#51: How Stress Affects Libido

How Stress Affects Libido

If your libido is at an all-time low, it *could* be a medical condition. But more likely? It’s a normal response to chronic stress, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you and you CAN get your groove back. Listen and learn how.

You’ll hear about:

  • Why there’s no reason to make sex a hush-hush topic
  • How a low sex drive is a common symptom of chronic stress
  • 6 completely valid reasons for why you may not be feeling the bedroom vibes right now
  • Herbs and lifestyle practices to help bring back your mojo

Related links:

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Here's what you can do to help yourself out. This isn't about taking a magic pill. This isn't about simply increasing your sex drive. No, this is a holistic approach. Oh, like what's going on. What's going on in your body? Is your thyroid not functioning at optimal levels? Like we need to address your health. Like a healthy, balanced body tends to have a healthy sex drive.

It's time to stop being the victim of your over-scheduled life and become the most powerful version of yourself. Welcome to She's Got Power.

I want to share what I told my son the other day about sex. He's 10. Like he knows some of the basics, but he's really grossed out by the idea. Like he just cannot wrap his head around why anyone would want to do that. And I told him, you know, listen, you can ask me anything that you want to know. Sex is the most normal thing on the planet.

As it's more normal than eating with a fork and knife, it's more normal than going to the bathroom and toilet, like people and animals have been having sex for thousands and thousands of years, nearly every single one of them. And there's nothing taboo about it. It's as normal as breathing. And I share that with you because I had a conversation today that I have had many, many times over. I was talking to a client and it, most often these conversations revolve around wanting to lose weight, having more energy, you know, basically climbing out from under the weight of massive amounts of stress.

And that's what really boils down to. How does the body ever recover when it's been in constant fight or flight mode for like years or decades? And I noticed that like today, women will sort of quietly mention towards the end of a phone call that, oh yeah, they've had no interest in the bedroom lately. And that their husbands will be very relieved if that problem were solved. So listen, low sex drive is first of all, a very, very common symptom of chronic stress. And I want to make very clear that if this is happening for you, you're not doing anything wrong and there's nothing wrong with you at all. Your body is functioning exactly the way that it's meant to. I don't know if you have seen this book it's by Dr. Aviva Romm, who was one of my mentors, her new book, hormone intelligence.

And she's got a quote in there that says, “sex can be one of life's greatest pleasures and sources of relaxation. But if you're not feeling it, you're not alone.” So true. And it's interesting to me that this part about low sex drive is always spoken quietly. A little bit ashamed, a little bit like we should be talking about this towards the end of the conversation. You know, it's the year of 2021 and women still don't feel like we can own our sexuality. We lack confidence here. So let's talk about it because there are a lot of reasons that you may not be feeling it right now. And as Dr. Aviva says, you're not alone.

So first and foremost stress inhibits your sex drive. And it does this on purpose. Very, very much on purpose. Let's say that you're living thousands of years ago and there's a famine and your body is really stressed out. Or there hasn't been food. You're in a state of fight or flight, maybe there's arguments. And there's lots of problems with securing food. And your body knows that you're in this stressed-out state. It knows it's not really the best time to make a baby, right?

So when we're living with stress, your body doesn't necessarily know or care where the stress is coming from. It just knows. Things are not good right now. Things are not safe right now. It wouldn't be advantageous for us to bring new life into the world. Now, of course, I realized that in our modern times, having sex and making babies are two different things, or they can be two very different things. But our bodies don't know that. Our bodies just know, okay, this woman is super stressed out.

Every warning sign is there that we don't need to be having sex right now. And literally when you're stressed out, your HPA axis (the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis) and your body sends out this cascade of hormones and they upregulate some systems of the body such as your blood pressure so that you can fight. You can flight, but down-regulates other areas of your body such as your reproductive system. Because again, now's not the right time to make a baby. You're being chased by a tiger. Now's not the right time to make a baby. So stress very much on purpose will inhibit your sex drive. There are other nuances to this though, which I find really interesting. So here's another one. When you are chronically stressed out, it is common to gain weight that just doesn't budge.

