It’s 2018 and, by many accounts, the world is falling apart. The nation is fundamentally divided. A significant number of Americans are still struggling to cover their basic needs. Children are juuling. Straws are going away. The Handmaid’s Tale airs every Wednesday and makes everyone sad. It’s a stressful moment in American history, and it’s important we find ways to deal with it. Fortunately, there are plenty of proven ways to decompress. Walks have been known to reduce stress hormones. Houseplants can also help calm you down. Stepping away from the screen has also been shown to improve the symptoms of stress and depression.
And then there’s sex.
Research shows that sex releases a slew of endorphins and other hormones that elevate your mood. It’s also a natural form of exercise, which in and of itself helps reduce stress. Still, getting in the mood to get down can be challenging, especially when your libido begins to buckle under the demands of everyday life. But, as Einstein once said, “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” As such, here are a few ways to enhance sex when stressed.
Turn Up the Stereo
Researchers over at McGill University have found that listening to music makes us feel good. More specifically, they found that music helps inspire the release of dopamine, also known as the “feel good chemical,” in our brains. Couple that experience with sex, and you get double the dose. And hey, music might help enhance your performance as well. Studies show that listening to certain kinds of music can help increase signs of arousal, including heart rate, breathing rate, and skin conductance. A separate survey suggests that listening to music during sex can help improve our rhythm, and the overall sexual experience. So play some tunes. It can help keep the action up and stress down.
Work on Your Breathing
Yoga enthusiasts will recognize the concept of pranayama, a formal process of controlling breath. It largely revolves around deep breathing, through the nostrils. The practice is thought to improve attention, increase energy, and decrease stress. Of course, it can also help you have better sex. “Deeper breathing can help us achieve deeper, stronger, and longer-lasting orgasms,” pleasure-based sex educator Kait Scalisi previously told Fatherly. According to Scalisi, deep breaths help engage the pelvic floor, the same group of muscles that contract during orgasm. She also reminds us that breathing through the nose can increase the production of nitric oxide, a molecule that helps blood flow and lowers blood pressure. That bit should be of particular interest to anyone in the habit of incorporating erections into their sexual routine.
A study of 2,000 couples found that couples who only kiss during sex were eight times more likely to report suffering from stress and depression than those who kiss more frequently. “Kissing relieves stress by creating a sense of connectedness, which releases endorphins, the chemicals that counteract stress and depression,” writes Laura Berman, Ph.D., the author of the study. Of course, that’s not the only function kissing provides. Locking lips is probably the world’s most popular form of foreplay out there. And, as anyone who’s ever participated in a satisfying sexual encounter should already know, foreplay is important, especially when women are involved.
Put Sex on the Calendar
Back in 2011, psychologist and self-help author Robert Epstein decided to look into the most effective ways to reduce stress. He surveyed over 3,000 participants based in the U.S. and 29 other countries over the course of his investigation. According to his findings, the best method revolves around our ability to plan ahead. “The most important way to manage stress is to prevent it from ever occurring, ” he wrote. “That means planning your day, your year and your life so that stress is minimized.” Of course, scheduling sex doesn’t seem to be the most intuitive approach to intimacy, but it might be the most appropriate for those who have a lot on their plate. It also gives you the opportunity to plan strategically. Maybe think about scheduling things before bed. After all, sex has been shown to release hormones that make us relaxed and sleepy.
Get Out of Your Head (And Zip Code)
Getting away can be good for us. Research suggests that vacations can elevate our mood, increase productivity, promote healthier sleeping patterns, and reduce stress. Maybe that’s why getting away is also often associated with better sex. Academics claim that vacations provide the opportunity for couples to engage in new and exciting sexual adventures, which generally lead to an increase in sexual desire, sexual activity, and sexual satisfaction.