By Carissa Wright
As every busy woman knows, the day can seem never-ending. Between spending hours at the office, taking care of the house, getting your kids situated (if you have them), and working out something for dinner… hopping into bed at the end of the day only means one thing… SLEEP.
Is your hectic lifestyle taking a toll on the level of intimacy you share with your partner? Are you spending less time together, cuddling less, and in effect, feeling kind of distant from each other?
Stephanie Moore, MD, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and JJ Virgin, a nationally renowned fitness and nutrition expert, are here to help you get your sex drive back.
Stress tops the list now-a-days. With worries big and small bouncing around in your head, how can you possibly concentrate on anything else?
Stress impacts your hormones. When you’re under a lot of stress it can lower vital components like testosterone and estrogen,” says JJ Virgin.
It’s important to find activities that help you relieve stress, and use them whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed. Try yoga, massage, music, a warm bath (maybe together!).
Ditch one and cut down on the other.
“Frequent alcohol [consumption] leads to decreased sex drive and is often related to increased stress or depression in one’s life,” warns Dr. Moore. “None of those side effects will help amp up your love life.”
Cigarettes are also a major culprit in the case of diminished libido.
“Smoking affects blood flow to vessels that affect performance,” cites JJ. “When you look at it, it’s critical to have good blood flow and a healthy blood pressure.”
We all need a solid 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night to be at the top of our game. Lack of sleep leaves little to no energy for activity in the bedroom. Make getting those ZZZs a priority, so you can rev up the romance factor.
Work out the kinks. Even minor issues in a relationship can seem like mountains. Again, Dr. Moore says that communication is key because these issues can create the division that ends the intimacy in your relationship.
“For women, the connection leading to intimacy is mental. No connection means no intimacy,” she explains.
Scheduling sex sounds like a weird concept, but in JJ’s experience it’s helped a lot of couples. You can’t increase your libido if you don’t make time for it, bottom line.
“Sex is usually an afterthought,” JJ notes. “We go out, make dinner, lay down, get tired, and fall asleep.”
Dr. Moore says this problem pops up in many couples’ lives as a result of having children. Time crunch and all the energy you spend running around for your kids leaves you maxed out for the day.
“Adding children to the mix definitely changes the intimacy. In the back of the parents’ mind, one is always hoping the door doesn’t open in the middle of the ‘act’. Solution—date night. Don’t ever give up date night!” says Dr. Moore.
JJ recommends having/scheduling sex with your partner three times a week. She says it’s good for your heart in more ways than one. Studies show sexual activity lowers the risk of heart disease and heart attack, especially in men.
Body image issues most certainly have a profound affect on a relationship.
“If you do not think well of yourself and love yourself, it is really hard to love someone else,” says Dr. Moore. “Sex can often feel ‘empty’ if it is not accompanied by true love of self.”
Whether you’re looking to loose weight or not, JJ says hitting the gym can provide benefits.
“Better stamina, better endurance, and when you look better, you feel better. That’s sexy in itself.”
If you are in a relationship where your partner may have body image issues, your role is to be supportive. Dr. Moore explains that sometimes counseling can help because “making love starts with the head and heart,” which then leads to a physical connection.
“Erectile dysfunction is very common, and it’s a fact of aging and decline in mental and physical health in partners. A healthy lifestyle followed by medical treatment if necessary is recommended, along with lots of support from the partner,” advises Dr. Moore.
For women, menopause means a drop in estrogen, testosterone and growth hormone levels. This can affect sexual function in many ways including decreased desire, lack of lubrication and inability to respond even when excitement builds. It’s important to talk to your doctor about ways to combat these symptoms.
High blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disorders and high cholesterol can affect a woman’s sexual desire. These conditions affect blood flow, hormones and nerve signals.
Depression affects every aspect of life, including sex. If you are experiencing feelings of sadness, emptiness and fatigue that won't go away, you should seek professional counseling.
Certain medications can also lower your libido, among them anti-depressants and blood pressure drugs. Talk to your doctor about any medical condition or medication that is affecting your sex life.
“Guard your intimacy with all you have and never let it go. It is a powerful connection to another human whom you love and cherish,” says Dr. Moore. “Choose happy, healthy, sexy fun.”
But remember, this is a commitment that you and your partner must make together and work at.
As JJ says, “Remember, none of this will cause dramatic overnight changes. So practice, practice, practice!”
Stephanie Moore, MD, is a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is board certified in Internal Medicine as well as Cardiovascular Disease by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
JJ Virgin is one of the nation’s foremost fitness and nutrition experts, an accomplished public speaker and media personality. JJ appeared for two years as the nutrition expert on the top-rated Dr. Phil Show, and made appearances on shows such as Bonnie Hunt, ABC’s Extreme Makeover, and the E! channel’s Modern Girl’s Guide to Life. For more information and lifestyle tips, visit www.jjvirgin.com.