Is Stress Affecting Your Sex Drive?

Did you know that sex can lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and hypertension? Sex can be an important part of a woman’s life. It’s a pivotal part of love and marriage, bolstering strong bonds through deep intimacy.

Yet with a busy schedule and an amalgamation of worries from work, relationships and family, there seems to be no time to think or even enjoy partaking in the act. Months and years may fly and you’ll be left wondering where your desire for sex went.

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Why Stress Impacts Libido

 

The Accelerator and The Brake
To understand why your libido has flown out of the window, you need to understand how the body deals with stress. A body has a sympathetic (stress response) and parasympathetic nervous system (stress relief). Analogous to a car requiring the accelerator to drive over slopes and difficult terrains, the sympathetic nervous system functions just like the accelerator - to cope with the challenges and stressors in life. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is the brake of your body and is activated when the body needs rest.
When you wake up to your phone buzzing with mountains of tasks needed to be done, relationship problems at the back of your mind, and endless bills to chase - you become immobilized with stress. To cope with this major hurdle, your body fuels you with a short boost of energy to either face your problems or run away from them. Our stress response (the accelerator) is activated in our bodies. We’ve all experienced it kicking in, your heart pounds faster, your palms get moist and sweaty, you tingle with a mixture of anxiety and excitement.
Once the problem has been resolved, the accelerator will be relieved by the brake. Phew, another hill conquered, now you can take a break.

 

The Chronic Problem
But what happens when stress becomes chronic? Another day, another steeper hill to conquer, but this time it stretches over a long period of time, our body hits the pedal for too long, and it feels as if our accelerator has gotten stuck.

Stress over Sex
Our body is working overtime, all the time, giving no chance for our brakes to kick in. To allow the accelerator to keep working, the production of our stress hormone, ‘cortisol’ increases. During this process, our body uses our sex hormones, to meet the increased demands of cortisol production. This disrupts the balance of sex hormones, along with the desire for sex. An erotic touch, even kisses and cuddles from a partner does not excite you the way they did.

It’s fight or flight and nothing else
Your sex drive is not only affected by your hormones but also socially and mentally. When the stress hormones kick in, it’s fight or flight and nothing else. It’s impossible to be present, to smell the roses, to be interested in this week’s latest gossip, or to catch up with your friends, even your spouse. There seems to be no time to deal with anything but yourself. When stress extends over prolonged periods, it’s easy to detach yourself socially from others and intimately from your spouse.
When your intimacy with your partner fades, and your ‘fight mode’ leaves you in an aggressive and defensive state. In such as state, sex would probably be the last thing on your mind. What can you do about it then?
First, you need to understand the loss of sex drive is ultimately a symptom of your underlying issue with stress. Here are some ways that may alleviate your stress:

Realise you are not alone
All of us experience stress, share your worries and anxieties with your spouse. You need not face your fights alone! Team up with your spouse, fight the stress together. It will not only increase your sense of unity but also shows your resilience and fight as a couple.

Accept that your sex drive will fluctuate
Your path in life is never a straight path and so is your sex drive. It will be lower sometimes and that’s fine. Accept that it might take a little while to recover, but trust it will bounce back eventually. If you can accept that this is completely okay, you can still have a lovely sex life during a stressful period too.

Focus on Sensation, not Sex
Instead of the act itself, focus on where it all started, and why it did. Loving acts such as cuddles, kisses and hugs can help. It also forces the body to go from stress to relaxation, if you allow this. If you know your spouse is going through a rough period, kiss them a little bit more, hug them a little tighter and a little longer. These tiny acts of affection can let your partner feel more love and cared for. A little goes a long way indeed!

Get active
Exercising is a great way to relieve stress. Going on a quick evening jog can help release endorphins (stress-relieving chemicals) and can allow you to feel more connected with your surroundings.

 

The Bottom Line

All in all, you need to realise low libido is a manifestation or symptom of an underlying problem that may not be stress itself. In the case of stress, however, you need to realise you are not alone - friends, family and your partner are there for you. However, if your stress stems from your relationship or deeper problems, do seek the necessary professional help from therapy and experts.

 

References:
https://www.verywellmind.com/how-stress-can-lead-to-low-libido-3145029
https://www.self.com/story/how-stress-affects-sex-life
https://www.gottman.com/blog/3-reasons-stress-is-affecting-your-sex-drive-and-what-to-do-about-it/

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