The Relationship Between Stress and Sex
Updated: Jun 17
It's the story of life. As we age, our time seems to be more pressured and our attention more split. Demanding jobs, raising kids, keeping up friendships, managing finances, maintaining a home; these are just some of the demands we all juggle.
All of this can lead to a lot of pressure, leaving us feeling sexually stressed. For many of us, it means having very little time to explore the erotic space inside our minds - much less finding time to have sex alone or with a partner.
Sadly, some of the biggest issues that stand in the way of great sex are familiar characteristics to those of us with busy lives; stress, anxious thinking and an inability to stay present in the experience.
Is stress bad for sex?
Trying to have sex when you're stressed isn't so different from driving a car. Stress tends to sit on your sexual response ‘brake pedal’. And trying to kickstart your sexual desire with something sitting firmly on the brake is like pumping the accelerator with the parking brake still on.
In other words, you’re not going anywhere.
Of course, we can have "good" kinds of stress, like planning for a vacation or night out. Then there are "bad" kinds of stress, like financial hardship, conflict with your partner, or a looming deadline. But neither good or bad stress is conducive to sexual desire or sexual arousal. And it can also have a big impact on the quality of the sex itself.
If you’re too much ‘in your head’ during sex, it can impact your ability to reach orgasm. Because sex tends to be at its best when we’re simply sensing and experiencing - rather than thinking. Even if our stress is not all-consuming, everyday stressors can have just as much of an impact in the bedroom.
Why is sex important?
Most individuals and couples report that a healthy sex life is critical for relationship satisfaction and overall quality of life. Sex is also great for your body, your brain and your mood. Orgasms boost the immune system, improves memory, enhances your confidence and most importantly - it relieves stress.
So if you’re sexually stressed, how can you alleviate this anxiety before and during sex?
Staying present to pleasure
The trick isn’t so much about stopping your thoughts altogether, because that’s impossible, but learning how to focus your mind on the important stuff. Like what’s happening to your body, and staying present to pleasure.
Before sex, always try to take a moment to disentangle from your day and move into a state of sexual arousal and openness to the erotic. Set yourself up for success and create a space that is free from distraction.
If you choose your bedroom, make sure you don’t have distracting clutter everywhere. If you have kids - make sure they are settled down and lock your door so you’re not worrying about them walking in.
And when it comes to sex itself, we recommend using your five senses to practice staying present. This is a brilliant way of dropping back into the present, if you find your stressed-out mind racing away from you during sex.
Here's how it works. Whenever you notice that your thoughts are dominating your experience, just take a moment to catch yourself. Then simply pick one of your five senses, and focus your mind on that sense.
Let's say you picked touch. Focus your mind on what you're feeling through touch across your body. These will be such strong sensations to drop into, whatever was distracting you before will be a thing of the past.
The more you practice, the more you’re going to be strengthening that ability for your brain to remain focused on the body and sensations. In turn, this will reduce the mental clutter that can create anxiety and distraction, leading to you feeling sexually stressed.
In time, what will happen, is it will get easier to drop into that same focus of pleasure in the body when you’re having solo or partnered sex. And that can only be a good thing.
If you found this article helpful, then be sure to read our interview with Dr. Britney Blair to learn more about how Lover can help you.
And don't forget to download the Lover app for much more guidance - including exercises to help you reduce stress and say present for pleasure.