Stress is like a ninja.
You know the feeling.
One minute you’re coping, bossing at life, merrily bumbling along.
The next you’re tits deep in unread emails, missed calls, a full laundry basket, copious social plans and an empty bank account three days after pay day.
Stress interrupts when you least expect it.
So if you’re someone who crumples under the weight of even the slightest hint of strife, here’s what you need to know about how stress frazzles your libido:
#1: We have an innate response to stress that shuts down our desire:
Stress is one of the factors making up what Emily Nagoski calls the sexual inhibition system.
Feeling stressed is the brake applied to your sex drive and a sharp stop- no matter how hard you press the accelerator, you go nowhere.
This stress response is written into our DNA. To find out more, we need to look back at how our ancestors approached sex, back when we were cave men and women….
For them, sex was simple: solely for procreation (AKA to have offspring).
Sex also happened to feel nice- we release dopamine (the pleasure hormone) when we bang.
Every so often, they used to come across a stressor- e.g. a lion, bear, or long winters without food. Stressors were life threatening.
Seeing a stressor makes humans go into survival mode (fight or flight).
Our brain concentrates on increasing our heart rate and blood flow to help us run away, and pumps cortisol (the stress hormone) around our bodies to keep us alert.
Our bodies don’t want to have a baby, feel pleasure, or orgasm, because we’re under threat.
We wouldn’t stop if a lion was chasing us to get a bit jiggy.
Instead, to stay alive we’d need to stay alert for danger. Therefore, when we’re stressed our bodies actively shut down our desire to have sex, because it’s quite literally the last thing on our minds.
In the same way as running from a tiger, our bodies react to a stressor by getting us ready for flight or fight.
Feeling horny is useless on this occasion, and our bodies instead concentrate on increasing our heart rate and blood flow to help us run away, and pumps cortisol (the stress hormone) around our bodies to keep us alert.
#2: Stress has a cumulative effect
The problem is that stress used to an infrequent experience- a passing lion, a hungry wolf, a bear…. but now it’s an everyday issue.
So the effect of stress builds up over time as it lies in wait for us at work, at home, inside our own heads.
The antidote to the build up of stress?
Apparently- its exercise!
Read more about chronic stress and how getting a sweat on can help in this post: “Exercise: the key to reviving desire?”.
Interestingly, revitalising your love life can also have the effect of reducing stress because good sex can nourish and deeply relax us. Find out more about how to increase desire here.
How do you think stress impacts on your sex drive?
P.S. for more information on stress and how to recognise it, visit the MIND website