And I can already hear some of you nodding your head to that. You know what I'm talking about, especially weight right around your midsection, the belly area. Now, if sex is already a little bit, not feeling like the thing you want to be doing right now, and then you're also feeling, ah, I'm not really comfortable with how my body looks right now or having body image issues.

Also, where did this extra weight come from? That may also keep you from wanting to get naked now, won't it. Right? So stress is kind of hitting us at different angles. All of which are just tanking our sex drive again, all normal. Of course, you're going to gain weight when you're under chronic stress. Again, if it were a famine, your body is purposely packing weight around your middle to protect your organs, to keep you alive. Again, your body doesn't know that your stress is actually coming from your boss, you know, but your body's doing what it's supposed to do.

So this is what I want to drive home is this fact that there's nothing wrong with you. You're not broken your body's not doing something it's not supposed to do. Everything's actually working exactly the way that it should. Okay. And then we have this issue where chronic stress leads to hypothyroidism. When and you are go, go, go, go, go, go. You know, for years, months, or however long you've been on, on overdrive. And for many women has been, you know, decades. This eventually leads to your thyroid, turning down the thermostat in your body. Your thyroid starts to go. We need to slow you down, too much cortisol, too much fight or flight response. Like we're going to actually slow you down.

And this is why so many women that I work with and talk to are hypothyroid are taking Synthroid or levothyroxine, right? So there is a direct connection, especially when you start to hear these women's stories between chronic stress traumatic events and the onset of hypothyroidism.

And guess what comes with hypothyroidism regardless of how you got there, oh, low sex drive. You know, what else? Fatigue, crippling, fatigue. I mean talk about, I don't feel like it tonight. Talk about that. So hypothyroidism is another way that chronic stress will tank your stress now. Okay. We were talking about stress and we're talking about sex. I mean, it's natural. We would be talking about hormones. So let's do that.

I don't know how many of you noticed if you, you still getting a cycle during quarantine. I think a lot of women notice that their cycle was worse than usual. More symptoms of PMs, worse cramping, you know, longer flows, just more cramping and, and overall a worse experience. Stress increases the likelihood of PMS because of how stress impacts your hormones.

Now if you're not having your cycle and maybe you're at a point in life when you're experiencing hot flashes, you may also notice that stress increases hot flashes makes them worse, makes them more frequent.

In either case, let's say that you're suffering with this terrible bout of PMS, or you're getting these horrible, hot flashes either way. You're more uncomfortable in your body. So this is just another way that sort of around the bend or, you know, in a roundabout way, stress increases the chances that you're just not feeling like getting busy tonight.

And it all makes so much sense. What else? Let's continue to talk about your hormones. Chronic stress can lower estrogen levels and low estrogen is associated with vaginal dryness, burning pain with sex. If any of those things are happening for you. Yeah. You're not feeling like it. I mean, and probably not just one of these things are happening for you, probably multiple of these things are happening for you. So there are so many reasons why even just logically it's like, well, of course you don't feel like having sex.

This isn't the thing that's on your mind right now. You're uncomfortable. It's painful, you’re tired, right? And there's one more. Chronic stress lowers testosterone. And yes, as women, we have testosterone too. And that has everything to do with our sex drive. When our testosterone is lowered, that will keep our sex drive down to nada. Here's another quote from a Aviva. And I'm going to put a link to her book in the show notes, which are at she'sgotpower.com/podcast, because I think this could be a really useful book for many of you listening, but she writes, “libido is profoundly influenced by our sense of personal well-being our physical health hormones, stress levels and relationship happiness, less commonly caused by an actual medical problem.” Hey, I mentioned that low libido is a symptom, a sign that your body is in a state of chronic stress and burnout, but you know what?

There are a lot of symptoms. There are a lot of signs and I have a free quiz available on my website. If you're wondering like, you know, I feel like I'm fine. My stress levels are normal. Well, are they take this quiz and find out it'll shed a lot of light on what's going on for you and how much stress really is impacting your health or not. You can get that quiz at, she's got power.com/free. It'll take you all of two or three minutes to complete. And women consistently tell me how much they learned by going through that exercise. So again, that's, she's got power.com/free.

