by Iris Goldsztajn
If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that 2020 stressed us out. One way or another, we’ve had to adapt to changes — spending weeks on end cooped up inside, reading difficult news every day and coping with a heightened sense of anxiety. Layered on that, you may also be worried about finances, the future and how loved ones are holding up.
Whatever your specific situation, there’s no denying this year has been a lot to handle. But there’s one extra-frustrating side effect of the excess stress in 2020 that we’re not talking about quite as much. And that’s how stress can affect your sex drive — and your relationships as a result.
How Prolonged Stress Affects Your Sex Drive
The link between stress and sex drive is well documented. For example, one study found that highly-stressed women experienced lower arousal levels when watching an erotic film, and Mayo Clinic cites stress as one of the psychological causes of low libido. The reason this happens is simple.
Essentially, when we’re stressed, our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode. This means we’re in survival mode and our non-essential functions are diminished. If you’re busy running from a lion, for example, you aren’t thinking much about sex. Think of 2020 as a lion. If you’re stressed and have been for a while, you may not feel like having sex or masturbating at all, or you may get distracted during the act.
Why It Matters
It’s perfectly normal for your sex drive to fluctuate, but if it has been an ongoing reality for you, this could put a strain on your relationship (with a partner, or with yourself!). If you’re coupled up, your partner’s sex drive may be unaffected while yours has gone down, and this might cause tension. In turn, that may lead to more stress. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break. Further, if you’re having trouble getting turned on, then you’re also not benefiting from the stress-busting benefits of sex.
Find Stress-Management Techniques That Work for You
When it comes to coping with stress, we’ve all had to come up with self-care strategies this year — some healthier than others. If you know what works to relax you, then allow yourself plenty of time to do just that. If you’re not sure how to talk your mind and body down, now is your chance to explore.
Try some guided meditation (you can find some great tracks on YouTube or Spotify), journaling or gentle exercise. Taking a bubble bath is a classic, as is losing yourself in a good book. Any mindful activity like gardening or crafting can also be beneficial. Looking for something more extreme? Try some interesting tactics like scream therapy or other forms of exercise such as kickboxing or dancing.
Getting in the Mood
Although you may think that your sex drive is lower, it may also be that it’s just harder to tap into right now. If you have the desire to explore your sexuality and get yourself in the mood, know that you still can. It might just take a little more effort than usual. Commit and go all in.
Set the scene with some candles, music and mood lighting. Ask your partner for a massage. You could bring some new accessories into the mix to make things exciting. Or if you haven’t tried aphrodisiacs before, why not give those a shot, too? First and foremost, focus on taking care of yourself, and the rest will come. There’s no getting around it; it’s been a super stressful year and it’s important to acknowledge that in order to cope with it.
Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based writer and editor with six years of experience creating content for various outlets. Her work has appeared in InStyle, Stylist, SheKnows, Cosmopolitan, Alma, Her Campus and more.