Whether you’re needing quality time with your partner, your trying to conceive or you just want to relax with your special someone, you don’t need to bring stress with us to the bedroom. So, how do we keep our check and balance?
Dr. Jess O’Reilly (aka Dr. Jess) is a Sexologist (yes, that’s official) and a Relationship Expert who offers useful advice to couples and knows all about de-stressing the bedroom.
When it comes to the bedroom, what stresses people out the most?
Sex can serve both as a source and a remedy of stress for many parents. Parents worry not only about frequency, but also the quality of sex, as it is a primary outlet for the expression of intimacy. Some of the top reasons parents stop having sex include a lack of time, concerns about children in the next bedroom, body image issues and breakdowns in communication.
Couples who are trying to get pregnant face the added pressure of worrying about conception and oftentimes this detracts from pleasure, intimacy and experimentation. It is not uncommon for seduction to be unnecessarily reduced to clinical terms (e.g. “I’m fertile. Let’s have sex.”) and for sex play to be limited to missionary in the dark. There is, however, no reason for this to be the case. Even if you’re using a fertility app (check out Ovia) and/or a conception aid like The Stork, you can still share the excitement of seduction and experimentation.
Is it true that intimate time can help de-stress?
Oh yes! As you approach orgasm, the body erupts in a cascade of hormonal changes that can have a sedative effect on the mind and body. This is why so many of us (especially men) pass out right after sex.
PET scans of the brain during sexual activity and orgasm reveal that sex is both a physical and emotional experience, as the amygdala, which controls emotion as well as the area which manages muscle function are activated. Brain studies also explain why sex is so pleasurable from a chemical perspective, as the areas related to dopamine release become hotbeds of sexual activity resulting in increased levels of this feel-good neurotransmitter. And as the pituitary gland is activated, the release of endorphins, oxytocin and vasopressin promote pain reduction, intimacy and bonding.
Research confirms that you don’t have to reach orgasm to reap these stress-reducing rewards. When couples touch one another with warmth and care, they experience a reduction in stress hormones and blood pressure alongside an increase in oxytocin levels.
So how can you get started? Here are Jess’s Top 5 Tips to de-stress your bedroom… asap!
1. Touch often. Don’t reserve physical affection for the bedroom, as you won’t always have the time, energy or desire for sex and you don’t want to let the intimacy disappear too. Sneak in a 15 second hug every time you part ways and greet your partner with a big smile and a warm kiss even when you’re not in the mood. Studies suggest that even short periods of affection can reduce stress, deepen your connection and eventually lead to more satisfying sex.
2. Follow the 45 second rule. Each evening when you return home, stop for 45 seconds to decompress and let go of the stress from your day. Most of us have a tendency to take our frustrations out on the ones we love and this can take a serious toll on our relationships. During the 45 second timeout in the car or on the bus, remind yourself that your partner (and kids) have nothing to do with the stress you experienced at the office, in the community or in traffic throughout the day.
3. Share responsibilities. Whether it’s at work or in the home, dividing up your to-do list helps to reduce conflict and resentment and increase the likelihood that you’ll be intimate with your partner. When it comes to household chores, many couples find that making a list or downloading an app helps to ensure a happy division of labour — and if you have kids, there are a number of apps that frame chores as part of a game using point systems and rewards.
Sharing responsibility is of equal importance if you’re trying to conceive. When tracking fertility cycles and initiating sex falls on one person’s shoulders, it can be stressful and can lead to resentment. Try monitoring your fertility together. And when it comes time to get down to “baby-making”, have fun with it! Take turns playing with creative seduction with props (e.g. blindfolds, scarves, lube, toys, chocolate sauce, massage oil, candles) and spend more time on foreplay to emphasize the pleasure element over conception alone.
4. Do 60 second favours. You don’t need grand gestures to let your partner know how much you care. Small favours on an ongoing basis will have more of an impact. Here are a few ideas: gas up their car, warm up their sock in the morning, fix them a coffee, pick up a favourite snack, iron a shirt, turn down the bed, light a candle, massage their hands, wrap them in a towel after they shower, pack a lunch or leave a love note in their purse/briefcase. Sixty seconds is all it takes. If you can’t find one minute per day, you’re not trying hard enough.
5. Perform a role ritual at the end of each day. You likely wear a variety of different hats on a daily basis; you’re a mother/father, a friend, a daughter/son, a community member, a professional, a co-parent, a roommate and more! But if you have a partner, you’re also a lover. Perform a short ritual every night to remind yourself (and your partner) that you’re loving partners as opposed to just roommates or co-parents. This role ritual, which can be as simple as pouring a glass of wine, changing out of your work clothes, playing a song, dimming the lights or shutting down your electronic devices, is a signal that talking about work, schedules and children is off-limits. It’s time to relax and just be together.