Sex: The Stress Reliever You Need Right Now

Photographed by Karen Sofia Colon.
It's no secret that consensual sex is healthy. It feels good, for one. Often, it brings you closer to your partner. It relieves stress — that amazing post-coital glow. And as it turns out, getting busy is an even better antidote to anxiety than many of us realize, experts are now saying.
Having an orgasm doesn't just buy us a few minutes or hours of tranquility. Regular sex might reduce tension in the long-term, lowering our baseline levels of stress, says Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., author of A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex and expert for sex toy brand LELO. "Think of it like a medication," she says. "You have to keep taking it to get the stress-relieving effects."
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Here's how it works: Sex reduces levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, according to research published in The Journal of Health and Social Behavior. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, brain chemicals that naturally boost your mood.
Sex — or any sexual activity, including masturbation and oral sex — can also trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone that may positively affect the mood, says Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., author of A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex and expert for sex toy brand LELO.
Oxytocin is often called the love hormone, Mintz explains. “It stimulates feelings of warmth and relaxation." It's best known for its ability to make you feel bonded to others; it's why you might feel especially close to your boo after partnered sex. But it's released anytime you orgasm, and can make you feel more chill.
Two other compounds that are released when you get off: dopamine, a neurotransmitter, and prolactin, a hormone. They're both shown to make you feel happier, and could contribute to your post-O Zen, Mintz says. Prolactin and oxytocin may also make you feel drowsy, she adds. That's a good thing, since "a good night's rest is associated with decreased stress," she notes.
Combining regular orgasms with another proven anti-stress technique may be an even more powerful way to unwind, Mintz says. "Maybe exercising daily and having a few orgasms a week could become an empirically supported way to treat anxiety,” she says. “I’d love to conduct that study."
But if you haven't been in the mood lately, there's no need to add sex to the list of things stressing you out. Plenty of people find that anxiety kills their libido. If that's you, there are tons of other study-backed ways to reduce tension levels, including exercising, meditating, and getting enough sleep.
Ultimately, you should aim to find activities that feel relaxing to you — and if having a great orgasm is one of those things, you can feel even better knowing that science is on your side.

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