We can assume that the majority of our sex lives were thrown into new territory over the past year of COVID-19. While many who live with their partners navigated what quality time meant when spending 24 hours a day together, others were starved of physical touch (a condition recognised as skin hunger) due to social distancing and lockdowns.
Add to that the financial uncertainty, job insecurity, health scares and panic buying and you’ve got the perfect cocktail for a non-existent libido. Or perhaps not—Terror Management Theory encompasses the notion that apocalyptic scenarios can prompt us to pursue close relationships, both physically and emotionally in order to retain a sense of belonging and control. Never has society been so polarised when it comes to sex than the past year, but essentially both ends of the spectrum stem from the same reason: stress.
When we experience stress at any intensity, our body releases hormones including cortisol, adrenaline and epinephrine to help us deal with it. These trigger physiological changes such as a quickened heart rate, dilated pupils and tense muscles, all intended to protect and arm us from the perceived threat. This stress response is known as the “fight-or-flight” response—essentially preparing us to tackle the trigger head-on or attempt to flee it entirely.
When we put this stress response in the context of pandemic sex, we can group those with an enhanced libido into ‘fight mode’ and those with an impaired libido into ‘flight mode’. Both are totally normal and neither is a better reaction than the other—nor are they necessarily conscious choices; we all naturally have different libidos.
Continual periods of elevated stress lead to high levels of cortisol in the body, which can put a drain on sex hormones as they’re used to meet the increased demands for higher cortisol production.
So how do you get in the mood when you feel like you have no sex drive whatsoever? Start with daily stress-care: taking time to take deep breaths instantly calms the parasympathetic nervous system; exercise releases feel-good endorphins that counteract stress; communicating with your partner can alleviate any pressure you’re feeling around sex; and accepting that your fluctuating libido is in no way an indication of the strength of your relationship.
Non-sexual physical touch can help you to maintain a sense of intimacy with your partner while also helping to alleviate stress; think back rubs, holding hands, stroking hair, massages and long hugs. Ironically, sex can help alleviate stress by releasing endorphins and reducing levels of stress hormones in the body—so you can actually consider sex a part of your stress-care once you’ve improved your libido.
Setting the scene can also help create an environment in which you feel relaxed; turn down the lights, light some candles and put on a playlist to get you in the mood. As for oysters and chocolate-dipped strawberries? These foods are likely to be more placebo than proven in terms of their aphrodisiac abilities. However, ginseng and maca both show promising results from studies, while adaptogens have been shown to reduce stress in the body, in turn promoting a healthy libido.
Adaptogens are herbal extracts that are well-studied for their ability to support the body in moderating the physical and physiological response to stress. One of the most effective adaptogens is Ashwagandha, a small evergreen shrub grown in India that has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine for its multitude of benefits. We use a clinically-proven extract in our formula for DESTRESS 360, our latest supplement specifically designed to reduce the effects of stress on the body, including—you guessed it—a low libido.
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