Stress. It affects the best of us. At times it can be good for us; a motivator for working hard, or acting upon something that isn’t making us happy. More often than not, though, stress can just get in the way, and can even have a detrimental impact on our sexual arousal.

The Not So Sexy Science of Stress

What happens when we are triggered or in a stressful situation? The adrenals release cortisol, the stress hormone, which travels round our bodies, putting us in fight or flight mode - ultimately, to encourage us to act. Short bursts of this boosts the immune system, increases our heart rate, and focuses our attention on the task at hand to act quickly. However, too much of this hormone - common in today’s high functioning society - can have seriously detrimental effects on our health. Putting our immune system into overdrive, after periods of high stress we can become seriously ill.

To counter the damaging effects of cortisol, enter oxytocin. Studies have found that in times of high stress, the body releases the love & bonding hormone oxytocin to “facilitate coping behaviours” and stop us from stress exhaustion.

As society has learned more about the dangers of stress, we’ve developed tools and tricks to manage it. We know that techniques learnt in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), mindful meditation and exercise are great ways to keep your levels of cortisol below a certain threshold.

But how about making stress relief a little bit more fun?

Masturbation Relaxation

One American study of 2,632 women found that 39% often try masturbation to de-stress. But does masturbation actually decrease your stress levels?

The evidence says….yes! One study found that oxytocin, which is released from the hypothalamus during masturbation and creates those delicious warm feelings, peaks at orgasm when it floods the body. By countering the levels of cortisol in your body through orgasm, you will not only feel relaxed, but you’ll also feel that rush of love and connection to your body.

Self-pleasure is self-care after all.

The importance of staying mindful

We’ve talked about the body’s natural response to stress and to orgasm, so let’s consider this from another angle: the mind.

Even though one study found that chronic stress was linked to lower levels of genital sexual arousal in women, the study also found that psychological factors were a more significant predictor in reduced arousal than hormonal factors.

When your mind is running a million miles an hour, feeling in a state of fight-or-flight, its sensual and sexual needs take a back seat.

How do we tackle this? One way is through mindful masturbation, which allows you to really connect with your body, and reduce psychological distraction that affects arousal.

Practice focusing on sensations during masturbation. Take a deep breath. Pay attention to the type of touch you’re using. How does it feel? What about different parts of your body that you don’t usually touch? Try grazing your fingertips over your skin, and focus on the shivery feeling as your whole body tingles.

You can also take your mind off your busy day by bringing in other erotic stimuli. If you feel mixed emotions about watching porn, try watching adult content made by and for women, perhaps with performers with different body shapes or with body hair. Or try listening to audio-erotica without the visuals, and let your imagination run wild.

Take your time! Become more sensual in your skin, make it a romantic experience, and treat yourself to a nice lubricant. Slow down your pleasure and edge yourself to orgasm to build even more oxytocin.

Finally, for those who want to take their self-love to the next level, why not masturbate in front of a mirror? It may feel uncomfortable at first, but you will grow a confidence in your own body that will help you tackle even the most stressful of situations.

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