With your bedroom transformed into a makeshift home office and your newsfeed full of stress-inducing stories, it’s no wonder you haven’t been *in the mood* lately. While you never need to have sex unless you’re totally into it, (and you never need to feel ashamed for not feeling frisky) there are some easy ways to increase your sex drive.
In a 2021 study of 2,000 sexually active Americans, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Foria, a sexual wellness CBD brand, 56% of participants said increasing anxiety about the general state of the world has hindered their sex drive. According to Kiana Reeves, somatic sex educator and Foria’s Chief Brand Officer, a decreased sex drive is a common side effect of stress.
“Heightened stress impacts your nervous system, and sex and libido are de-prioritized on a biological level,” Reeves tells Bustle. “Your stress levels can impact your level of arousal, lubrication, desire, and more — so addressing stress levels is key.”
Trying to force yourself to be less stressed is a recipe for feeling even more pressured, so Reeves suggests finding calmness in smaller ways during the day. Meditating for a few minutes, going on walks outside, calling a loved one, or just spending some time away from screens can help you regulate your stress and allow for more sexy feelings to come up.
Wine & Dine Yourself
Cate Mackenzie, psychosexual therapist and couples counselor, explains that lack of sleep, commitments at work or home, and the general mundanity of day-to-day life can do a number on your libido.
“Make sure you are sleeping enough, having fun, and creating sensual pleasure in your life,” Mackenzie says. Build up a different touch, smell, taste, sound experience daily.”
While the #selflove train has been fully co-opted by direct-to-consumer brands trying to sell you neon face cream, Mackenzie explains that giving yourself kindness every day can improve your sex drive. From listening to your favorite song on the way to work, to lighting a good-smelling candle, and having wine you like when you get home, indulging yourself in smaller, daily ways can start to boost your sexy feelings. As Mackenzie describes, it’s unlikely your sex drive will instantly go from 0 to 100 overnight. Getting into the routine of treating yourself like a hot person you have a crush on can gradually strengthen your libido over time.
“Keep the kettle at a low boil,” she says. “Don’t expect your cooker to be able to suddenly get hot. Build experiences to help you get in the mood.”
In addition to daily practices of pleasure, Mackenzie suggests picking a running night to dedicate to intimacy. Whether you set an out-of-office message on your email or leave the laundry and dishes for the next day, carve out time to just relax and focus on your body. While this can mean partnered sex or masturbation, Mackenzie also suggests taking a hot shower with nice soaps, dancing, cooking with aphrodisiacs like cinnamon and saffron, or otherwise doing something thoughtful and nourishing.
Take Note Of What Makes You Happy
To maximize your pleasure sensors, Mackenzie encourages her clients to start a “Pleasure Diary” where they write down everything that brings them pleasure during the day. From your latte being the perfect temperature to a cute song playing in the grocery store, recording all the good things that happen to you during the day can get you in tune with your desires.
“What colors do you like? What smells? What turns you on? Explore what you like and what you don’t like,” Mackenzie says.
Remember That There’s No ‘Normal’ When It Comes To Your Sex Drive
While getting ample sleep, finding time for yourself, and prioritizing your pleasure are some natural ways to increase your sex drive, Irene Fehr, sex and intimacy coach, also recommends being patient and open-minded with yourself.
“Sex drive is not something that is constant, like your genetic makeup,” Fehr tells Bustle. “It is affected and impacted by changes like age, hormones, stages of life, and level of emotional safety in a relationship dynamic.”
Fehr continues that sex itself means different things to different people at different times, so understanding your personal sex drive demands self-reflection.
“There is a culturally acceptable picture of ‘sex drive’ that involves being spontaneously turned on by the idea of sex, having sexual fantasies, porn, or sexual attraction to a ‘hot’ partner,” Fehr says. “Compared to that, most people’s sex drive appears lower or ‘low.’”
Per Fehr, standards about how often you “should” be having sex or how quickly you “should” get turned on are misleading and dangerous. “It causes a lot of shame for people who otherwise have a healthy and robust libido that simply does not express itself in this limited culturally-defined way,” she says.
Learn How To Ask For What You Want During Sex
Because sex drives are so unique and individualized, part of “increasing” your sex drive is really just learning how to express your feelings.
“[If you don’t have the] vocabulary to explain what you are experiencing or desiring, you won’t be able to express or ask for what you need — and that deeply affects our libido,” Fehr says. “Someone who does not have words to describe their actual experience will likely have what looks like a ‘lower’ libido.”
To increase your sexy vocabulary, Fehr suggests thinking about and experimenting with what turns you on. “For some, the sexiest thing is to engage in slow, sensual adoration of each other’s bodies,” Fehr says. “For others, it’s a heart-to-heart conversation about their dreams and fears. Maybe it’s something kinky and out of the ordinary, or simply getting naked with someone they find attractive.”
Whether you’re into slow massages, dirty talk, or just G-rated spooning, finding what gets you in the mood can help you express your desires to yourself and your partners.
Of course, no matter what you find yourself drawn to, Mackenzie reiterates the necessity of consent.
“Sexuality has stages and it is important that you feel safe and connected as you open up,” Mackenzie says. “It’s about building bridges so that you feel more and more comfortable in your sexual sense of self.”
Kiana Reeves, somatic sex educator
Cate Mackenzie, psychosexual therapist and couples counselor,
Irene Fehr, sex and intimacy coach