How Stress Can Impact Your Sex Life & Libido
We’ve all seen the same sitcom trope over and over. One partner gets into bed, tries to initiate sex, and the other says they’re too stressed or tired to get it on. Then, the laugh track plays and both partners fall asleep. What’s wrong with this narrative? For starters, it completely glosses over the fact that the stress of day-to-day life can have a huge impact on your sex life and desire.
For both men and women, stress can affect you on a psychological and physical level which greatly influences your libido. Follow along as we explore how sex can impact your desire, and how you can work around stress to maintain a fulfilling sex life.
Libido ≠ Your Value as a Partner
First things first, your sex drive—along with its natural ebbs and flows—is normal. Whether you have a penis or vagina, your libido will fluctuate day to day, year to year, and decade to decade. In fact, Better Health says, “There is no right or wrong level of libido…” We know that society often links masculinity or femininity with a certain level of sex drive and desire, but we’re eager to squash that myth at every turn.
Regardless of the gender-based expectations the world places on you, your libido is entirely unique and doesn’t impact your masculinity or femininity. What matters is that you feel comfortable and fulfilled in your own sexuality—the rest is just noise.
The Impact of Stress on Desire
With the stress of everyday life, maintaining a healthy relationship with sexuality and combating anxiety isn’t always easy. That’s because stress can trigger psychological and physical reactions that make it more difficult to be fully present and ready for sex.
According to Everyday Health, the cortisol and adrenaline your body releases while stressed can lower desire by messing with your body’s hormones. For guys, this same reaction can restrict blood flow and make it difficult to get or maintain an erection. Plus, it’s difficult to keep your head in the game when stress is bombarding your brain. Sex is all about being in the moment, so many people find it difficult to get in the mood when anxious or stressed out.
Stress-Proof Your Sex Life
Make Time to Communicate
When it comes to sex, all roads lead back to communication. That being said, we know it’s not always easy to talk about low libido or sexual dysfunction. With society’s rigid expectations of what it means to be a man or woman in the bedroom, many people shy away from these conversations for fear that their partner will think less of them. But this cycle is just as unproductive as it is harmful. Not having these conversations will only stress you out further. Plus, if you’re stressed out and experiencing lower desire, your partner will likely be the first to notice. So there’s nothing to be gained from keeping things secret.
Wondering how to bring up this subject with your partner? Never underestimate the value of simple conversation starters like, “I’ve been really stressed out lately and haven’t been in the mood as much. I want to work on my stress so that our sex life can get better.” While this talk can feel awkward, try your best to keep things open, light, and honest. Odds are, your partner will be more than happy to lend an ear to what’s stressing you out, and do what they can to help improve your sex life. If your partner belittles you or flat-out refuses to hear you out, that’s an excellent sign to reevaluate your sexual relationship with them.
You read that right, playing it solo more often can help increase your libido overall. When life gets too hectic, masturbation is a fantastic way to keep your libido at a comfortable baseline. Think of masturbation like a warm winter coat. It’s a lot easier to warm up after being in the snow if you’ve had a warm coat on. Similarly, regular masturbation helps your libido stay active and ready to rev up.
If your body experiences the release of dopamine and oxytocin more often, this could also help your stress levels decrease overall. In fact, Planned Parenthood notes stress relief as one of the positive effects of masturbation. Think of it like a sexual form of self-care—not only does it help you release sexual tension and keep your libido warm, but it’s also a convenient way to add more sexuality into your day when hectic schedules limit your time for partnered sex.
Keep Things Light & Playful
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your sex life is to focus on pleasure and fun. If stress is the enemy of libido, a heavy mind is the enemy of MVP-level sex. It’s important to try and keep shame or guilt out of the equation. If you’re not in the mood, that’s okay. Feeling down on yourself for not wanting to have sex plants a seed of self-deprecation that can lower your libido even more.
So what can you do? Try not to pressure yourself or set rigid expectations. The world would have you think that “good” sex only happens when there’s insertion and climax, but we say that’s limiting and boring. To keep your sexual horizons fun and open, talk to your partner about different ways to fool around. Regardless of what base you get to, the most important thing is that you and your partner have a fun, pleasurable time. So if stress is making it more difficult to go all the way, try incorporating toys, oral, or hand play more often to keep your sexual engine revving. That way, you’ll have more sexual experiences and slowly re-acclimate your stressed-out brain.
Another great way to de-stress sex is to feel confident in your equipment. If worrying about faulty, ill-fitted condoms stresses you out, check out Champ’s selection of premium-quality, rigorously tested condoms.
Find Sensual Moments
There’s so much to be said about the power of day-to-day sensuality and flirting. Not only can this help even the most active sex lives, but it’s especially helpful for those whose libidos are suffering due to stress. Why? Finding small moments throughout the day to flirt, tease, or be sensual with your partner can build anticipation and desire. Instead of putting all of the pressure on immediate foreplay, casual sensuality helps desire build up for hours or even days before sex.
Wondering how you can incorporate more sensuality into your day-to-day life? Giving or receiving affection like shoulder rubs, sexy texts, and quick pecks on the lips, neck, or cheek can do wonders for desire. These acts help keep sexual tension at a simmer throughout the day. That way, turning up the heat when the moment is right can become a lot easier for those who are usually overwhelmed with stress.
Adopt Healthy Habits
Stress is as much physical as it is mental, so keeping a healthy body and mind is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress. Plus, better nutrition, sleep, and physical fitness are great ways to bring more vigor to the bedroom. Cleveland Clinic notes that foods rich in vitamin B, omega-3 fatty acids, Magnesium, protein, and probiotics are helpful for relieving stress.
According to Harvard Health, stretching, walking, and meditating are helpful stress-fighting practices. Even if you have a hectic or stressful life, other exercises like weight training or cardio can still work for you. If you’re looking for more vigorous workouts, try following along at home with virtual cardio or weight training classes. Not only will these habits help your overall health, but they’ll help reduce the stress impacting your libido.
When in doubt, listen to your body. If you notice stress lowering your libido, rest assured that there are plenty of tools at your disposal to help you manage stress and re-adjust your brain and body to sex and desire.