You're Probably Having Less Sex Than You Should. Here's What You're Missing Out On
When life gets in the way, sex tends to move to the back burner. But getting cozy between the sheets (or somewhere else) is actually the best thing you can do when you're burning the candle at both ends and starting to fray. Here are six reasons you should be having more sex—especially when you're stressed:
1. Moving your body pleasurably dissolves stress and invites calm.
The stress hormone cortisol activates our fight, flight, or freeze response. Cortisol is useful if you are in a life-threatening situation, but being behind on a work deadline is not a life-threatening situation. The thing is, our brains can’t tell the difference. Exercise regulates our cortisol levels and, when your exercise involves something pleasurable—think dance, yoga, biking, pole dancing, and sex, of course—we can release some of the stress while simultaneously activating our pleasure centers.
2. Focusing on sensation grounds you in the present.
People often think your brain is your biggest sex organ. But it's actually your skin. Take your time. Play with pleasurable sensations related to temperature, pressure, and texture. Anything that brings you pleasure—smells, tastes, sights, sounds, touches—counteracts anxiety. Seriously, have you ever felt stressed out while you're mid-climax? (Neither have we.)
3. Self-pleasuring reaffirms your sense of power over your feelings.
Masturbation is one of the best ways to dial into your pleasure and eroticism. Solo sex is often seen as a consolation prize for those who aren't having partnered sex. But solo sex is about you, your sexuality, your pleasure, on your terms. What's more empowering than that? Plus, spending time with your own body one-on-one is the best way to learn what we like, what we don’t like, and work that erotic muscle.
4. Experiencing the benefits of pleasure isn't about pressuring yourself to get in the mood. All you have to do is open up to responsive desire.
For many people, stress kills the sex drive. And when we're in that anxious place, we often forget about the lovely concept of responsive desire. Responsive desire is something that happens when you’re in a context that is safe and sexy (for example, cooking dinner with your sweetie) and suddenly finding yourself scooting closer, starting to canoodle, and all of a sudden realizing you want to get naked. Just allow yourself to feel intimate and pleasurable in a safe setting. Desire will often naturally flow from there.
5. Infusing small doses of pleasure into your day keeps stress from snowballing.
If you have a sweetie, sending each other erotic texts (I see you, eggplant emoji) puts your focus back on pleasure and is a great way to trigger your brain to send blood flow to places that make you feel excited rather than anxious. If you're single, taking some time to read erotica (seriously, don't knock it till you try it) can be a wonderful timeout from the hardcore stresses in life and a great reminder to focus on pleasure.
6. The bedroom is one place you can forget about deadlines and just enjoy yourself.
We often rush toward the perceived finish line of orgasm during sex like our lives depended on it. This singular focus can feel stressful and full of pressure, especially if you’re already feeling stressed. Slow down! Enjoy the journey and embrace pleasure instead of performance as the measure of great sex.
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Rena McDaniel, M.Ed., is a a pleasure-positive Clinical Sexologist, specializing in helping you find confidence and joy in your own unique skin, sexuality, and relationships by exploring practical ways to experience shamelessly bold pleasure and connection in your life. Rena holds a Master of Education in Community Counseling from DePaul University and a Sexual Health Certificate in Sex Therapy and Education from the University of Michigan.