IT WOULD be an understatement to say the past year was not sexy. Not to blame everything on COVID-19, but if your bedroom has lacked fireworks since social distancing became a thing, you’re not alone. Nearly half of adults reported a decline in their sex lives over the first few months of the pandemic, according to a recent Kinsey Institute study, and experts estimate that the trend has since continued.
“People are masturbating less, [and] they’re having less sex,” says lead author Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and member of the Men’s Health advisory board. “Part of the reason is people are more stressed and more anxious, and that has the effect of lowering sexual desire.”
Treating those mind issues by talking to a mental-health professional can help your body get back on track, says psychiatrist Gregory Scott Brown, M.D., also a member of the Men’s Health advisory board. Just recognizing that you and your partner may be extra stressed can also help nudge you in the right direction. Our experts shared tips for beating five common obstacles between you and your long-lost sex life.
The problem: Your body’s in the bedroom, but your mind is a million miles away.
A lot of people are stressed out and on edge now—to put it mildly.
“When people are less connected to their partners, they’re less likely to have an orgasm, and it’s basically because they can’t be present in the moment,” Lehmiller says. After all, physical responses like erection and orgasm also require mental focus.
The solution: Tap into the feels.
To stop that broken record of worries in your head, Lehmiller suggests practicing mindfulness—that is, learning to keep your mind in the moment. Sit for ten minutes a day and pay attention to whatever sensations you’re feeling in your body.
“When people practice doing this in everyday life, they can take that same skill and apply it to sex, training themselves to get lost in the sensations and not pay attention to distracting thoughts about what’s going on at work or what’s going on with the pandemic,” Lehmiller says.
Pro tip: Disconnect from technology in the hour before you have sex. Don’t even open that TikTok your buddy just texted you! You can also try trading massages with a partner to relax and get in the mood.
The problem: You’ve abandoned dating apps,because what’s the point?
Look, we get it. With social-distancing protocols dragging on a whole lot longer than most of us expected, it’s tough to get excited about yet another awkward FaceTime date. This hopelessness can feed on itself, leading guys to throw up their hands and settle into loneliness.
“Chronic loneliness is very bad for our mental health, so we need to find a way to have these interactions and find ways to do it safely,” Lehmiller says.
The solution: Get swiping.
It might feel pointless to match with people on dating apps without knowing if or when you’ll have the chance to meet, but this could actually work in your favor.
“People are having more intimate conversations now than they were before,” Lehmiller explains. Those intimate conversations can lead to sexting or cybering.
Pro tip: No unsolicited junk pics, please. Instead, ask if they’d be down to swap sexy selfies.
The problem: Your partner feels like a stranger (not in a good way).
People have less space to themselves, which means couples are not only getting tired of each other but also getting into more arguments, Lehmiller says—and that’s affecting them in the bedroom.
“One third of couples are reporting that they’re experiencing conflict related to the pandemic, which is lowering sexual desire,” he says.
The solution: Get to the root of the issue and address it directly.
A lot of couples are arguing right now over division of household chores and childcare, says Lehmiller. Decide who’s in charge of what, perhaps with the help of virtual couples therapy via Talkspace. Seeing each other as teammates, not enemies, will set the stage for romance.
Pro tip: Make time every day for each of you to get out on your own—it’ll build anticipation for what you’ll do when you’re together again.
The problem: Your penis isn’t cooperating.
Almost every penis-related problem, from erectile dysfunction to delayed ejaculation, can be linked to mental health, Dr. Brown says. Anxiety and depression both stem from imbalances of brain chemicals like serotonin (which can help you last longer) and dopamine (which can help with desire).
The solution: Find the treatment that’s best for you.
Maybe it’s therapy; maybe it’s medication; maybe it’s a little bit of column A, a little bit of column B. Your doctor will have the answer. In the meantime, Dr. Brown recommends regular exercise, a proven natural mood booster. He suggests yoga, which increases levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which in turn helps reduce anxiety.
Pro tip: Check that your meds don’t exacerbate the problem. SSRI antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft can create difficulties with arousal and orgasm, since they increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, Dr. Brown says.
The problem: You just can’t summon the urge.
It makes sense that your libido is nowhere to be found.
“When people are feeling emotionally over-whelmed, when they’re feeling drained, when they’re feeling anxious, when they’re feeling depressed, they’re not going to be in the mood for sex,” Dr. Brown says. “You have to have all those things be in sync in order for sex to work properly.”
The solution: Whip out the silky restraints.
If there’s a fantasy you’ve always been curious to explore, now’s the time.
“Novelty increases arousal when you’re trying something new, but it also creates this more immersive experience that draws you in,” Lehmiller says. His study found that people who tried new things—including switching positions, sharing fantasies, sexting, and sending nudes—reported more sexual desire.
Pro tip: Not sure where to start? Be brave and watch porn together to figure out what turns you both on. (For a tamer option, explore audio erotica on dipseastories.com.)
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