Sex During End of Year Stress

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As in most cases stress can impact your emotional well being and intimacy. We allowed users to ask Casey Tanner (sex therapist) any questions they may have about holiday stress or sex.

How stress affects your sex life

How can I tell my partner I’m not into sex when I’m feeling stressed?

You are, of course, well within your rights to say no to sex when you’re stressed. But if you’re someone who still longs for physical connection or intimacy when you’re stressed, it might be helpful to realize that you don’t need to have sex – or specifically penetrative sex – in order to have shared intimacy.

You could offer to cuddle, take a bath together, be naked in bed together or make out with your partner if you are not looking for intimacy. You could offer up some other forms of intimacy that sound good to you – or maybe no physical intimacy sounds good to you right now and you’d rather offer up some form of emotional intimacy. Given that this time of year is one that is short and often goes by quickly, you’ll be able to regain some of that desire when this time passes, and it’s okay to say no to sex right now. 

What causes my sex drive to disappear or drop when I travel?

Holiday travel is a specific context that includes many other contexts that could impact our desires. First, it is possible to feel anxious about getting on a plane or taking a long-distance road trip. This can also lead to soreness and changes in sleep patterns due time changes. Or, perhaps you’re around people in your life that cause increased stress and anxiety.

It’s not necessarily the travel itself that’s changing your desire or sex drive, but all of the circumstances that come together and create a context that just isn’t as sexy, safe, or energizing as the context in your own home. This is normal behavior and there is nothing wrong with you. Especially if you’re someone with responsive desire, you’re likely to be more impacted by a change like holiday travel. 

What is the best way to plan solo-sex for stress relief?

This is a great opportunity for us to share our tips on how to get our sex toys past airport security. Start small. The smaller your toy is, the less likely it is to get flagged when it goes through security – especially when it’s in a carry-on bag.

Second tip: Keep the toy in a clear, reusable bag. If your bag is opened, it will be obvious to the TSA agent what’s inside and they will not have to reach in and touch it. It’s also just a more hygienic way to travel.

Third tip: Take out the toy’s batteries (if battery powered). The worst thing that could happen is for the toy to vibrate when it strikes something in the bag. If you have a USB rechargeable toy like LELO’s, you likely have nothing to worry about because those buttons need to be held down for several seconds before they turn on.

Back to the heart of the question, I love that we’re seeing solo-sex as a form of self-care and a way to relieve stress. When you’re back home for the holidays, it’s really about finding the right moment and the right place for solo-sex. The shower or a bath is a great time to masturbate either using a toy or your fingers, because that’s a time when you have running water and it’ll be less likely that anyone can hear you. It’s also a time where you’re already naked and people will be giving you some privacy. So if you’re looking for the time to steal away, I highly recommend the shower or a bath. 

My sex drive goes up when I’m stressed but my partner is the opposite – help!

Holidays are a time when we can have more sexy relationships than usual. This means that sex drive differences can be more pronounced during stressful times than during normal times. Instead of trying to make everyone happy, I encourage couples to just have time for each other, and not necessarily sex.

Great sex can happen out of intimacy! This might be the icing on top. It’s important to set aside time to meet face-to-face and to put down the phone. Then, figure out when you can get away from the computer to spend quality time together. When you’re home for the holidays (and if you’re able to share a room), it’s often the mornings that can facilitate intimacy more than the evenings after a stressful day and possibly extra drinking. Find a few minutes every morning to spend face-to–face without distractions to build intimacy.

How does alcohol affect our desire for and arousal to be sexual?

We all know that alcohol can lower our inhibitions and increase our risk taking. The same is true for sex. Alcohol can reduce anxiety and inhibit our desire to have sex. Alcohol can be used to increase sexual desire in a relationship that is consenting.

One or two drinks is likely to lower anxiety and inhibitions enough to facilitate a connective experience, but after you get past about two drinks – or to the point that you’re really feeling psychologically impacted by alcohol – your arousal systems might be negatively affected. This can affect our ability to self-lubricate, making it harder to get erections, and reducing the intensity of our orgasms.

So, the key here is, in a consenting relationship, to find that sweet spot where alcohol helps lower the inhibitions enough to have an enjoyable sexual experience, but not so much that people either aren’t able to set the boundaries that they need to set or that it gets in the way of their arousal systems. 

How can I stay connected to my polycule when we’re celebrating the holidays apart?

If you’re going to be away from your polycule over the holidays – or even if you’re going to be away from a monogamous partner – one thing you can do is start to cope ahead. Before you’re distant from your partner(s), sit down and have a conversation about what is likely to come up over the course of the week or however long you’re not together. Talking through any insecurity or anxieties that may arise can help us all to plan how we will handle the situation when it comes. When you’re apart, it’s important to recognize that you may not have the time to talk on the phone or stay connected via text the way that you would when you aren’t with family. 

You can stay connected by playing back-and forth games like Words with Friends, or Draw Something. These are two apps that allow you to keep in touch without the need to have serious conversations. It’s sort of like saying, “I’m here!” even if you can’t be together right now. Another really helpful approach is using humor to engage each other in the absence of being able to have “heart to heart” conversations. This could be sending jokes and videos or memes back to forth. These are great ways to say “I’m thinking about you” without getting into the nitty gritty. 

If you are interested in Do need support – because families often bring up trauma, and that can bring up anxiety – then having some kind of phrase or keyword that communicates, “Hey, this is a moment where I really need you to step away” as opposed to a moment that’s like, “Hey, I’m just letting you know what I’m going through”. Make it clear whether you’re asking for general support or if you’re asking for your partner to step away and really be there for you at that moment. 

Lastly, having a planned connection point when you get back and knowing the next time you’re going to see your partner or polycule is a great way to lower anxiety about not knowing what’s going to happen After The holidays. You will know you have something planned and can also check in on how the holidays went for you. The time you spend apart from your partner(s) is not going to be perfect, we can assume that upfront, and that time to debrief and reconnect is a great way to discuss what you might do differently next time you’re apart and what really worked for you this time around. 

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