Sex and Stress: What's the Connection?

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Sex and Stress: What’s the connection?

Stress can have a profound impact on our sexuality. Here’s what it looks like – and how to deal with it.


Sex as a way of coping with stress

In our modern, fast-pace lives, people’s adrenalin and cortisol levels constantly get pumped sky-high. We rush to meetings, get stuck in traffic, have unrelenting deadlines, and have to deal with family life and our own bodies at the same time. There is constant pressure to perform more and better.


For many men and women, the remedy is obvious: it’s called SEX. Pornography on the internet and in the media provides sexual excitation on tap. We can even gear or sex lives with actual people to provide maximum sexual excitement and minimum demands on us in other ways.


Pumping sex is like sniffing cocaine. Sexual excitation results in a large release of dopamine in the body. Dopamine is a neurochemical which, like cocaine, lifts our mood in the pursuit of excitement. The problem with dopamine is that it is only interested in the pursuit, and never in actual fulfillment. And so we have to stay on the treadmill to get the kick.


Stress and excitement oriented sex feed each other. The more stressed you become, the more you want the release that comes from sexual excitement and ejaculatory or clitoral orgasm. But the relief is only temporary, and then you are compulsively called back on to the treadmill of your stressful life.


The impact of stress on sex

 Paradoxically, stress also has a decidedly negative effect on many people’s sex lives. In fact, stress tends to push sex to extremes. Either we become over-stimulated sexually, or we lose all desire. Over-stimulation can look like a compulsion to find the next shot of sexual excitement (with a person or through fantasy or pornography). It can also look like an over-activation of the sexual nerve endings in the body. This can result in troublesome conditions such as premature ejaculation, where the penis becomes so hypersensitive ejaculation occurs way before it is desired. Similarly in women, vaginismus can occur – the state where the vagina goes into a semi-permanent contraction in reaction to stimulation.


Stress can also cause us to lose sexual desire. We find ourselves simply too exhausted and sex is just another thing to attend to. Our bodies start to numb out due to overstimulation and tiredness.


What is stress, and how to deal with it

When we get stressed, the sympathetic nervous system – our fight, flight, fuck and flee response – gets activated. When we find ourselves constantly in stress, we start to run in sympathetic nervous system overdrive. Imagine your car getting stuck in fifth gear and propelling the car forward at high speed without control. It becomes impossible to slow down and relax, even when we want to.


We can of course use alcohol, ejaculation or drugs to slow us down. But clearly this chemical manipulation of the body is not going to bring any real rebalancing of the nervous system.


What the body is crying out for, is a balancing of the flow between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The latter is our release and relaxation mechanism. The parasympathetic nervous system gets activated through nourishing touch, loving human contact, slowing down, getting exercise, eating healthily and taking care of your soul.


If you find yourself in a cycle of stress, consider the following:

  • There are times in our lives when we have more stress than others. However, if you are creating a lifestyle of stress, remember – you have only this life. How do you want to live it?
  • Slow down. Drop your expectations of yourself and others.
  • Go cold turkey on compulsive sex for excitement. Sorry for the bad news – but this kind of sex will only feed your stress cycle. It’s poison to your nervous system.
  • Give energy to building deep, committed, loving sexual partnership. Sexual exchange in this container releases oxytocin, which is like milk for the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Get exercise and eat a healthy diet with good quality water and lots of organic greens.
  • Finally, consider that stress is a response of an ego that desperately wants to hold on to its familiar identity – while the river of life is calling your soul to move on, evolve, and wake up to who you really are.




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