Erectile dysfunction (ED) happens when you run into difficulties getting an erection hard and firm enough for you and your partner to enjoy vigorous, satisfying sex.
ED might also include situations when you manage to get it up, but can’t keep it engorged long enough or if you don’t last as long as you want to (or used to).
And there’s no doubt about it: ED can be a distressing and harrowing ordeal for many of us. But don’t worry – erectile dysfunction is common. 40 million American men experience some form of ED at one point in time or another, but the good news is that it is treatable.
ED is triggered by a bunch of factors. Some of them physical, some of them genetic, and some of them psychological.
One of the primary psychological factors that cause erectile dysfunction is stress.
Daily stress and anxiety caused by problems at work, family, finances, or society, as well as poor habits such as lack of sleep (among others) can seriously affect every aspect of your health – sexual health included. And it only goes downhill as you age.
There aren’t many issues as horrifyingly devastating to sex than anxiety and stress. That’s because these factors could do a number not just on your own personal health and well-being, but also your intimate relationships – complicating even your sex life. They could also hamper the complex reproductive and sexual processes that allow you to enjoy the best of sex.
Here’s how stress and anxiety can lead to a decline in sexual function – and how to reduce it to enjoy sex well into your golden years.
Stress: a vicious, recurring cycle
Stress affects sexual function in many ways.
When the body responds to stress, blood redirects itself away from the penis to prioritize supplying the large muscle groups.
Stress could also boost norepinephrine levels in the brain. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter and hormone that constricts the blood vessels, which is the exact opposite of what you need to obtain an erection – that is, expanded blood vessels to allow for unimpeded blood flow to the penis.
Prolonged, constant bouts of stress could also lead to infertility, diminishing sperm production and quality.
It doesn’t end there: the constant propaganda we are bombarded with 24/7 through the internet and social media influences cultural and personal ideas about what the perfect man and perfect relationships ought to be.
This leads to millions of unhappy relationships burdened by the weight of some imaginary (and arbitrary) criteria of sexual satisfaction.
The fact is, many men might take longer to obtain and maintain an erection as they age – but all of this is just a normal consequence of aging. However, aging brings more experience and wisdom to men’s sex lives, and all it often takes is to make the necessary adjustments to enjoy sex. This includes making time for reset breaks, switching positions, or trying new things between the sheets.
That’s not to say you can’t still enjoy sex as you did back in your younger year.
By making some simple yet impactful changes, and learning how to deal with stress and anxiety better, you can enjoy a much better sex life by the stressors that affect it in the first place.
Concrete steps you can take
To continue enjoying a happy, healthy, sexy life as you get older, you must say no to stress and learn how to relax. Here are some simple ways you can reduce the stress level in your life:
- Get adequate amounts of rest and downtime. Balance is what happy, healthy individuals pursue in their lives. And if you’re a workaholic, remember that you will function better by taking your rest and relaxation seriously. Getting six to eight hours of sleep everyday is a good start.
- Have more sex. It’s easy to feel stress and tension when you’re spending your waking hours obsessing over burdensome thoughts like the fear of not being able to pleasure your partner. And sometimes, all you need is to actually just do it – engaging in sex could be the perfect antidote. Sex improves your circulatory function and boosts blood volume while increasing oxygen and blood flow throughout the body – all of which contribute to optimal sexual health.
- Go for healthier food choices. Carrying an unhealthy amount of weight isn’t good for your self-confidence, and it sure won’t do your sex drive any favors. Eating better promotes positive mental thoughts and confidence. Get your share of vegetables, fruits, and healthy proteins such as fish, apart from whole grains, rather than processed foods that are laden with fat, sugar, and sodium.
- Stop comparing. It’s tempting to view Instagram feeds of men who have aged well and enjoying fabulous lifestyles, and feel that you can’t cut the mustard. But always comparing yourself to others can damage your mental health immensely, while adding unnecessary pressure to your sex life.
- Leave stress outside the bedroom. Consider transforming the negative energy that stress and anxiety bring into positive mental energy. Concentrate on harnessing that energy towards action and stimulation instead.
Learning how to manage stress is part and parcel of keeping balance between good physical and mental health. Traumatic experiences do increase the likelihood of contracting disease by the individuals affected by them.
However, it’s important to remember to learn how to deal with emotions arising from such events by dealing with them in a healthy way. Some individuals are able to put stressful experiences in the past behind them, and instead focus on what they can do in the here and now.
In addition, taking up hobbies such as exercise, meditation, and yoga – or any other hobby, for that matter – can go a long way in helping individuals recover from past traumatic experiences and manage their daily stress productively.
Yes, it takes a lot of fortitude, strength, and conscious efforts to deal with stress, but it’s also important to remember that all good things take time. All of us deal with stress differently. But by confronting the beast head-on, your entire life – not just your sex life – will be better for it well into your adulthood.