I know. I know.
It sounds a bit like a click-bait article, doesn’t it?
Hear me out though; I dare claim that this is true. If you’re experiencing beginning signs of stress or if you’re already in the throws of it, read on to learn how to kick your stress to the curb faster than you thought possible.
As a clinical sexologist and a couple’s therapist, I’ve seen it again and again. Couples who come into my clinic because the wheels have fallen off – or they’re about to – and more often than not, there’s something going on that neither of them had even thought about. Yep, you guessed it: stress.
Just to get us on the same page, I’d like to start off by defining what stress is. Contrary to popular opinion, stress is not a disease. Nope. Stress is a state in which the body and the brain, for a long period of time, have been working way too hard, and they’re now starting to slam on the breaks.
Stress comes creeping in, and the body will shut down different mechanisms in order to keep up with the doing-doing-doing. Just like back in the Stone Age, our body and our brain are still designed to fight, to be on the run and to handle large and (almost) impossible tasks. So yes, we can do it, but it comes at a price.
For instance, the body can be stressed due to one year of interrupted sleep/minimal sleep. If this is the case, you’ll experience the same symptoms of stress as if you had been stressed due to worrying over a longer period of time.
The body is worn out, it’s constantly alert, the physiological stress response is released very quickly, and it feels a bit like this stress response is constantly being released. The more you release it, the more it takes for you to get back into a lower gear.
It’s a bit like a car that’s been on the highway for hours on end; the engine won’t cool off just because you pull over for two minutes. It takes time.
The longer you’ve put your mind and body through this state of stress, the longer your body and your mind are under pressure, the quicker the stress response will be released and the harder it will ultimately be to slow down.
Yes, this is a vicious cycle. This is a process in which our very intelligent brain starts shutting down different centers of the brain in order to focus the body’s energy on the fight, flight or challenge.
This could mean that you become more aggressive in how you behave – regardless of whether you’re male or female.
This also means that you become more selfish, meaning that your focus is on your own needs and suddenly you don’t care all that much about your partner having a bad day; basically, the care and the love you used to give in these types of situations suddenly no longer feel natural to you.
You might also lose your sex drive. And perhaps you find yourself withdrawing from the collective because you “need some peace and quiet.” These are all examples of behavior that affects your relationships.
And last but not least, you’ll most likely be the last person to realize all of this, simply because your brain is focusing on your own needs. This is why you rarely discover that you’re headed down the road to stress before s*!# hits the fan.
Now, back to the relationship, the sex life, and the couples, I meet in my clinic.
Because how on earth can this help cure stress?
I’ll tell you how!
3 Ways in Which Love and Sex Can Cure Stress
When I meet a couple, the non-stressed partner has, for a long time, known things were (very) off. But perhaps they haven’t spoken much about it; they might’ve just said little bits here and there…
But often they’ve just pulled away and hoped for things to return back to normal, thinking it’ll pass. In the majority of cases, the stress has NOT been spoken about.
When I ask them about why they haven’t spoken about it – in huge block letters! – it’s due to them not wanting to start a conflict.
A good relationship requires honesty – including the really-real-honesty. And most of the time, we just don’t know what to do or how to behave if we feel “something” being off, such as stress.
We notice how our partner changes their behaviour and we keep thinking that this is just for a short while or perhaps you even blame yourself when your partner hisses at you time and time again. But now. Stop and listen very carefully.
ALL of the couples I’ve talked to who experienced stress have answered a resounding “YES”, whenever I asked them if they would’ve taken it seriously if their partner – who’s, in most cases, the only one noticing these changes – had asked them to sit down and have a serious conversation about this and really laid their cards on the table.
Told them about how they’d noticed a change in behaviour, how they’re worried and said that something needed to be done for things not to go completely pear-shaped.
And last but not least, been insistent and held their ground despite the partner experiencing stress had tried to avoid dealing with it.
And so, if you can be honest and insistently honest about what you’re experiencing, about what you’re seeing, what you register and if you can provide actual examples too, you can spice it all up with a big dose of worry, love and affection and “you don’t feel good either”, and then you can help put a stop to your partner’s stress and help get your partner back on track before things take a turn for the worse.
2. Loving Presence, Deep Conversations and Walks
If you can your partner both know that you’re stressed, you can help your brain by making sure it shifts down a gear or two, and there are many ways for you to do so! One of the ways is being present through conversation.
This might sound a bit strange, because how would a conversation make stress disappear? The stress won’t go away overnight – especially not if you’re stressed at work and you DO NOT do anything to change the situation.
Of course, you need to deal with the root of the issue. However, you can help out your brain by slowing down. Helping your brain go from being over-active and in the threat/fight/flight/challenge sympathetic nervous system to activating the more relaxed parasympathetic nervous system.
Brain studies continue to prove that when we talk to each other in a present and calm manner – preferably while taking a walk together – you’ll activate the nervous system which fights the stress.
This means that your engine cools off quicker and you “force” your brain into a lower gear. You might feel tired after such a walk, and this is perfectly normal as you will feel just HOW worn out your body and mind truly is, and you’ll feel this when your parades are down, for however brief a moment.
The best thing for you to do is to listen to this and react on it – take a nap and enjoy the fact that you’re relaxed. You could even spoon your partner for a little nap!
3. Physical Touch and Sex
It’s rather paradoxical that the body shuts down the mechanisms that could actually help us get rid of the stress. However, looking at it with our biological glasses on, it makes a lot of sense.
A threatened body doesn’t need to procreate or to sit on the couch holding hands – if this were in the Stone Age, this would see you get eaten by the tiger (the one your brain believes is about to pound on you). And this is why you’ll rarely seek out these things yourself if you’re feeling stressed out.
However, when you’re conscious of it, both as the partner of a person experiencing stress and the stressed out person yourself, you can actively enter into these activities.
It might feel awkward at first if your partner is giving you a massage or you’re kissing, and you find your brain going a million miles an hour, and you find it difficult to get your body to relax.
Remember though; this is because your fight/flight nervous system has been activated. Give it some time and know that it takes a bit longer for your body to realize that you’re safe. It is perfectly natural for a stressed-out body to take a bit longer to ‘get ready.’
If you just give it a bit of time, you WILL get to a point where the relaxation nervous system will become activated, and you’ll be able to give into the touch, the massage, the deep kisses and the deep, nurturing sex.
Suddenly, your body will react to the erotic touch, and you’ll feel your lust and your arousal again. This is how you know that you’re on the right track and that your relaxation nervous system has been activated.
You know, the one that fights off the stress and puts a bit of balance back into you and helps you ditch the stress and return to life! Enjoy!
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