Stress and Your Sex Life
Stress in modern living has become a part of life and there are a number of people who fall victims to it. Stress is one aspect of human existence which cannot be dispensed with. Every person from birth goes under some or other form of stress. From a very young age one comes under form of stress and strain. It may be in the form of studies, proper settlement in life, job satisfaction, ambition to go higher on the ladder of life, the stress of family life and as one grows up, the stress of one’s very existence vis-a-vis daily chores of life may come into the picture. In fact, stress is something which becomes an integral part of one’s existence.
Those who fail to stand this normal stress fail to lead a normal life and fall an easy victim to many ills, both physical and mental. Stress involves all the major organs of the body like the heart, G.I. tract and nervous system. There is one important aspect affected by stress which is generally not taken care of and that is the sex life of the person.
There is a big distinctive difference between stress and strain. Stress is what is going on in our environment, the difficulties and frustrations of daily life, unwelcome surroundings, and the rat race to go up in the hierarchy and, for some, the struggle to fight for their very existence. In contrast to this, strain is a reaction inside the victim who is crying; fighting with his or her normal body processes and in the bargain gets various physical and mental ills.
It is living under this constant state of tension whether physical or mental which has its own hazards. The human body has great capabilities of adapting itself to environmental situations and states of stress. It increases its capacity to withstand various forms of pressures, whether external or internal. When put under stress, certain physiological changes in the form of an increased liberation of hormones takes place and if the body withstands the stress, the whole strain is absorbed but in case the tissues fail to respond to the stressful stimuli, the damage varying from mild to irreparable may occur.
Stress may be a source of anxiety, tension worry and fear when an individual is unable to adjust successfully to the unpleasant situations and it has been rightly said, “when this happens, there is anarchy in the body and mind, instead of forming a coherent and harmonious whole, it is like soldiers in the same regiment who set about killing each other.”
Most of the time we cope with stress and strains of everyday living but when the pressure mounts too high or the stress or strain lasts too long, it takes a heavy toll in its wake. A person under stress may be anxious, irritable and tense. The daily chores of life become a constant effort and rather disagreeable. There is lack of concentration, attention, loss of memory and sleeplessness. Anxiety and lack of well-being may be the index of a person’s response to external stress. In fact, absolute tranquility in the face of stressful situations is neither desirable nor conducive to good health. A small degree of anxiety induces a person to react in a way he or she can adjust.
Those who fail to react, carry an unnecessary burden of undesirable situations which produce nothing but poor health and an ill-adjusted individual. But stress for one person may not be stress for another. There are certain professions which mean more stress and these include high executives and professional people like doctors, lawyers and people holding senior jobs. No wonder such people are always more prone to getting ulcers, heart attacks and high blood pressure, etc. But let us not get away with the notion that it is only the higher-income group or rich people who suffer from tension. Poverty has its own hazards and probably it may be the single biggest cause of physical and mental ailments in our country.
Hardly any system in the body escapes from the ill-effects of stress. Emotions and stress have a great role to play in the causation of a number of ailments. We may respond differently to various stresses depending on our build and genetic predispositions. There is often general irritability, weakening of activity, excessive fatigue or often hyper excitability.
Manifestations of Stress
Irritability, sleeplessness, palpitation, headaches, lack of concentration, loss of vigor of life, pain in neck or back, excessive fatigue, premenstrual tension in women — all are some of the common manifestations of stress and strain. A very important aspect of stress which is often ignored is the deleterious effect of stress upon sex life. The earliest casualty may be a decrease in the sex urge and both men and women may start having hardly any urge left for normal sexual activity. Often, this leads to tension in the minds of people as if some major catastrophe is going to happen. A decrease in the sex urge develops because of an imbalance developing in a person’s sympathetic system due to heightened tension and anxiety. In fact, it is a vicious circle. Stress may be responsible for a decrease in the sex urge (libido) while the couple is unaware of it and may start blaming each other as impotent or frigid.
