A massive 80% of American’s report feeling stressed frequently throughout their day, and if left unmanaged it can sabotage your sex life and contribute to the demise of your relationship. Below is a deeper explanation of the role that stress plays in your libido, sexual functioning, and the health of your relationship; followed by 5 simple steps you can take to restore adrenal health, optimize libido, and deepen your connection with your partner.
How Stress Affects Libido
The adrenal glands help you cope with stress, and when stress is ongoing, or you experience a traumatic event, the adrenal glands can become fatigued. This is problematic for your libido and sexlife because when your adrenal glands are fatigued your body goes into survival mode and shuts down non-essential functions, which includes the production of sex hormones. This can cause you to lose your passion for life and for your partner, and your sex drive to become obsolete.
The Cortisol Connection
When you experience any type of mental, physical or emotional stress, your adrenal glands respond by releasing the stress fighting hormone cortisol. Cortisol provides you with a quick burst of energy to help you deal with stress. It also boosts memory and heart rate, and reduces pain sensations – all of which were essential for survival historically, when stressors were usually life threatening.
The problem is, stress is no longer a rare occurrence, when an animal or storm threatens our survival, it is constant. The beeping alarm that shocks our systems awake, the rush to get the kids to school, traffic, nasty bosses or coworkers, work deadlines, struggling to pay the bills, watching/reading the latest political updates, constantly being on-call (thanks to mobile devices), and even social media are all examples of daily stressors that we must deal with. The constant output of cortisol fatigues your adrenal glands, and eventually the glands become unable to produce enough cortisol to deal with all the stress.
In this state of low cortisol, inflammation becomes rampant and your immune function compromised; and you become mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. You feel low, you lose interest in activities that used to bring you joy, and you may even feel a disconnect from your lover, and a need to be alone. You also become more likely to create unnecessary drama with your partner, because the emotional stress of drama helps you temporarily feel “normal” by forcing what little cortisol you have left, to be released.
Another problem with cortisol depletion is that adrenaline is often released in its place, and operating on adrenaline is not a comfortable feeling. It causes your heart to pound, your muscles to tense, and your breathing to become shallow and rapid. Adrenaline makes you feel edgy, irritable, shaky, and reactionary. It causes racing thoughts, and an inability to sleep despite exhaustion. This can put you and your relationship in a state of disarray and cause your sex drive to plummet. Fortunately, you can restore adrenal function and regain the passion and fire in your relationship by following the 5 guidelines outlined below.
Step #1: Reframe Your Thinking
The first step for restoring adrenal health is addressing the psychological components of stress. While you may not be able to completely avoid stressful situations, you can control how you perceive and react to them, and dramatically reduce the amount of stress they cause your body. Becoming more positive and optimistic and consciously focusing on all the good things in your life is tremendously helpful.
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Also, look for blessings in the little things, in all the moments throughout your day. Notice and appreciate the smile on your lovers or child’s face, appreciate how your dog greets you, how nice your sheets feel, the hot water running over your body in a shower, and even the physical ability to move.
Step #2: Be Fully Present In The Moment
Almost all of the stress we experience is caused by revisiting things that happened in the past or worrying about what might happen in the future (and the majority of these worries never come to pass). Learning how to be in the moment, not only reduces your present stress levels but also helps to build an inner strength so that future stressors will have less impact on your wellbeing and happiness. One great way to bring yourself into the moment is to try and catch the sunset every day, states Dr. Anna Cabeca. If your schedule does not allow for this, try and allot ten minutes every day to be outside in nature, stay quiet, and use all of your senses to observe its beauty.
Being present during sex is also important, especially for women. Being in a high stress state, causes your mind to race, and women are natural multitaskers. Instead of enjoying the sensual experience of the moment during sex, some women find themselves in their heads, making grocery lists, thinking about what to have for dinner, worrying about a work project etc. Practicing yoga and tantric sex are excellent tools for becoming more present both inside and outside the bedroom.
Step #3: Rejuvenate Your Adrenal Glands
Now that you have tweaked your psychology to minimize stress and reduce the burden on your adrenal glands, it’s time to nurture your adrenals back to health. Begin by reducing unnecessary stressors in your life, learning to delegate and say no, and using time management techniques. If you’re always rushing around, devote some time every morning to planning out your day, and reduce time-wasters such as social media, TV, and excessive email checking.
Next, make high quality sleep an absolute priority. Chasing sunsets is beneficial for this because it resets your circadian rhythm, which helps you fall asleep easier. It's also beneficial to practice sleep hygiene which includes sleeping in a cool, dark, and silent environment, and keeping all electronics out of the bedroom. You should also eliminate alcohol, refined carbs, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils, processed foods, foods you are intolerant to, and stimulants such as caffeine and sugar because they tax the adrenal glands.
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Step #4: Touch and Cuddle More
One excellent way to increase the loving bond between you and your partner, to resolve animosities and arguments, and to directly reduce stress levels is to touch each other frequently. Touch and physical affection help release the love, bonding, and relaxation hormone oxytocin; it also releases testosterone which helps boost desire and arousal. Spend time holding each other or giving sensual massages. And instead of focusing primarily on intercourse, focus on the foreplay stage, and devote time to exploring and worshiping each other’s entire bodies.
Step #5: Be A More Loving and Accepting Partner
A relationship can be a major source of stress for some, and once adrenal fatigue sets in, the drama it promotes, tends to intensify that stress. Your relationship should lift you up, not drain you, and you need to remember always, your lover is your partner, not your enemy. Trying to have the last word or refusing to apologize is one of the worst things you can do. During arguments, ask yourself “Would I rather be right, or happy?”.
Remember no one is perfect, accept your partner's flaws, and focus instead on all the wonderful things that made you fall in love with them. Learn the 5 languages of love--words of affirmation, quality time, giving fits, acts of service, physical touch; and try and find ways throughout the day to make your partner feel loved and cared for. Once you take the initiative to be more loving with your partner, to stop projecting your feelings onto them, and to become more mindful of their wants and feelings, the whole dynamic will shift for the better. Your partner will respond more lovingly with you, your relationship will heal, your passion for each other will reignite, and you’ll form a powerful bond that will help you cope with the many stressors of life.