The Trick To Feeling Less Anxious During Sex

by Averi Clements

When done right, sex can be one of the greatest activities you can partake in as a human being. It's a great way to connect with another person, get in touch with your own body, and of course, have an orgasm or two. But whether it's due to a bad experience in the past, a lifelong hangup that continues into the present, or anticipation about future sexual encounters, not all of us are able to fully enjoy our time between the sheets due to sexual performance anxiety.

Being anxious during sex is an unfortunate, though not uncommon sensation that plenty of people encounter at some point or another, but the good news is that there are plenty of ways to overcome it. People of all ages, experience levels, and genders can be affected by bedroom anxiety. It can manifest in virgins who grew up in strict, anti-sex households, or people who have had numerous partners and had one of them make a comment that damaged their psyche. Sometimes it comes from the pressure to perform, and other times it stems from body insecurities. No matter where your sexual anxiety comes from, rest assured that you're not weak for feeling the way you do. Sex is an activity that is intimate by nature, and when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and things don't go according to plan, it can have a serious impact on even those who consider themselves to be emotionally buff.

Whether you've been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, have a specific hang-up about sex, or are in a relationship with someone who experiences sexual anxiety, don't lose hope. There are numerous ways that anxiety in the bedroom can be vanquished. Whether you choose to try just one tip or all or them, the most important thing is that you're taking steps to work on feeling happier and more confident after the clothes come off... and after you put them back on again. It will definitely take some time and effort, but as someone who has dealt with and overcome this issue before, believe me when I tell you that the payoff is worth it.

1. Do What You Enjoy

I know we live in a society that is criminally negligent of female satisfaction in bed (more on that later), but listen to me: Your orgasm is important. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I'm not saying you need to be completely selfish in bed, but the more you enjoy yourself while you're naked, the less you're going to worry about your physical "imperfections" or all the things that could go wrong during sex. A good partner will want you to be happy while you're with them, so don't be afraid to tell them what you like or offer up new suggestions to spice things up. Once you start viewing sex as something enjoyable, your anxiety will slowly begin to melt away.

2. Take It Slow

I'm not just talking about foreplay here, although lots and lots of foreplay certainly helps get your mind and body in gear for the main event. Depending on the severity of your sexual anxiety, you might need to go days or even weeks without having "real" sex, instead just getting used to being touched by another person. It's perfectly fine to go at your own speed, working your way up from non-sexual touching to more and more intimate physical interaction. When you're the one in control of the gas pedal, you don't have to worry about things moving too fast for your liking. Plus, the general sensation of being in control can give you a major confidence boost in the bedroom.

3. Communicate With Your Partner

If you aren't talking about sex with your partner, you're seriously missing out. It's the best (and sometimes the only) way to improve your sex life, and if you're feeling anxious in bed, it can be exactly what you need to feel more comfortable. Whether or not you know exactly why you're feeling a bit tense, discuss your feelings with your partner so they can take the appropriate measures to do what they can to help. It might be a difficult topic to broach, especially if you're an anxious person in general, but it's one that will help you and your partner become a team, strengthening your relationship inside and outside the bedroom and helping you feel more confident when it's time to get down to business.

4. Say "No" If You Want To

You should never — never — feel obligated to do anything in bed. If your partner wants to do something that you're not ready or in the mood for, tell them. It can be a little scary at first, especially for anyone who isn't confrontational by nature, but once that word leaves your mouth, you'll be amazed at how confident and in-control you feel. Refusing to do something doesn't make you bad in bed. It just makes you a person who knows what you aren't OK with when it comes to sex. If the fear of being pressured into doing something you don't want to do is making you dread sex with your partner, it's time to stick up for yourself and your sex life... and if your partner doesn't agree with you, then it's time to toss them aside and find someone who respects your preferences in the sack.

5. Get Educated On What's Making You Anxious

If you can pinpoint exactly what's got you feeling so nervous about sex, start doing some research on the web. Worried about pain? Look up all the things that can make your vagina hurts during sex and how you can fix them. Self-conscious about your performance in bed? There are tons of sex tips out there that can help you feel like a porn star with your partner. And if you're nervous because you've never actually had sex before, don't worry — there are plenty of first-hand accounts about losing the V-card that can help teach you what to expect during your first time.

6.Talk It Out

It can be difficult to talk about anxiety and sex separately, but talking about sexual anxiety can be even more nerve-wracking. Keeping your feelings bottled up isn't going to help make your situation better, though. Find someone you trust to discuss what you're feeling in the bedroom, whether you'd feel more comfortable talking with a close friend or a professional therapist. You might find that they have some great advice suited just for you, or you might realize that just getting it all out in the open helped you more than anything. In fact, if you do choose to receive therapy from a psychologist, you might start to feel better than you would if you'd taken drugs — a Consumer Reports study revealed that patients suffering from anxiety and depression reported better outcomes from "mostly talk" therapy (as long as it lasted a minimum of 13 sessions) than from therapy involving "mostly medication." As it turns out, the power of words can give you a whole new kind of sexual healing.

7. Have More Solo Sex

Sometimes, all it takes is a bit of one-on-one time with yourself to start relaxing about whatever is making you tense during sex. When you masturbate, you're in control of everything, so you can experiment with new things in bed and see what works best for you. If the idea of penetration makes your heart pound, work your way up using toys. The very second you feel uncomfortable, you can stop. Then you can start up again the very second you get the urge. Envisioning the person you are (or will be) sleeping with during your "you" time is also a great way to prepare your mind for what you have ahead of you. And since masturbating releases all those feel-good chemicals in your brain such as dopamine, getting it on with yourself on the regular can be a great way to make yourself feel better not only during sex, but during the rest of the day, too. No wonder 92 percent of women report masturbating on a regular basis!

8. Ignore The Media's Portrayal Of Sex

As I mentioned earlier, society really seems to be woefully ignorant of the female sexual experience. Take just about any movie with a sex scene (particularly if the movie is geared towards men), and you're likely to see the woman climaxing after just a couple of minutes of enthusiastic thrusting... even though over 30 studies have shown that only 25 percent of women can orgasm from penetration alone. And don't even get me started on mainstream porn, where most of the content is designed to facilitate the male orgasm.

Frankly, over-exposure to the media's flawed ideas of sex is unhealthy for both men and women in bed, and if you're comparing your body and performance to that of people who are literally paid to make sex look flawless, it would be a miracle if you weren't sexually anxious. Real sex comes with a lot more embarrassing moments, slip-ups, and work, so if your fear of not being a porn star in the sheets is what's causing your nerves, lay off the on-screen sex for a while.

9. Laugh

When you're anxious, laughing is probably the very last thing you're in the mood to do. But try something for me: The next time you find yourself freaking out because of a strange noise or a minor "oops" in the middle of the act, force yourself to laugh about it. It doesn't have to be a hearty guffaw — just a little giggle will be enough to lighten the mood and condition your mind to realize that whatever just happened isn't going to make your partner shudder at the thought of ever sleeping with you again. And let's not forget that there's plenty of research that shows how laughter can actually reduce stress hormones and increase happy hormones. Just the act of laughing can make you happier, basically becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The next time you feel anxious during sex, find something to laugh about— whether for reasons related to humor or just plain fun— and watch your sex-related stress begin to disappear.

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