Modern living seems to be becoming increasingly stressful. And this is bad news for our health and wellness. Excessive or prolonged periods of stress can lead to a range of serious mental and physical health issues, from anxiety and depression to insomnia and heart problems.
Stress can also contribute to a range of sexual problems in men and women including reduced libido, fertility problems, erectile dysfunction and irregular menstruation. However, while some sex-related issues can be a symptom of stress, sex can also be a solution.
In fact, sex can help to reduce and manage stress, and the symptoms of stress, in a number of surprising ways.
Good for blood pressure
Stress can lead to short-term spikes in blood pressure. A stressful lifestyle can result in ongoing or long-term high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), which can lead to a range of serious health issues and complications including heart failure, stroke, aneurysms, memory problems and even vascular dementia. The good news is that studies suggest a link between the frequency of sex and lower systolic blood pressure. So, do your heart a favour and go out and get some loving. Doctor’s orders!
Good for mood (endorphins)
Sexual activity, affection and intimacy with a partner can release endorphins, oxytocin and other feel-good hormones. These chemicals activate pleasure centres in the brain that create feelings of intimacy and help to relax your body and mind, reduce stress and elevate your mood, all while staving off anxiety and depression, can relax your body and mind.
Sense of touch
The feeling of intimate or affectionate human touch can be incredibly important for our mental and emotional health. Physical touch can help to increase levels of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood and relieve stress and anxiety. That means that the intimate, affectionate and personal sense of touch that comes from sexual activity or even a sensual massage can be and powerful stress reliever.
Intimacy and companionship
Being close to a partner before, during and after stress can help to soothe stress and anxiety. Humans are social creatures and socialisation, or enjoying other people’s company and maintaining a sense of connectedness to others, is an important component of stress reduction. Sex is perhaps the most intimate way to connect with another person and the close sense of companionship that comes with that can be a powerful way to reduce stress.
Exercise / physical workout
While sex is no substitute for a good gym session, it does count as at least mild to moderate exercise. It won’t burn up a heap of calories (only about five calories per minute, depending on the intensity of the session), but it does increase heart rate and uses a wide range of muscles.
Exercise can be a powerful stress reliever. It can also imitate the effects of stress, creating similar physical responses to those of the body’s flight or fight response. This can help to train your body to better handle the physiological effects of stress.
Sexual activity can often contribute to better sleep. After an orgasm, the body releases hormones, like oxytocin and prolactin, that can induce pleasant and relaxing feelings. Sex also reduces levels of the hormone cortisol, which is associated with stress.
Stress can disrupt sleep patterns, which deprives the body and mind of much needed rest, making it harder to manage the effects of stress and even contributing to stress. Getting a good night’s sleep can reduce stress and improve the body’s ability to manage stress.
So there you have it. The answer to stress is to go and get some loving.