Sex, Intimacy and Mental Health

Sex, Intimacy and Mental Health

On Windy City Cosmo, I often have Instagram polls and I asked you guys what some of your hangups with sex were. I took a few of those questions and I interviewed, Susan Bratton, an Intimacy Expert to millions, and author of 35 techniques including the Soulmate Embrace and 7 Stimulating Sex Positions.

Honestly, being in love and feeling connected with someone who we are sharing life with, is one of the greatest parts about life. We’re created to be loved and feel loved. So much of stories and life is about feeling part of something and feeling connected.

Sex is a little more complicated than if we are having it or not. Senior editor of The Atlantic, Kate Julian, wrote a cover story about how little sex millennials we’re having that she phrased it, a “sex recession.”

With the recent series, Sex Life on Netflix and also coming out of a pandemic which greatly affected our relationships- whether it be dating or trying to plan a wedding and get married or being married and spending 24/7 with our partners, sex might behave taken a back burner.

Maybe you don’t desire your partner when you spend this much time together? Or haven’t had an adventure or trip together? Maybe you’ve been anxious and stressed and can’t get out of your head when you’re having sex?

Sex Life on Netflix has brought out a lot of questions. For me, I have fixated on the 85/15 statement that Billie confessed to her pseudo shrink. If a man can give you 85 percent of what you desire but that 15 percent – that good sex life and intimacy is missing, then can you stop craving sex with your partner and be satisfied with the 85 percent?

With that being said, I wanted to share my interview with sex therapist, Susan Bratton.

When I reached out to her, her main messages was to not get discouraged. There are many things you can do to increase your response to sexual stimulation both emotionally and physically.

Mental health is a big deal and some of our readers are on anxiety/depression meds and can’t get out of their heads when having sex – how can they enjoy the moment?

Also, how can they orgasm when these meds tend to lower libido/get in the way?

Anxiety and Depression and How it affects your sex life

Satisfying sex is a mindfulness practice, even when you aren’t on anxiolytics. Everyone has to push outside thoughts away and come back to their sensual experience during solo pleasuring and partnered sex. So the first thing to acknowledge is that you are more like others than different.

Most people have performance anxiety of some sort as well. Can I orgasm? Can I stay hard? Do they really want me? There are some emotional strategies you can use to counteract performance anxiety. And physical strategies you can use to counteract low desire and difficulty achieving orgasm.

Many people have sexual anxiety. It can include lack of confidence or experience; trying too hard to do a good job instead of flowing with the moment. Some people are afraid of failure or criticism. Others have experienced sexual shame or abuse.

Sometimes you don’t feel attracted to your partner like you used to, which causes more anxiety. Men worry about the size of their penis, if they can achieve erectile rigidity, or if they will be able to achieve climax, or even will they come faster than they want to? For some, putting a condom on creates anxiety. Women worry about how their vulva looks or smells, will it hurt me to have sex, will I be able to orgasm, will I get an STI or conceive?

All it takes is a single experience for the seed of doubt to be planted. Then anxious feelings interrupt the the signals going from your genitals to your brain. This makes it easy for our fearful mind to get control.

Telling yourself to stop being anxious just causes more anxiety.

Making yourself feel bad because you’re low desire just dampens your arousal. Rather than fight or resist anxious thoughts and feelings, shift your attention to something that makes you feel good.

Breathing to feel connected with your partner

The single most important skill you can develop, deep breathing, is also the easiest to learn and practice. Do it right now. Take a deep breath in, filling your lungs to the top, then let go and let the breath rush out. Relax. Anxiety excites your central nervous system and puts it on high alert. We call it the “fight or flight response” for good reason. If you feel threatened, your body releases adrenaline so you can protect yourself from danger.

The simplest way to restore calm to the body is to breathe deeply. I recommend a 4-second inhale through the nose, followed by a 7-second exhale through the mouth. This will calm your nervous system and shift you out of fight or flight and into a more relaxed state.

How you can overcome sex anxiety and sex avoidance

Talk with your partner

If you share your fears rather than try to hide them, your anxiety is less likely to hijack your thoughts and feelings.

Get into the moment

Anxiety is fueled by churning thoughts. When you’re caught up in negative-thinking, you’re thinking about the past or projecting into the future. And where does pleasure happen? In the here and now. Learn to quiet your mind and stay present, even if you’re frustrated. You can handle the feelings you’re feeling. And when you stay with your feelings, you can move through them and back into the pleasure of the moment. The simplest method to stay present is to simply listen to the sounds around you. If you tune your hearing to the sounds in your environment, whether that’s singing birds or your lover’s breathing, you turn up the volume on the present moment and turn down the volume on worrisome thoughts.

Eliminate distractions

Lock the door. Turn off the sound on your phone. The last thing you need when you’re starting to feel a stirring in your loins is a phone call from your mother.

Decompress

The pressure-cooker of life—your work, your finances, your kids, your long list of obligations—can contribute to low libido if you don’t have a way to decompress. Take up Chi Gong, learn to meditate, go for a hike in nature, paint or play guitar or sing in the shower. Make a pact with yourself to decompress for at least a few minutes every day.

Laugh more often

Laughter is one of the best natural relaxants there is. It increases endorphins, pumps oxygen into your body, increases circulation, relaxes tense muscles, boosts your immune system, relieves pain, increases resilience, and lifts mood. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to feel close to your lover. When women say “humor” is one of the key attributes they look for in a man, they mean FUN in the bedroom too. Sometimes a silly old book of dirty jokes will help you lighten your mood.

Give and Get more touch

A simple touch or hug has a calming effect on the body and releases feel-good hormones like Oxytocin. Non-sexual touch will calm your nervous system and make you more able to receive sensual or sexual touch when the appropriate time and circumstances arise. Start by holding each other. My Soulmate Embrace is a long, relaxing holding technique that allows partners to co-regulate nervous systems, generate oxytocin (the bonding hormone) and calm each other down. It’s a fantastic pre-foreplay technique to ground lovers in the relaxation that leads to arousal. Alternately, you could give each other sensual massages to encourage ignition of desire.

Don’t focus on orgasm or intercourse

Orgasms from intercourse is a learned skill for the majority of women. They think they are the ones who can’t and everyone else can.

Instead of trying to have intercourse and an orgasm, like that is the only thing there is to do during sex, taking the expectations out of the equation allows you to relax and want it. Just play and have fun. See what comes and maybe you will!

There are a number of tangible things you can do to enhance your potential for orgasm including cannabis and foreplay.

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Amanda Elliott
Amanda Elliott

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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