So what can you do? What can you do? Because I know that even just from personal experience, that when you're not feeling like it, it puts stress on a relationship and stress in a relationship. What would it be for? Just say, relationship happiness profoundly affects libido. So we end up in this negative feedback cycle. Here's what you can do to help yourself out. This isn't about taking a magic pill. This isn't about simply increasing your sex drive. No, this is a holistic approach. Oh, like what's going on? What's going on in your body? Is your thyroid not functioning at optimal levels? Like we need to address your health. Like a healthy, balanced body tends to have a healthy sex drive. And I also want to say whatever that means for you. Like everyone is different. There's no one level, there's no one picture of what a good sex life looks like.

And I want to talk more about that in just a second. But in any case, addressing your overall health is number one, there's something going on with your health. If your PMS symptoms last for, you know, two weeks of every four and you're miserable. I mean, none of this is doing anything for your intimate life. So we need to address your health second. And this goes hand in hand. We need to address your stress levels directly. So what is causing the chronic stress? Because when you're stressed, literally the physiological response in your body is hit the brakes on any kind of attraction to a mate. It's just not happening. So what's causing the stress? Sometimes it's small changes that can help, you know, deep breathing meditation at sometimes it's big changes. Sometimes it's leaving the job, you know, sometimes you know, realizing that you have this symptom, whatever the symptom is, low sex drive or weight around your middle or anxiety or whatever the symptom is.

It just points at a larger problem in life. So this may be pointing at, Hey, there's this thing going on? That's not okay. And that needs to be changed. Okay. Along with that, addressing stress, things that are going on in your life right now, part of that may also be addressing things that, or part of your life earlier, addressing past traumas, things that may have happened a long, long time ago, even just things that have happened. Gosh, during COVID, wasn't that just a whole big trauma in and of itself?

So addressing past traumas has everything to do with how balanced and healthy you feel today in both your body and your mind and your spirit and in bed. I want to suggest something else that I think can be really helpful, particularly for women, especially as we are in our forties and fifties. My suggestion is that you detox from not detox, not like that, but detox from screens, detox from imagery that sets unrealistic expectations about your body first and foremost, which I think we're all pretty aware of how we're fed this image through the media of what we're supposed to look like, but really like you are in charge of what you consume.

And I don't just mean food. I mean, anything that you are taking in, and that would include things that you're looking at, things that you're listening to. So is it the TV show that you're watching or the movie that you're watching magazines, what is putting an idea in your head that you should look a different way than you do? You don't have to consume that you can just decide not to. And if that helps you feel better in your body, why not do that? Why not let that go. These looking at things that actually make you compare and despair about your body and the same goes for comparing and despairing about your sex life. You know what we see again on TV or in movies or pornography, all of it, there's a, an ideal, or there's this idea of this is how it's supposed to be.

And in real life, it's not like that. Well, maybe it's like that for some people, but your sex life is completely unique and up to you. And I think the more that we compare what we are or aren't doing in the bedroom with what we think we're supposed to be doing or not doing in the bedroom, the more strife and stress there is around the topic.

So this is suggestion, detox from anything that you consume, that's giving you a sense of, I should be better. I should look better. I should be doing this differently. I'm not enough. I'm not good enough. Now there are some plant based remedies that can help when it comes to sex drive. And here's what I want to say. These are small rocks. Like you're not going to be able to overcome a big rock, like you're in a toxic relationship with your partner and you're completely stressed out by it.

And you're not going to be able to like, you know, take a tincture or something and make it all better. That's not how this works. You got to address the big rocks of your health and your stress levels and your past traumas. However, for the little rocks, the smaller challenges that are in your way, there are some plant medicines that can help with that. So the first is Maca. Another St. John's wart and marijuana can all be helpful in increasing feelings of sexual desire and pleasure. And I'm going to leave to you to explore some or any of those things, but just know that again, they're not going to overcome the big rocks. They can help you. Maybe in that class, 10, 20%.

My hope is that women can be a little more or a lot more forthcoming and less ashamed talking about their sexual health. And I say that as a recovering Catholic, right? This is not something that flows completely freely for me either. And there's so much stuff, you know, we have so much stuff around sex that we're carrying around, but it is my hope that if I can start to speak out about it more and everybody can, am I clients no longer have to whisper their problems in the bedroom at the end of a conversation very quietly.
That we collectively can begin to heal.