Does Sex Help Reduce Stress? Here’s the Truth
Whether you’re stressed out over work, family, school, or life, it follows you everywhere. You don’t need to be stressed specifically about your relationship (or lack of) in order for it to trickle into your sex life. There are a lot of different variables that can turn your hanky panky into a lackluster experience, and a big deterrent can be how you’re feeling. Your mental and emotional state both affect how your physical will act, so stress is a huge factor on your ability to perform and enjoy the pizzaz.
While stress may cause a significant dip in your sex drive, how much truth there is to the idea that a healthy sex life is good for stress relief? Let’s find out in this blog.
How Stress Affects Sex
When you’re stressed, your body produces a higher than usual level of the hormone cortisol, the steroid hormone that increases sugars in the bloodstream and acts as the body’s main stress hormone. Stress also ignites an increase in the hormone epinephrine, the adrenaline hormone, It is able to really negatively affect how your body is doing. Stress puts your body into survival mode, triggering its fight or flight response. Your heart rate increases, your palms get sweaty, your blood starts pumping faster than usual, and there’s an obvious feeling of discomfort, not leaving any space for your non-essential sex drive. The process of cortisol increases is very similar to how testosterone works in the body, so a higher level of cortisol means that testosterone levels are reduced. A Norwegian doctor and clinical sexologist, Haakon Aars, claims that testosterone is the most significant sex-related hormone in both men and women, so sex drive decreses in all genders when stress levels are high.
The human body has two nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is the one that takes control when stress is in play; all of those negative, cortisol-related feelings and symptoms come out. The second nervous system is the sympathetic nervous system, it puts a break on the stress hormone and introduces positive, happier hormones into the body (i.e. this system is responsible for sexy time). If you never take the time to relax and move out of survivor mode, your sympathetic nervous system never gets the chance to kick in. The longer this goes on, the more damaging effects it has on your overall sex life and your libido. You begin to lose interest in anything relating to sex because your priorities lie on your worries.
So, stress doesn’t bode well for your sex drive and libido; the last thing on your mind is to procreate. In fact, stress can actually make it harder for your body to reach climax, so there’s no orgasm in sight. (To be fair, though, one out of six women have never experienced orgasms, so people are already missing out from other factors (straight sex), as well.)
Sex Actually Helps De-Stress
On the flip side, there may be hope! You may be one of the lucky people who experience increased sex drive when stressed. Some people want increased comfort and care when they’re feeling negative and worried, so physical intimacy might be a high priority on their list. It is a way to unload the stress (and other stuff), and provide yourself with a distraction and a sense of relief. In times of stress, you may want to nurture the connection you have with your partner, and lean on them for support and comfort. If you can move beyond the worries and get into the right mood, sex can actually help reduce your stress!
Orgasms are a known way to reduce cortisol levels. They replace the stress hormone with a bunch of feel-good hormones like oxytocin (the love hormone that lowers blood pressure) and dopamine (the pleasure hormone). These powerful hormones can also put you in a cuddly and calm mood.
The health benefits of having sex to relieve stress and to ease anxiety have been substantiate with various studies. Feeling stressed? Take a deep breath, and pull out the vibrator, grab your partner, or stretch out your wrists and get busy.
Using a personal lube becomes particularly important when you are in stress. This is due to the fact that stress can lead to temporary muscle tension in the pelvic floor, which can hinder natural lubrication and make penetration less comfortable.
Some Other Ways Sex Can Actually Help You
- Orgasming before bed actually leads to better sleep, which may help you deal with stress.
- Consistent use of a vibrator leads to overall better health.
- Having more sex can actually help you at work. It has been proven to help people produce better quality work and help with focus.
- Sex can improve heart health, boost immunity, and lower some cancer risks.