Those suffering from stress and anxiety may have reduced libidos, HuffPost reported. Stress is linked to heightened levels of the hormone cortisol, which in turn suppresses hormones that cause romantic desires.
Anxiety affects every part of a normal day: It can interfere with work performance, lead to unhealthy nutritional habits, and harm relationships with family and friends. It’s no surprise, then, that anxiety and stress can cause problems for the love lives of anyone suffering from them. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety affects 40 million Americans age 18 or older—which means nearly one in five Americans’ intimate lives could suffer. Fortunately, being more in-tune with one’s own mind and body and understanding the ways in which anxiety manifests itself can alleviate the common problem of anxiety-induced lack of interest in physical romance.
Combating Anxiety with Mindfulness Meditation
According to Mindful, a non-profit organization focused on mindful meditation, the definition of “mindfulness” is “the basic human ability to to be fully present, fully aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Practicing mindful meditation involves simply sitting in a meditative position and focusing on awareness of yourself and your surroundings.
Anxiety makes us breathe more shallowly, grind our teeth, and generally get distracted from ourselves—even in the bedroom. “Mindfulness meditation has been shown to lower stress and anxiety,” Jessica Graham, spiritual and sexual activist and meditation teacher, said. During intercourse, she said, it makes sense to be focused on the body. Unfortunately, “a lot of people are in their minds […] and so they’re not actually having the experience of being in the body and in the pleasure that’s available in the body,” she said.
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Performing mindfulness meditation during intercourse can help relieve anxiety and cure the problem of diminished interest at the same time. To practice mindfulness meditation during physical intimacy, Graham recommended a systematic practice that involves paying attention to the parts of your body. Start by focusing just on the sensations you feel in your face. Then she suggested moving to the neck, then the shoulders. “Bring your attention to the arms—feel any sensation in your arms, noticing sensations in your hands,” she said. “Feel into the chest, the area around the heart and lungs.” Then she suggested moving your attention to the back, including the spine and muscles, then continuing down your hips and legs all the way to your feet.
Graham said that the next step is to focus on just the positive sensations your body feels while also making a conscious effort to relax your muscles from head to toe. “Release the muscles of your jaw, release any tension in your shoulders, relax your chest and stomach,” she said. “Relax your hips and your seat and the pelvic floor muscles; relax down your legs and into your feet.”
If you can practice mindfulness meditation with your partner—before, during, and after relations—and take the focus off of the normal things we worry about at the time, like performance and completion, the scales of anxiety and intimacy should tip heavily in favor of the latter.
Jessica Graham contributed to this article. Graham is a spiritual and sexual activist, a meditation teacher, an author, a sex and intimacy guide, an actor, and a filmmaker. She cofounded The Eastside Mindfulness Collective, dedicated to exploring secular spirituality through mindful living and learning.