This time of year, many of us have just had it. We're over the jingle bells and holly jollies, and we've moved on to fully realize our Grinchy/Scrooge-y selves. The stress is mounting, creeping up like a fog covered in mistletoe, complete with thorns and poison berries. Likely the last thing on your mind is a little sexy time, but it turns out that might be just the ticket out of your bad mood. While you're probably wondering how sex can affect holiday stress, it's actually a fairly simple explanation.
Much like everything related to our mood, the connection between sex and stress relief has to do with our hormones, noted researchers in Biological Psychology.
Our bodies are fairly amazing in the way they cope with stress triggers. British researchers found that the stimulation of various nerves involved in penetrative sex release a sea of hormones into the body which can demonstrably decrease levels of perceived stress and lower the blood pressure of the people engaged in the activity. They suggest that it's not only the nerve actions happening, but that something in the human hindbrain related to our species evolution which helps the body chill out when it's trying to procreate.
They wrote that foreplay is great, and it stimulates the pudendal nerve, but that the additional stimulation that happens only during intercourse stimulates the pelvic, hypogastric, and vagal nerves in addition to the pudendal nerve. It's apparently all about the combination.
When you're stressed out, especially during the holidays, the biggest obstacle to intimacy is getting outside of your own head. You can get trapped in that stress bubble, and paralyze your mind to even the idea of having sex. Fortunately, there's a cure for that — and it's not what you're thinking. No chardonnay is required for this experiment. That's because researchers have found that simply thinking of sex can help your ability to analyze and think creatively, according to a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Sex is very much an "If you can dream it, you can do it" solution to holiday stress. Thinking about sex helps you think more clearly, and that helps you reason through not only your stress, but what is preventing you from getting freaky.
If you're not in a relationship and you're wondering if there's a way you can use sex to relieve holiday stress without turning to Tinder, worry not. A little solo time between the sheets can help boost your mood substantially. Board certified psychiatrist Madeleine Castellanos M.D. wrote in her blog that "Since it helps release oxytocin and endorphins, masturbation can help people feel calm and relaxed. This relaxation is especially important for women during orgasm, since this is one of the few times that a woman can actually get her brain to relax and stop thinking about everything." Maybe when you're buying stocking stuffers for everyone on your list, you could buy yourself a little toy as well. A mom in a good mood is a good thing for everyone.
If you're lucky enough to be in a couple during this horrifically stressful time of year, you should know that the benefits of an active and healthy sex life go far beyond just simple stress relief, and those additional benefits will help continually support your mental health, according to James Coan, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He told NBC News that “Being in an intimate relationship correlates to healing faster, getting sick less often and living longer." He noted that "When you have sex, you release feel-good hormones, including oxytocin and endorphins," which lower blood pressure and contribute to those "lovey-dovey" feel-good emotions towards your partner (and by extension yourself).
Sex doesn't cure everything, but it can help take the edge off, and during the holidays, that may be just what you need.
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