After battling traffic that moved like molasses in cookies you’ve yet to bake, you return home to hungry mouths that need feeding, work that needs finishing and a to-do list that rolls out like Santa’s scroll. If you’re like many women, seeking sensual pleasure before bedtime isn’t likely on your radar. If you hope to maintain your sanity and better yet savor all life has to offer, however, it perhaps should be.
Sex provides immediate stress-minimizing benefits and improves overall physical and psychological function.
Research shows that sex provides immediate stress-minimizing benefits, according to a report published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine in Jan. 2010, and improves overall physical and psychological function. A study conducted in Scotland, for example, showed that promptly after intercourse participants had lower blood pressure and stronger performance in stressful situations, such as public speaking and solving math problems aloud. And that’s not all.
“Being in an intimate relationship correlates to healing faster, getting sick less often and living longer,” James Coan, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville told NBC News, adding that your moods also benefit. “When you have sex, you release feel-good hormones, including oxytocin and endorphins.”
These hormones are associated with relaxation, contentment and that beautiful sense of post-orgasm euphoria. If you’re not in an intimate relationship, fear not. Having a healthy relationship with your own sexuality and prioritizing self-stimulation can provide similar benefits.
The Catch-22? Stress inhibits sex drive.
The unfortunate catch-22 is that stress tends to inhibit sex drive, particularly for women. How can you have more sex if your libido has left the building? The solutions are more attainable than you may think. The following suggestions can help turn the too-stressed-for-sex equation around, making way for the joy-filled, sensual season and kickoff to the new year you deserve.
- Prioritize passionate pleasure. Simply knowing that sensual pleasure is important for your wellbeing can go a long way toward inviting it. The next vital step is making it a priority. Keeping in mind that with lower levels of stress, you’ll perform better at home, in the office and within relationships, add sensual play toward the top of your proverbial to-do list.
- Fantasize freely. Research led by Meredith Chivers, a psychology professor at Queen’s University in Ontario, showed that while heterosexual women claim to only feel sexually aroused by men, most women studied showed significant arousal signs in response to every stimuli they observed. Women tend to give themselves less permission to explore sexual thoughts than men, and the brain is where sexual desire starts. If you’re prone to playing fantasy police, let your mind wander, assured that exploring sensual terrain isn’t naughty, but oh-so-nice.
- Ditch dieting. Food and weight gain are major holiday stressors, and weight loss tops the charts regarding New Year’s resolutions each year. Dieting, however, isn’t the answer. Restrictive eating habits cause frustration, anxiety and depressive moods while slowing your metabolism–the setup for eventual weight gain and even more stress.  A balanced diet based on nutritious foods and routine exercise are proven ways to healthfully manage your weight and moods.
- Lather on lube. Vaginal moisture is your body’s “I’m turned on!” cue. Applying lubricant can function similarly, increasing arousal and guarding against dryness and abrasion. For the holidays, try Aloe Cadabra’s Peppermint Tingle. The mild sensation can add buzz in all the right places, and Aloe Cadabra’s natural ingredients promote soft, supple skin. For added enticement, incorporate lubrication into foreplay, applying lube to your partner and vice versa.
- Focus on foreplay. Along with lubrication and self-stimulation Laura Berman, PhD, a world-renowned sex and relationship expert, recommends lengthy foreplay for maintaining vaginal health and moisture, particularly from menopause on. “As we age, our sexual response tends to slow down,” she writes. “We can’t go from 0-60 mph anymore.” Before intercourse, take the time to ensure arousal and connectedness with your partner–factors that promote sexual pleasure and emotional ease.
- Break through barriers. Low libido and a lack of sexual pleasure derive from a slew of physical and emotional factors. Hormonal shifts, certain illnesses, medications, alcohol, depression, poor body image and relationship discontent can all disrupt a healthy sex life. Seek regular medical exams and do your best to understand and address underlying challenges. Knowing where to start may be your most important step, while providing a powerful means of self-nurturing.
1. The Journal of Sexual Medicine; The Relative Health Benefits of Different Sexual Activities http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01677.x/full
2. NBC News: More Sex Means Less Stress http://www.nbcnews.com/id/28146086/ns/health-mental_health/t/more-sex-less-stress/#.UqX95KWiUq4
3. Psychology Today; Masturbation: Not Just Monkey Business http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stress-and-sex/201101/masturbation-not-just-monkey-business
4. Journal of Sexual Medicine; Chronic Stress and Sexual Dysfunction in Women http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsm.12249/abstract
5. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Gender and Sexual Orientation Differences in Sexual Response to Sexual Activities Versus Gender of Actors in Sexual Films. http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/93/6/1108/
6. National Eating Disorders Association: Know Dieting Risks and When to Stop http://www.uhs.berkeley.edu/eda/NODieting.pdf
7. Dr. Laura Berman: Vaginal Lubrication 101: Keys to Navigating This Common Menopausal Symptom http://www.drlauraberman.com/sexual-health/menopause-and-midlife/vaginal-lubrication-101
8. Mayo Clinic: Low Sex Drive in Women: Causes http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/low-sex-drive-in-women/DS01043/DSECTION=causes
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