Stress! How to Deal With It and Actually Beat It
Jennifer Berman, MD

Just think for a moment about your typical day. At bedtime, it makes your head spin just knowing that the same routine will start all over again in a few hours-the kids, the job, the dog to the vet, the car in the shop, laundry, doctor’s visit, dinner, bills, crying kids…and deep, aching concerns about your discontent with your sex life.

Sex isn’t even a blip on the radar screen. It’s just another stress in your life, another thing expected of you. Then there’s the thought about the pain you feel, the lack of orgasms, the weight you have gained, the anger or resentment you feel … stress…stress…stress. And the dark fear-am I alone? Is it just ME? Often feeling so ashamed or alone that you are not even able to talk to your best girlfriend about your lack of desire or response.

A little wine and the sultry CD the doctor suggested aren’t going to get your motor running. Stress. Sex often becomes another item on the “to do” list – one that is all too often ignored and crossed off the list without being done. Many women feel like there are so many demands put on them and they are so low on the priority list, that they see sex as yet another chore to take on and they resent it as well as their partners. Too often the sex is not enjoyable because you’re feeling too tired, too angry, or too distracted.

Many women experience far more stress than men, particularly if they are full-time working mothers with small children. Many moms still take on the bulk of child rearing responsibilities. Stress causes women to have far more interest in sleep than in sex and can actually inhibit her ability to become aroused (if there is even a desire for sex) and reach orgasm. On top of that, when they are uninterested in sex or non-responsive, it often puts stress on the relationship, creates guilt in the woman and only adds to her stress levels.

We know that stress can cause all kinds of physical aliments including heart disease, ulcers, and certainly lack of desire and lack of sexual response. Even if you don’t have children, the demands of work, a home, and maintaining your relationship with your partner can also be stressful.

You probably don’t need a list of things that can affect your sex life, but here are a few signs?

* You’re restless – you race from one activity to another* You’re exhausted, yet you may be sleepless

* You feel isolated alone or depressed

* You’re not eating healthy food, opting for the fast burger or the leftover pizza.

* You’re falling into so-called “stress relieving” habits like smoking and drinking

* You don’t take time for yourself or you feel guilty when you do relax for a moment

* You don’t exercise regularly

* You become easily frustrated at your family and your temper shows
* You can’t relax enough to become aroused, even when your partner is supportive

While there aren’t any easy solutions to reduce your stress, there are some things you can do to ease the tension. Here are four steps that can help.

1. Make your relationship a priority.
This means actually setting aside time to be intimate with your partner, either emotionally or physically. It may mean getting a baby sitter once a week for a date night or something as simple as turning off the TV and putting down the mail after the kids are asleep in order to spend some time chatting or cuddling. Forget the dishes and laundry for once. Your partner and your relationship deserve attention too! Whether your time together leads to greater emotional and/or physical intimacy, it is really important to take time out from work and parenting to connect with one another as a couple. If being intimate at bedtime is impossible, try in a few minutes in the morning. Sex can also be a great stress reliever and you may have a nice glow the rest of the day!

2. Learn to say no.
If you’re one who feels obligated to join every committee or contribute to every project, step away from the guilt and ask “Do I really want to do this? Or am I just doing it so that I’ll be the good girl who’s always willing to pitch in?” You can say no! Even if you only say no to one or two activities, you will free yourself from the pressure. There is such a thing as manageable stress!

3. Talk to your partner
Your partner probably understands the stress you’re under. Talking with him/her can help both of you rearrange your priorities. It is crucial for you and your partner to understand the importance of support and sharing domestic duties. Let him/her take the kids to soccer practice while you take time to read or have him vacuum while you try that new yoga exercise. You both will benefit.

4. Take time for yourself
If you can clear just an hour or two from your weekly schedule to do something for yourself you are on the way to recovering the sexual being who’s been hidden away. Do something strictly for you – it can be as simple as taking a class or enjoying a cup of tea in the afternoon or reading a book. While these tips may not eliminate stress from your life, they can help you look at the things you are doing in a new light. You can take control of your sex life by managing your stress. Learning to deal with stress is not the panacea, the miracle cure. But it certainly is a good first step.

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