When stress and anxiety creep into the bedroom, it can have an impact on sexual desire and the desire to get intimate with your partner.
Of course it’s not always possible to get rid of all of life’s stresses, but there are ways you can promote calm and help one another to relax and get in the mood.
Our mental health can and does have a real impact on our sex lives.
When there is a low level of constant stress, or ‘background noise’, going on in our heads, it makes it incredibly difficult to relax and be present in any moment. It can be tricky to concentrate on a conversation with your partner, let alone give in to wonderful feelings of touch and connection.
If you’re struggling with anxiety around sex in particular - perhaps worrying about what you look like or whether your partner is enjoying themselves – you might find it hard to stay in the moment. We call this spectatoring but, in short, it’s when you get stuck inside your head overthinking the sexual encounter rather than losing yourself in it and simply feeling.
The physical symptoms of anxiety can manifest as sexual performance anxiety, erectile difficulties or premature ejaculation. All of which can create a problematic cycle. We worry about sex, sex doesn’t feel as good or we experience problems and embarrassment so we worry more. These anxious thoughts can lead, over a period of time, to avoidance of sex, insecurity and even a lack of desire.
It’s a bit of a cliché, isn’t it? Putting on sexy music and turning the lights down low, but is that what you should be doing when sex is on the cards and you want to help your partner relax and get in the mood?
Well, that depends.
Different people have different needs. And they experience things in different ways.
Have you ever found that when you’re feeling anxious about something, just a small change around you can tip you over the edge? It might be a particular type of music that becomes too much to bear, or a bright, fluorescent light that overwhelms you. Or you might find yourself suddenly overheating.
When our bodies are in a heightened state of stress, our nervous systems are running overtime. And that can mean that it doesn’t take much to make us feel like things are too much. Kind of like the straw that breaks the camel’s back!
Conversely, it’s possible to relax the nervous system and calm those feelings of overwhelm by changing elements of the environment to suit you. Think about how you feel about…
How much do you notice different colors around you? Have you noticed they make you feel a certain way? Color is known to have an incredible impact on mood and emotion.
Red, for example, promotes anger and passion; green, nature and health; and blue, calmness and serenity – think floating in a turquoise lagoon.
Some people find loud music fires them up, releases endorphins and gives them a huge happiness boost, shaking away the stress of daily life. For others? Too much auditory stimulation can make the anxiety mount. For these more sensitive souls, a quieter more soothing choice might help bring the heart rate down and act as a stress reliever.
While most people agree that cozy lighting is more relaxing when we’re trying to wind down at night, for some light sensitivity can be a real issue. Bright white fluorescent or modern LED lights have been found to be linked to anxiety and mood disorders in some people.
Another environmental factor that might get your toes curling is texture how things feel when you touch them. Is there anything that sets your teeth on edge? Nails on a blackboard? Crushed velvet? Toweling? Even memory foam mattresses can cause distress to some people who are particularly overly sensitive to touch.
If you, or your partner, is experiencing stress or anxiety at the idea of sex, you may find that creating a more relaxing environment can help. Of course it may not be a quick fix for bedroom issues, but as one of the tools in your arsenal it can be pretty powerful.
But, as we’ve alluded to above, what one person finds relaxing, another may not. What triggers tension in one person is likely to be completely different from their partner.
Which makes it vital, as in many areas of sex life, to learn to communicate honestly about your wants and needs. In fact, for couples who feel their blood pressure rise at the thought of talking about sex and desire this can be a really great place to start. Allowing the opportunity to share thoughts and feelings and opening themselves up without the pressure of directly talking about the act of sex.
Practicing this art of conversation, sharing things you wouldn’t normally discuss and learning to actively listening without judgment can pave the way for healthier discussions about sex and relationships in the future.
We often talk about the importance of communication in relationships, particularly when issues have started to creep in and sex is becoming less frequent or less desirable to one or both parties. But learning how to talk to your partner about sex can be beneficial in reducing sexual anxiety and achieving a healthy sex life.
While there is support and help to be had from a sex therapist or via an app such as Blueheart, without communication you will never achieve the perfect sexual experience.
So whether your anxiety symptoms occur in response to sex in particular or are the result of chronic stress or anxiety disorders, there are things we can do to help reduce stress responses in the bedroom.
Learning and sharing your needs and desires when it comes to creating a more relaxing environment can make a real difference. Over time you should find an improvement in not just your keenness for intimacy but also your enjoyment of it once you’re in the moment.
And you could find that getting intimate with your partner will, in turn, reduce those feelings of stress and anxiety. It’s a positive feedback loop that can have far reaching effects in your everyday life.