Take here the example of A, a healthy young male. Whenever he wanted to have sex with his wife a certain degree of stress would engulf him and he would suddenly go limp. The result was that he headed for divorce soon. Psychiatric help unraveled the cause and the problem was solved.
Similarly, many women are worried about having orgasms and attach too much importance to it. In fact, so much is being talked about orgasm being the end of sexual fulfillment that couples are always under stress about whether they are having it. Normal fulfillment in sexual relationships is not easy to define and unnecessary stress worsens the condition. Many couples worry whether both of them are having orgasms at the same time. This may or may not be possible. It is the reciprocation of each other’s feelings that makes sex life enjoyable.
Sex problems like impotence and premature ejaculation are to a large extent precipitated by acute stress and they often start a chain reaction. The malady produces acute anxiety and stress and these in themselves start a cycle.
One of the important causes of impotence is emotional or psychological factors. Often, psychological factors in the absence of organic disease act as trigger mechanisms for the cause. There may be hidden frustration, guilt feelings and a sense of anxiety. In times of great stress like natural calamities, wars, etc. not only does the sex desire decrease but some people are also likely to develop temporary impotence.
Premature ejaculation is another red herring which results because of acute anxiety and stress and the individual often fails to perform the sex act. In a survey conducted by Forum it was found that impotence in nearly 80 per cent of the cases was due to psychological factors while regarding premature ejaculation, 70 per cent felt that anxiety and stress was a significant cause of their problem.
Recognition of stress and anxiety as important factors in the causation of sexual disorders is very important since, in such cases, treatment has to be instituted first managing these conditions by explanation, reassurance, use of antianxiety drugs, explanation of the whole problem, giving psychotherapy, holding various sessions regarding sexual life and habits of the partners.
Stress is something which occurs overtly. People can adapt stress and anxiety-causing irritability, sleeplessness, exhaustion, at work but will find it hard to believe that it can in any way cause sexual dysfunction like impotence, premature ejaculation, etc. Such people require listening to.
A sympathetic ear and understanding of their complaints regarding sex problem goes a long way in alleviating their symptom. All people have sex desire and in a great percentage this is fulfilled by normal sexual activity. Some sublimate their desires while there are some who can neither fulfil their sexual desire nor sublimate it and the result is development of frustration, anxiety and stress.
Management of a healthy sex life free from hassle is interrelated to the general management of stress. Thus, in any such person, the general principles are:
- Do not let the tensions and strains be bottled up. Work them out. Find methods to channelize your energy in useful physical activity or sports. Do not brood over your sex problems. Take your mind away from them by physical workouts, yoga, etc.
- Release your mind. This may be achieved by meditation, prayer and devoting adequate time to things like listening to good music, reading a book or even listening to the sounds of nature.
- Have adequate sleep. Sleep is a bliss which acts as an antidote to excessive stress and strain. Six-eight hours of undisturbed sleep at night is a panacea against stress and strain. Do not buy sleep with pills.
- Take part in physical exercises and games. They are very good for relieving pent-up energies and tensions. Walking, swimming, cycling and outdoor games like tennis, hockey, etc. are really good sports activities and can be selected according to one’s age and taste.
- Develop a system of mental isometrics. Picture in your mind the future images of your problems and how you can solve it. Do this methodically and soon you will appreciate the value of solving your problems by cool thinking. Bio feedback training, transcendental meditation, yoga and autosuggestion are helpful aids in relieving mental tension.
- Take holiday from your work at least once in a year. But do not take your cares, worries and preoccupations with you. Even a short weekend outing with one’s family goes a long way in relieving tensions.
- Lead a hassle-free sex life. Do not brood over minor sex problems. It may not be possible to get free from mental tension and stress but evolve methods by which you can outgrow your problems.
Learn to live with tension and stress but in a balanced form. It has been rightly said, “There is only one time when you will be free from stress and the technical form for that is death.”