Stress, or being over-scheduled, is one of the most common reasons for a lack of sex drive.
Before we go on, a gentle reminder that it’s important to remember that it’s OK to not want sex. The levels of desire we experience vary- and respond to what is going on in our lives. As you’ll discover, for many people stress acts as a biological brake to any kind of sexual feelings. This is normal, and most likely your interest in sex will return when the stress subsides.
However if you’re feeling exhausted and can’t summon an ounce of wanting to get jiggy, or it’s literally fallen off of your to-do list it’s so long, and you WANT to want sex… this could be the issue to focus on.
Maj Wiseman writes about the idea when she states that “the desire to have sex is either a surplus or a deficit phenomenon”. This means that when we’re feeling happy and all is well we want sex. Or if we’re super stressed we might want sex to relieve stress. Women are more likely to experience desire for sex when they’re in surplus- which means when they’re happy, and most importantly stress free. This explains often why desire might increase when we’re on holiday or away from everyday stressors like work or children.
This great video from our friends over at Debunking Desire gives more information on the effect of stress on desire. Or for our top tips on how to reduce the impact of stress, read on…
How to reduce the impact of stress to revive sexual desire...
1. Learn more about the impact of stress
Stress acts as a biological “off switch” for desire, meaning even if we want to want it, our body (and brain) says “no” because it has the effect of leaving us feeling utterly frazzled.
Therefore learning more about exactly HOW and WHY stress can close down desire is really important. Knowing that desire fading is a natural response to stress and something that our brain does to protect us is not only fascinating but it can stop you from feeling guilty or sexually broken if your desire has faded! They also say knowledge is power, so understanding what to do to reduce the impact of stress can help us experience more desire.
Read this post “How does stress impact on desire” for a complete beginners guide to the consequences of experiencing cumulative stress. Or there is a brilliant chapter on stress in Emily Nagoski’s “Come As You Are” book. Or if you’d like to go more in-depth, Nagoski also wrote a brilliant book called “Burn Out- Solve Your Stress Cycle” which has tons of guidance on how to complete the “stress cycle” (which paves the way to experiencing desire).
As much as is pains us to say this (seeing as we’re couch potatoes at heart) but exercise is one of the best ways to get back a low sex drive if you are affected by stress.
That’s because our desire for sex is literally biologically closed down when we feel under pressure. And exercise (in particular cardio) tricks our bodies into believing we’re safe, and burns off that extra adrenaline we’re holding on to. Often we don’t realise the stress we are carrying, and exercise helps us complete the “stress cycle” and release what has been weighing us down.
You can read more about why this happens with exercise and tips on how to incorporate it into your life in this post on “Exercise- the key to reviving desire?”.
3. Learn how to stay present
“To experience desire, women need to be relaxed and able to focus on pleasure… We take care of everyone else before ourselves, so women are easily distracted and concerned by life stressors, making it difficult to think about sex.”, Dr. Hutcherson
Stress can make our minds race, and could mean we find it hard to relax. We might have distracting background mental chatter, or our bodies feel tense, which affects our ability to become aroused or our enjoyment of sex.
One brilliant way to practise being able to relax is one that is recommended by both Debunking Desire and Dr Lori Brotto.
In her book “Better Sex Through Mindfulness” (affiliate link), Brotto demonstrates that through mindfulness you can slow down the mind and learn to focus attention when it drifts off by gently and compassionately bringing it back to ourselves. It is a way of paying more attention to the body to fully experience our feelings (without judging or trying to change them). Through mindfulness you can become more in touch with your body, sensation, and ultimately with your own arousal.
Brotto’s brilliant book (great alliteration there!) has some useful exercises in how you can incorporate mindfulness into your day, or read our guide to staying present during sex for a comprehensive overview of actionable techniques to enjoy the moment.
Alternatively, consider other exercises that encourage you to relax such as deep breathing or yoga.
4. Look out for any links to stress *during* sex
For many people a big motivator to having sex is because it can be a great stress-reliever. However if sex feels stressful for you (e.g. you can’t stay present, become aroused, or relax), this might be causing your disinterest. See this post to find out more about how sex can be stressful, and what to do about it.
5. Share the load
Feeling stressed is often linked to how much time we have (or the perception of the time we have), and what we prioritise. Check out the section on Time and Desire to find out more about the additional demands on women’s time that could be behind their low desire, and solutions to help.
6. Because stress is cumulative, the solutions have to be too!
Often when we want to decrease the stress we’re under, we try short-term solutions that don’t seem to make much difference. However, if you’ve been under a period of prolonged/chronic stress, you’re going to need a solution that is consistent and regular.
7. Learn to care for yourself
Self-care is a bit of a buzz word these days, but learning how to care for ourselves to manage our stress levels is an essential skill that requires practise. Find out more about our top techniques for erotic self care here.
8. Be, don't Do
I recently read an amazing article on the power of having a “to-be” list and not a “to-do list”. At first I thought it was cheesy as, but the more I thought about it, it makes sense. We measure our lives by the tasks achieved, we’re obsessed with multi-tasking and busyness, not our happiness, sense of peace or connection with others. And that’s not right.
Write a “to-be” list tomorrow instead which includes how you want your sex life to be, and start ticking off your dreams and memories rather than actions and tasks.
Have you found any useful resources or have any great tips on how to reduce the impact of stress on desire?
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