Photographer: Lori Kaye
We know that stress is dangerous for our health, and for many, the holiday season is the most stressful time of the entire year. Between searching for gifts, making travel plans, coordinating schedules, and trying to stick to a budget, you can almost feel the air crackling with everyone's stress-charged energy -- and all of that happens before you have to navigate any awkward family.
Study after study has found that long-term chronic stress negatively affects health. An increase in cortisol (the stress hormone) over an extended period of time (such as the months-long holiday season) negatively affects the cardiovascular system. The number one cause of disease and death worldwide is heart disease, to which stress is a serious contributor.
With this in mind, it seems like we should all try to be better about relaxing, especially during this notoriously stressful season, and of course, one of the best stress relievers in the world is sex! Not only is it healthy and fun, it's also great to stay connected with your partner during chaotic times.
But Sandra, you say, I am so busy with work and kids and meetings and cleaning and bills and everything else that when I come home, I just want to zonk out in front of the TV. I'm too tired to be in the mood for sex. This is a really common problem. Even though sex is a great way to relieve stress it can also act as an obstacle to it.
So how can we overcome holiday stress and get in the mood?
1. Prioritize your health together. Getting a little exercise can make you feel more alert and energetic right away, and it doesn't take much. Go for a walk with your partner after dinner. Dance to your favorite song in the kitchen, or do some yoga together on the living room floor. Try your best to eat healthy too. Lots of people grab junk food, alcohol, cigarettes, or some other unhealthy outlet for relief during stressful times, but taking the time to eat food that is healthy, well prepared, and sounds delicious will make you feel much better than fast food and sugary snacks. When your body is well nourished and taken care of, you'll feel good and your interest in sex will likely increase.
2. Think about sex more often. You don't have to have sex if you really aren't in the mood, but why not keep yourself open to the prospect? To keep the spark alive, some psychologists suggest to always be working on the romance in your relationship. No matter how busy we are, we can send our partner a steamy little text once or twice a week. No matter how late we are for work, there's always time to kiss their neck, give them a gentle caress and whisper "later" on our way out the door, just to drive them wild. Kindling romance and love shouldn't be a job, but it should be an activity that both partners are regularly engaged in, even if it's just letting yourself daydream about sexy encounters you've had or would like to have together. When both of you are actively working to keep your sex life exciting, it will make each person feel special, valued, attractive, sexy, and appreciated.
3. Give the gift of your presence and full attention. Oftentimes when we're stressed out about something, we can't help but to focus on it. Even in the throes of passion our minds sometimes wander back to less-than-sexy places, like how many place settings you need to make for the holiday dinner or when you need to leave to pick up your in-laws from the airport. The Buddhist practice of mindfulness can overcome this problem. Practice clearing your mind and focusing on what is happening while you're getting intimate with your partner. What is your lover doing to you? How does it feel? What do you experience with each of your senses? Focus on your breathing as things progress. If your partner is interested, have some long stretches of foreplay, kissing, teasing, caressing, and dirty talk. The more your attention is focused on the present moment, the faster those romantic juices will start flowing.
Photographer: Lori Kaye
Each of these three tips will help you keep stress from overwhelming your holidays. Remember that almost all of your day-to-day stresses can be lessened through love, desire, and sensuous interaction, which help to refocus our minds on the love and pleasure in our life. (After a rendezvous with our lover, usually whatever has been stressing us out doesn't look so bad anymore.)
Find ways that work for you and your partner to make intimacy in priority this holiday season, and you'll be amazed to find how everything else falls back into perspective, allowing you to celebrate the holidays with joy, peace, and true relaxation.
Sandra LaMorgese Ph.D. is an expert in bridging the gap between sexuality and a lifestyle that focuses on holistic health of the mind, body and spirit. She is the author of Switch: Time for a Change, a memoir of her journey from holistic practitioner to professional dominatrix at 55 years old, and her passion and purpose is to empower others towards healthy authentic living. To learn more about Sandra and receive your FREE eBook "5 Steps for Better Communication, Sex, and Happiness (Did I mention better sex?) visit www.sandralamorgese.com.