Forget a bubble bath or settling down with a good book… Sex three times a week can help to beat stress, experts say.
Counsellor Tracey Sainsbury says sex is ‘as much about intimacy as intercourse’
Some people light a candle or have a bubble bath when everything gets a bit too much.
But sex three times a week with your partner may be the best stress-busting technique available, according to a relationships expert.
Often when people are overwhelmed by work, face endless to-do lists and feel ground down by life, their sex life dwindles.
But counsellor Tracey Sainsbury says instead of stopping having sex because they feel stressed, people should have far more of it.
She points to the ‘daily dose’ of happiness hormones which are advised for people’s wellbeing, including serotonin, dopamine and the ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin.
Sex can deliver these, through the intimacy and skin to skin contact involved as well as the act itself.
Mrs Sainsbury advised people to use sex to ‘de-stress’ at London’s Fertility Show, for couples struggling to conceive or doing IVF.
But she said it is good advice for anyone facing stress in their lives, and may work better than mindfulness.
The relationship counsellor told the Mail: ‘There is a little infographic called a dose a day which talks about boosting your dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and positive endorphins because they are your happy hormones, but they’re also your robustness and resilience hormones when you are feeling stressed.
‘You can stimulate all of them with sex, and people should just make it part of their routine.
‘Quite honestly, it doesn’t have to be beautiful, romantic lovemaking. It can be a quickie downstairs on the sofa or in the kitchen. It doesn’t have to be in bed at night.
‘It can happen when you are both working from home, during the lunch break. Just be playful and be fun – it may help with stress to rediscover that side of you.
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‘Mindfulness is another technique to deal with stress but I’m not sure it’s always as useful as feeling held and safe.’
The average British couple has sex only once a week, survey evidence suggests.
It can come last on the list after work, socialising, cooking, exercise housework and life admin.
Be naked together, for skin on skin contact, whether in bed or watching the television’.
But sex needs to be prioritised, according to Sainsbury. She told the Fertility Show, held at London’s Olympia: ‘Use intercourse for stress relief, enhance the positive endorphins.’
She added: ‘Be naked together, for skin on skin contact, whether in bed or watching the television.’
In the context of couples struggling to conceive a baby, who make up around one in seven couples in total, the expert warns couples may ironically start having less sex as they try to start a family.
Men feel pressure to perform, women can feel like failures because previous attempts at sex have not got them pregnant, and those doing IVF may end up finding it so emotionally difficult that they don’t feel particularly in the mood for passion.
But it is important to make sex part of a weekly routine, Sainsbury said, rather than relying on apps which tell a woman when she is ovulating and then only having sex during that narrow window of time.
The expert, who has more than 20 years of experience providing relationship counselling to infertile couples, including with the charity Fertility Network UK, said: ‘Sex is a way to feel safe and secure. It’s as much about intimacy as intercourse.
‘We may think we don’t have enough time when we are stressed or trying to conceive, but sex is very important indeed.’