Maybe you’ve been keeping your distance from others for a while now. Maybe your relationship didn’t survive lockdown and you’re ready for something new. Or maybe you just haven’t been in the right headspace to be intimate for some time. Whatever the reason, it’s possible that it’s been a hot minute since someone has seen you naked.
It makes total sense to be nervous about appearing in the buff and getting busy after all we’ve been through. Here are three ways to reduce sex anxiety and feel more confident about getting back in the sack.
Piling feelings like guilt and shame, especially when it comes to our bodies, on top of preexisting anxiety can be a huge burden, so we want to examine our own self-talk and how it affects us.
Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of a lack of information. Using positive self-talk when you speak to yourself about not only your body but your feelings themselves is an important part of reducing anxiety.
Struggling with positive self-talk? Imagine how you might talk to a friend or loved one who was feeling the same pressure of guilt, shame, and anxiety. What would you say to them? So it’s been six, twelve, eighteen, or a million months since you’ve slept with someone? Of course you’ll feel out of practice! It’s just like anything else. Once you get back in the swing of things, your anxiety levels will go down. That’s totally normal.
We’re not negating the fact that we might feel anxious. Of course we’re feeling anxious! We’re just validating our emotions and treating ourselves with kindness and understanding. We don’t want negative feelings to compound upon negative feelings to the point where we’re overburdened by them.
If being seen naked is something that you want to do and, while you know that it will bring you fulfillment and joy in the future, it’s going to make you feel uncomfortable for a little while, think about something that you can do to creation a cushion around that activity that will help your self-esteem right now.
So if you’re going on a date and you’re a little stressed by the knowledge that you’re going to end up getting busy by the end of it, what can you do to provide yourself with a little joy and comfort?
You can even work with a therapist who specializes in sex. Through sex therapy, you can address concerns about sexual function, sexual feelings, and intimacy. Talking about sex and intimacy may initially feel awkward or cause you even more anxiety, but sex therapists are trained to put you at ease and are skilled at identifying and exploring sexual concerns.
Remember that no one should ever pressure you to move faster than you’re ready for. You operate on your timeline and your timeline alone, however swift or relaxed it might be. You don’t want to push yourself so far past your boundaries that you feel demoralized or like you can’t move forward anymore.
But if you’re ready, think long-term about where you would like to be and how you would like to feel in a few months and break that down into manageable steps that will challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone in a healthy and supportive way.
You might start by going on dates, being intimate in less risqué ways, moving at a pace that feels comfortable for you, taking time to process what happened and how you felt, and working up to a level of intimacy and a cadence that feels exciting and fulfilling to you. If it helps, you can journal about your experience or simply take time to reflect on where you started and how you’re progressing so you gain more confidence as you move through the process.
We often internalize a lot of judgement, opinions, values, and ideals from external sources like romantic partners, friends and peers, social media, television and movies, and more. When you’re working on your own sex anxiety, try to focus as much as you can on your internally generated vision of yourself.
Explore and center your own value set, your wants and needs for yourself, and your own ideas of health and beauty over those assigned to you by others. You can create a vision board, plan, or mantra for yourself to center your own vision and de-prioritize the influence of others that might try to creep in.
We want you to live for you and create a world and a routine that fulfills you and resonates with you and is rooted in your values and your goals—and that includes tackling sex anxiety and having an intimate life that works for you.
Caitlin is an organizational change strategist, advisor, writer, and the founder of Commcoterie, a change management communication consultancy. She helps leaders and the consultants who work with them communicate change for long-lasting impact. Caitlin is a frequent speaker, workshop facilitator, panelist, and podcast guest on topics such as organizational change, internal communication strategy, DEIBA, leadership and learning, management and coaching, women in the workplace, mental health and wellness at work, and company culture. Find out more, including how to work with her, at www.commcoterie.com.