April 25th, 2012SEX & RELATIONSHIPS
Dear Dr. Jenn~
My girlfriend and I haven’t been having much sex recently and I think it’s because I’m always stressed about work. I just don’t feel like having sex much (I never thought I would say that!) and although it’s still good when we have it, I feel like I’m always distracted. I’m 29 and my girlfriend says I’m too young to be feeling this way! What can I do to want sex more?
Too Stressed for Sex
Dear Too Stressed for Sex,
Work stress can definitely take a toll on a relationship, as well as your ability to enjoy sex. Unfortunately as Americans, we often “live to work” instead of “work to live,” and this focus on work can detract from other more meaningful parts of our lives. Stress can impact sex in multiple ways. First, the ongoing release of stress hormones in the body can cause our adrenal glands to inhibit our sex hormones. This can mean a reduced sex drive. As well, stress fatigues the body and can interfere with sleep, all leading to less energy for life overall, let alone sex. You also said that you are distracted during sex, which sounds like you can’t let go of work once you are home. This can certainly hamper your pleasure in the moment, and I’m guessing your girlfriend can tell the difference too.
One of the best ways to reduce stress is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is being present in the moment, and observing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, without judgment. This is a skill that can be learned through daily practices. I suggest sitting quietly for 10 to 15 minutes each day, to start retraining your brain. Just begin by observing your breath. If your thoughts lead you away from observing your breath, gently bring your focus back. Do this over and over and over again. That is the practice of mindfulness. It sometimes helps people to label their thoughts once they notice the distraction. You can ask yourself: Was I planning? Worrying? Judging myself? Making a list? Organizing? Place a label on the thought pattern and bring yourself back to the present moment. I also recommend finding a guided mindfulness meditation online to help strengthen your focus and build your meditative muscles.
What does mindfulness or mediation have to do with sex? Research has found that mindfulness-based practices are incredibly valuable in reducing stress. As outlined above, reducing stress is important for your sex drive. Mindfulness can also help you slow down, be more aware of your state of being, and make different choices regarding thoughts and feelings. This will allow you to be more present with your girlfriend. The more you practice mindfulness in everyday ways, the easier it will be to apply to the bedroom. This will keep your sexual energy flowing and help you enjoy the delicious sensations in the moment.
Jennifer “Dr. Jenn” Gunsaullus, PhD, is a sociologist with a passion for gently pushing people outside their sexual comfort zones. She has a private practice, addressing concerns from sexual “dysfunction” to intimate communication, self-esteem to fetish, and pornography to spiritual sexuality. Dr. Jenn is a sex & relationship expert on San Diego Fox 5 News, and a frequent lecturer and workshop presenter on an array of topics related to sex, intimacy, healthy relationships, sexual health, holistic health, and mindfulness. She is also the writer and host of In the Den with Dr. Jenn, a free online educational video series celebrating 150 episodes! Dr. Jenn’s Den Website59 Comments » | Tags: college sexual health speaker, dear dr. jenn, dr. jenn gunsaullus, how to be mindful, MBSR, mindfulness, mindfulness-based sex therapy, reducing stress, san diego marriage counselor, san diego sex therapist, sex advice, sex problems, sexless marriage, sexologist, stress and sex, stress hormones