Sex and stress are linked in many different ways. Many of us already feel it when we are stressed; our drive, libido, suffers the consequences of being stressed. Despite this fact, sex can also be a great stress reliever, giving new truth and meaning to the jokes about the uptight boss or rude customer service agent just needing to “get some” to feel better. Ever wonder how much truth there was to the idea that a healthy sex life works nicely as a stress release? Here’s some research on stress and sex:
Good Sex and Good Mood
In an Arizona State University study on 58 middle-aged women, physical affection or sexual behavior with a partner significantly predicted lower negative mood and stress, and higher positive mood the following day. Simply put, researchers found that sex and physical intimacy led women to feel less stressed and be in a better mood the next day.
Good Mood and Good Sex
The same study found that being in a good mood predicted more physical affection and sexual activity with a partner the next day, showing that the sex-stress management connection works both ways: sex can lead you to feel less stressed, and being in a better mood can lead to more sex. This is proof of the importance of effective stress management.
Sex and Blood Pressure
Several studies have shown that sex can lower baseline blood pressure and reduce the need for high blood pressure medications (which can cause sexual dysfunction in both men and women). High blood pressure can reduce the blood flow to sexual organs decreasing both pleasure and ability to achieve arousal. Healthy sex lives can decrease baseline blood pressures thus increasing blood circulation around the body and aiding in blood pressure control in stress responses.
Sex and Stress Response
Along those lines, another study looked at women’s heart rate and cortisol levels as a measure of stress response, and found that women exhibited less of a stress response after ‘positive physical contact’ with a partner. Emotional support alone does not have the same effect.
Orgasm and Health
There are a number of sites, research and studies that suggest that an orgasm is a healthy thing for all involved. Generally speaking, a healthy sexual lifestyle complete with orgasm is a good indicator of decreased stress and a good way to decrease stress.
Correlations between sex and other activities
This deep, relaxed type of breathing relaxes your body, oxygenates your blood and reduces the stress you feel. Many people who practice tantric arts are able to increase arousal and blood circulation by simultaneously focusing on breathing to decrease stress thus giving them more powerful sexual responses with their partner.
Sense of Touch
Studies show that massage can be a great stress reliever. In fact, we need touch for our emotional health; studies also show that babies who are not touched enough can fail to thrive, and touch continues to be important well into adulthood. Looking at other babies who are failing to thrive, sometimes just the simple addition of touch through a novel concept called “kangaroo care,” where babies are put in skin to skin contact with their mothers, they begin to see a dramatic turn around in their condition.
People who have a supportive social outlet tend to manage stress better, live longer, and enjoy increased overall health. The type of emotional intimacy that sex can help supply is good for you. This is often overlooked by those who engage in almost exclusively casual relationships because there is not often an emotional connection. Social support can come from a sexual partner or other friends/family in a person’s life, but the important thing is that the combination of sex and social support can aid in one’s sex life and decrease stress responses.
Sexual activity releases endorphins and other feel-good hormones. This also goes back to the cycle that sex elevates mood and an elevated mood leads to increased desire for sex, a very positive feed back cycle for most people that aids in reduction of stress.
Depending on your level of enthusiasm, you can burn a lot of calories during sex, and gain the stress management benefits of exercise as well. Do not be fooled, a lot of sexual activity would have to occur to be an effective replacement to your cardio workout, but increasing sexual activity can also increase flexibility, promote better breathing, and increase stamina both in and out the bedroom. The opposite is true for working out it can increase libido, flexibility for sexual activity, and promote creativity in the bedroom.
Overall: What came first the chicken or the egg? Does increasing sex decrease stress or does decreased stress lead to more sex? Honestly, both and through the various measures above everyone involved can have a happy, healthy sex life.