Have you ever been so worried about how you look or perform during sex that it becomes too difficult to even enjoy yourself? You could be experiencing performance anxiety, when a person’s state of mind affects their ability to perform sexually. For many, this apprehension is rooted in the fear of failing to please a partner sexually and, specifically, the humiliation or rejection often tied to displeasure.
Performance anxiety in intimate settings takes many shapes: comparing yourself to your partner’s former lovers, body dysmorphia or the fear that you won’t make a partner orgasm. These thoughts can manifest as erectile dysfunction, heart palpitations, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection or vaginismus (when the muscles in the vagina tighten).
Since stress can sometimes get the best of us, and impact our sex lives, we’re offering some tips we believe will help you grow confidence and work through negative thinking.
Shift your focus.
Your inability to perform from time to time does not mean that you are inadequate or undeserving of future pleasurable experiences. Be gentle with yourself during these moments. Next time, try shifting your focus on the cause of your stress and anxiety rather than the symptoms. If you ever need to take a break or withdraw from the experience, that is OK. Take care of yourself first.
Tap into your senses.
While you might be in your head trying to figure out what your partner(s) are thinking and if what you’re doing feels good for them, take a moment to pause and focus on your senses. Start with one at a time: Focus on what you’re touching. Notice what you see directly in front of you. Perhaps add a scented candle or music to elevate your overall sensory experience. Whatever it is that helps you get out of your thoughts, lead with it and allow the experience to guide you.
While tapping into your senses helps, it might not give you the answers you’re looking for from your partner(s). The only way you’ll know whether or not things feel good for your partner(s) is to simply ask them. Intimacy involves participation, consent and communication from all parties, which means asking questions is key to having a good time. Schedule time with your partner(s), and let them know you want to have an honest, open conversation about how you’ve been feeling and how things are going sexually.
Research shows that 20 to 30 minutes of exercise multiple times a week improves performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction. When we exercise, our body releases a cocktail of hormones that lower our stress levels. This will help you perform sexually and give your overall well-being a natural, “feel-good” boost as well.