowledge: the happiness hormones dopamine and serotonin are released and the stress hormone cortisol is contained. Another plus: blood circulation and our sympathetic nervous systems are stimulated, which in turn leads to an immediate increase in libido. Additionally, sports and especially sports such as yoga, which bring harmony to body and mind, improve our own body awareness. You get to feel more comfortable in your own body and explore what feels good even during sex.
A proper nutrition, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds can also really help. Many of these foods contain magnesium which boosts our energy levels and is responsible for the communication between our nerve cells and can also even reduce feelings of anxiety. Healthy fats from for example olive oil or fatty fish also stimulate the production of the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen – a hot side effect for increased pleasure!
If you notice a loss in your libido for a long prolonged period of time, it could be a sign of serious mental illness. In this case, you should seek professional help, maybe ask for help from a therapist or family general practitioner.