The new year will find many of us making resolutions about our health. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we prioritise taking care of our mental health. Although sex is often the last thing on our minds when we get stressed, self-pleasure as a part of your self-care can be extremely effective and, well, pleasurable!
While it shouldn’t be the only thing you’re doing to cope with stress, masturbation comes with many benefits for your mental health. Here are five reasons why masturbation is great for stress:
1. Feel good hormones
Did you know that masturbation literally lowers the cortisol in your bloodstream? Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone, and is responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ response. Touching yourself releases oxytocin - sometimes known as the ‘cuddle hormone - which reduces cortisol. Another hormone released during masturbation is dopamine, which improves your mood and gives you a natural high. Masturbating and making yourself come floods your body with these feel good chemicals and leaves you more relaxed.
2. Reconnect with your body
When you’re stressed, you can often end up spending all your time ‘in your head’, ignoring your body. It can help to reconnect with your body and remind yourself that you’re not just a brain with a long list of ‘to do’ list items. Masturbation forces you to be present in your body and check in with how you’re feeling physically. Touching yourself can help ground you in the moment and focus on your pleasure, rather than the sources of your stress. Spending time reconnecting with your body can help you feel calmer and ready to tackle the sources of your stress.
3. Help you sleep
Have you ever found that orgasms make you sleepy? Sleep often goes out the window when we’re stressed, and that lack of sleep can make us even more stressed. Orgasms emotionally and physically relieve tension and exhaust our body, making it easier for us to sleep. The oxytocin and endorphins released after an orgasm leave you feeling warm and relaxed and ready to sleep, so grab your favourite sex toy and some lube - maybe Momentum Organic Aloe Lubrication, a 100% organic and vegan-friendly lube - put on some porn, and make yourself come before bed for a satisfying night’s sleep.
4. Reduces physical pain
Stress often exacerbates physical aches and pains - which can in turn stress us out even more. Having an orgasm releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkiller. The endorphins released when you come interact with the opiate receptors in your brain to reduce your perception of pain. Spending some time having solo sex and getting yourself off can reduce your pain, and along with it your stress levels!
5. Complete the stress cycle
In Burnout: The secret to solving the stress cycle, Emily and Amelia Nagoski argue that we spend our lives in a state of stress, but never ‘complete the stress cycle’. They define stress as the neurological and physiological shift that happens when you encounter a threat. It’s an evolutionary response that was designed to help us cope when we encounter a stressor - for example, facing a difficult client meeting or being chased by a lion.
When you notice the lion, it activates a ‘stress response’ in your body. Your body and mind change in response to the threat, and any process not relevant to running away from the lion gets postponed. You run back to your village, where you shout for help and everyone comes out to help you slaughter the lion. Together, the village cooks the lion and celebrates your survival together.
Nagoski and Nagoski explain that it’s not until you jump up and down and cheer with the rest of the village that you complete the stress cycle and your body comes out of action mode. It’s not enough to tell yourself to calm down: you need to do something to signal to your body that you’re safe or you’ll stay in the stress response. The stress stays in your body, even though you’ve escaped from the lion or got through the client meeting.
Just because you’ve dealt with the stressor - whether it’s a lion or a client meeting - you haven’t dealt with the stress in your own body. You still need to complete the stress cycle, and guess what? Masturbation is a way to complete the stress cycle and allows you to carry on without carrying that stress with you.
Do you masturbate to help yourself relax when stressed?