This week, Podcast #101 is all about the effects of stress on your life. 

It can put a strain on your physical, emotional and mental health. 

It can affect your relationships and especially your sex life.

And it has been a great month to practice managing your stress.

I have the tools to help you out.  

I will explain how some stress can be beneficial.

I  will share tips on how to process- as well as how to avoid and eliminate stress.  

Sex can actually help.

Listen as I explain more about your brain and why this is true. 

Show Notes:

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References for this episode:

Self.com

Gottman.com

Mayo Clinic

Show Summary:

I have been coaching like crazy the past couple of weeks.  Helping so many of you to deal with all the chaos, stress, and craziness that is going on in your world right now.  I’m going to continue offering free coaching to help you get through these issues as things come up for you.  And things will continue to come up as more restrictions happen, as your kids get tired of doing online schoolwork, as people you know and loved ones get sick.  I am here to help you with it all. So you can sign up for some free coaching, there is a link on this episode’s webpage in the show notes.

The CoronaVirus hit close to home this past week.  The first death in Utah from Coronavirus was my friend’s father.  I didn’t personally know him, but my heart breaks for my friend.  Her mom is also sick.  She is one of 12 kids and she and most of her siblings spent time with their dad right before he died, so now they are all exposed.  She and her family are now self-isolating and taking proper precautions for their family.  But my friend, wow, she is so strong.  She has shared her testimony and she has amazing thoughts that are helping her get through this.  Of course she is sad.  Of course she is mourning.  Of course she is scared.  And she is just feeling it all and it will be ok.  Man, I love her.

It is a really stressful time right now in many respects for all of us.  And stress does funny things to us.  It makes us behave in ways that we wouldn’t normally. And from what I can see on my coaching calls and social media, we aren’t dealing with it well.  We are resisting it, which is just making it worse or we are completely indulging in it.  We are wallowing in it.  We are using it as an excuse to treat ourselves badly.  We are trying to numb out.  

So what is stress anyway?  We talk about it, but let’s actually define it.

So, according to the Cleveland Clinic, stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response.  The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses.  Stress is a normal part of life.  Even positive life changes can produce stress.

I recently heard Oprah’s definition of stress.  She said “stress is because you want this moment to be something that it’s not.”

And that is so true.  We want this world not to have CoronaVirus.  We want people to not be sick.  We want to be able to send our kids to school, to go to church as normal, to go to the grocery store, or work.  We want to not have to worry about our loved ones.  We have stress because our life is not what we pictured right now.  And these are our thoughts and the feeling it produces is stress.

How Is The Stress Affecting Us?

So, how is this stress affecting us? Physically and mentally. 

When you think a thought that your brain perceives as a threat, like “this shouldn’t be happening” – your hypothalamus, a tiny region at your brain’s base, sets off an alarm system in your body.  Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies.  Cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone, increases your body’s most important functions for survival, like blood flow and increased heart rate.  At the same time, it also diminishies non-essential functions or ones that would be detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation (like your sex drive).  It also decreases testosterone levels, which is hormone with the greatest significance to the sex drive in both men and women.

Once the perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal.  But when the stress is on-going, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on and it can throw many of your body’s systems out of whack.  It can lower libido, it can affect your menstrual cycle and make it harder or even prevent you from being able to orgasm.

Stress not only causes physical issues, but can cause issues mentally as well.  Your brain is your biggest sex organ and if your mind is pre-occupied with everything stressful in your life it’s going to be a lot harder to focus on arousal, pleasure, and orgasm.  When you are stressed you are focused on you, so it’s hard to feel close to your partner and be interested in them.

Stress can also impact your sex life indirectly. The hormones produced when you are stressed can impact metabolism, which can in turn lead to  weight fluctuations.  And if you’ve gained weight, you may not feel as good about your body, and might be less likely to want to engage in sexual activity.

Ongoing stress can lead to depression and anxiety, and both conditions can get in the way of a healthy sex life. 

Stress, by itself isn’t a bad thing.  It’s actually really healthy.  It’s our body’s way of dealing with things that are out of the ordinary.  But, if you don’t learn to deal with stress in a healthy way, you are at risk for a lot more problems.  

Along with her definition of stress, Oprah also gave her advice of how to deal with it.  She said “You just stop and you accept this moment for what it is. Just breathe right into that moment and it takes the anxiety and the pressure away of wanting this moment to be something it’s not.”  Oprah is so wise.  She is describing exactly what we need to do to process our feelings.

We talked a lot about processing feelings last week.  Not resisting them, not numbing out and buffering.  But truly being in the moment and processing them.

So, with the stress of everything going on right now, it’s totally understandable if you are feeling like sex is the last thing you want.  But, let me tell you why you want to change that.

Sex can actually reduce stress.  The feelings produced in a healthy sexual experience are natural defenses against stress – closeness, attachment, and general sense of well-being and calm.  When you can get out of your head and into your body, feeling the sensations and pleasure of your partner touching you, in can calm everything down.  You are present in the moment.  You aren’t thinking about everything that might happen.  So, making time and space for physical intimacy isn’t at all fruitless, even if stress levels are high.  In fact, it may be exactly what you need.

If you are feeling stressed right now, here are some steps to take to help yourself calm down.

  1. Allow the stress to be there.  Don’t try to resist it.  Don’t judge yourself for having it.  Just be present with it.  Get out of your head and into your body and just really feel it.  Breathe into it.
  2. Accept the stress.  Accept that life is going to be stressful right now and that is ok.  Make sure you don’t go into the future and worry about all the what-ifs.  You will accept and deal with things as they come.
  3. Talk to someone about it.  Talk to your spouse.  Talk to a friend.  Come to a coaching session and talk to me.  So many times we feel ashamed of our stress and by talking about it and forging connection, it can help reduce it.
  4. Find ways that help you reduce the stress.  
    • Eating well
    • Get plenty of sleep
    • Exercise
    • Hobbies
    • Loving touch like hugs and cuddles, 
    • A warm bath
    • Yoga or meditation
    • Sex

Figure out what works best for you and get your partner on board to help you create that time and space for yourself.

Please know that I am always here for you.  Schedule a session with me and I can help you work through all of it.

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