Does stress affect your libido?

Are you lying in bed sweating the next thing to do or anticipating all the bad things that will happen if you don’t pull off that task or goal?


Are you constantly wondering how your partner can just ‘get into it’ and you are still processing the days events AND prepping for the next days to-do list?


If so, stress could be affecting your libido.


Now that I’ve used the word stress – please don’t feel stressed that you feel stressed or we will get into a stressful stress loop.


It is totally possible to move out of stress and into saucy, you’ve just gotta learn how!


Since being on Triple J and talking about stress and your sex life a few weeks ago, I’ve had time to ponder more about what stress actually is and whether it does affect your libido.


Of course, I’ve known that stress does affect your libido all along but I’ve delved deeper than a blanket approach of believing that stress is bad for your libido.


If you’ve got even a tingle reading this that stress is affecting your libido then the answer is probably yes.


Before we look specifically at your libido, I want to share with you some definitions about stress.


First thing is, it’s different to anxiety and here’s the simplest way I teased that one out for myself…


Anxiety is a form of negative anticipation for what is to come and often (but not always) isn’t rooted in something tangible happening. It can be that feeling of dread without knowing what you are dreading. Anxiety is synonymous with intense fear, concern or worry.


Stress, conversely, is present and very tangible.


The internal feeling of stress is why we say we FEEL stressed. We are on edge – usually because of the need to attend to a lot or to get a lot done. We are under pressure and there is a source – that is known as the stressor.


The stressor might be a deadline, a toxic person, a situation that feels out of your control, a financial issue or health issue. The stressor is external to you – people can have stressors present in their lives, it doesn’t mean that they are going to feel (internally) stressed by them.


What creates an internal feeling of stress for one person and another person is unique.


How we each experience stress is different too. Some people go really internal and quiet when they feel stressed (my husband twirls his hair silently), other people, like me – cry and say stuff about it to vent. There’s no right or wrong way – if my husband twirls his hair, works on the problem and finds a solution then he relieves himself of the stress.


If I cry, vent and feel heard, I too can feel like there is a sense of relief and move on.


In fact, I respect stress and value it for the data it gives me about what is and isn’t working in my life.


Please always keep in mind - not all stress is bad. Stress can be a gentle nudge to get you to generate something that you were procrastinating over and, in turn, relieve you of the stress that you haven’t completed something or have let balls drop.


Something I also learnt about stress recently (although it’s not new information) is that it encourages you to find solace in the form of bonding with another human. This blew my mind. I never thought of stress encouraging bonding.


This is crazy really because I think of all those times that I isolated in stress rather than reached out. I’ve gotten better with it over time but I am astounded that one of the answers to reducing my stress lay in the opposite of what I was doing.


Rather than feeling stressed - go isolate and stay with it…


it could have been:


feeling stressed - go get it out with someone and move through.


I know this cognitively as a therapist but I didn’t realise the deep drive within to seek that comfort when we feel stressed because it promotes oxytocin release. That oxytocin release actually soothes our heart and has us feeling better.


Love your stress for what it shows you. Respect your stress for what it allows you to do. Don’t let it define you though. Whenever I have called myself a stress-head, it means that I act and feel like one. I may be a stress-head sometimes but it’s not all that I am. I suggest you watch your language about stress too.


Sometimes though, stress is really stressful.


When stress is all encompassing, it puts our body into survival mode. Good for staying alive, not so good for getting into the mood.


These are two incompatible states – survival and sauciness. Your body wants to be in one or the other. Not both.


There are times in life where it is normal and necessary to go into stress modes. They become unhelpful though when they are cropping up at times where you genuinely aren’t under threat.


Managing your stress (not avoiding stress) is vital to your sex life. How many people naturally feel more in the mood when they go away with their partners? (alcohol/drug use aside). How many more couples fall pregnant during these escapades or in holiday seasons?


The answer lies in more connection and less stress.


When I work with my clients, I say to them that I don’t want to take their stress away because their stress ultimately has joy attached to it. The approach is more about punctuating the stressful times with a down-regulating response so that you aren’t constantly in stress.


This switches your response from being ALL up ALL the time to quickly crashing to being UP and then purposefully bringing yourself down a little to then ALLOWING yourself to go back up to get your shit done and then, later on, allowing yourself back down again.


True empowerment lies in going with the gentle waves rather than saving everything up to come crashing down.


Some simple ways to bring your stress down and bring your libido up:

+Create good boundaries with work, social, home and personal life. I call these reset buttons. How can you signify that one thing has finished/come to a close and another chapter is beginning (excluding having an alcoholic drink/s)? I use putting on the kettle at 745pm as the end of being a mama and the return back to Lauren. That one action with a deep breath is my reset button.


+Get the stress out. If it inhabits your body, it takes up valuable real estate that could be better used to help arousal flow. Boxing, talking, dancing – in fact, the more you move the better. It lets your body know that you are safe and that the stressor has passed. Your body wouldn’t be doing lounge room dancing if you were under threat – it would probably be running or going into freeze mode.



+Do more hip movements. Seriously. Sex needs hip movements – the more sensual and undulating (a good word to have in the lexicon), the better.


+Clear out the stress before sex starts. Don’t go into it feeling all the stress and hoping you will just move through it. Talk about it and process it in safety and then start sex from a place of feeling clearer.


+Use your free time to explore your sexuality and libido – don’t save everything sexual up in your life only for sex. Take a breath and read a book or watch a show and absorb others sexual perspectives to keep that libido motor running. Fantasise, daydream or consider what it would be like to have your deepest fantasy play out.


Take a moment now, to think about how you feel stress… How do you respond to it?


Do you know what stressors need to stay and what ones can go?


Lauren xo