I used to struggle with anxiety a lot. It started when I was maybe about nine years old. I was living in China at the time, my parents were teaching English and I noticed that I had a little black spot on my tooth and in my little, child brain, I knew that we would have to go back to Canada to get it fixed because we were in a pretty rural area of China and we didn't speak Chinese and it was a whole thing. So I didn't tell my parents and I ended up losing a ton of hair from the stress of it. Isn't that crazy? So when I talk about anxiety, I know what I'm talking about. And not only have I struggled with anxiety just in everyday life, but also I had a ton of worries around the sexual experience before. Now I don't.
So I want to tell you the things that I have learnt around overcoming anxiety and making sure that I can still enjoy sex well.
So I am Janna Denton-Howes, I am a sex coach for married women, married to men, and I'm really excited to be here with you. I will say before I dive in, though, that once I found out that I was a highly sensitive person, I realized that I was really overstimulated and overwhelmed the majority of the time. And that has transformed my life because now I know I just need to schedule less. I need more alone time and more breaks and I've spoken a lot about being a highly sensitive person.
So I just offer that, if you are somebody who struggles with anxiety, which I'm guessing you are, because in this blog, we are going to be talking about how to enjoy sex more when you have anxiety. So let's move on to the three things that are just really, really important. Let's keep it simple.
Number one, welcome the anxiety in. It's not like you cross a threshold when you go into the sexual experience and now you have to be this sex goddess that is just a different person. You're you. You're still you with all your fears and worries and funky feelings that you can't really figure out and don't know how to name. You get to be you which includes the part of you that experiences anxiety. I like to think about it like a cute little plushy because they're so good. That's called cute aggression. When things are cute, you sort of squeeze them. So think about a little plush owl (see video for image) like a little anxiety. Let's call her anxiety owl. And anxiety owl gets to come into the sexual experience with you. You just get tucked in there and you don't have to get rid of anxiety owl, you don't have to shame anxiety owl, you don't need to push her away.
You just say, "Oh, there you are anxiety owl and I accept you. You just stay there for a little bit and I'm going to enjoy some pleasure and you can just be around. If you want to leave, that's totally fine but I accept you just the way you are." So this is about not having a need to perform. The sexual experience is about your pleasure, it's about your enjoyment, it's nourishing, it's a self care practice for you. So you can say to yourself, "This provides me relaxation. It doesn't take it away from me." So make sure that your sexual experiences, or what I like to call “exploration dates”, are designed in such a way that they are a self care practice. Okay? So welcome the anxiety in. Don't try to push her away.
Number two, talk it out, talk it out loud, put a voice to your feelings even if you do not know what they are or where they stem from or how to fix it. It can get really, really scary. So just talk it out. You can say to your husband, "I don't know what's going on, but I'm feeling really anxious. I just don't know what's going on." And you might need to explore those feelings a bit. Maybe it's around finances, or maybe it's about decisions, parenting, or just not being able to manage the household. There are lots of worries that we can have.
So look at your partner as a helpmate, an intimate friend who is curious about you, who wants to support you. You're not just there to provide a need for somebody else.
You're there to experience pleasure and enjoyment and connection, and you get to be all of you in the sexual experience. So don't bottle it up. Don't say, "Oh, I'll just deal with this myself," because what you resist, persists. And so talk it out loud, put it out in the open, and it will eventually kind of dissipate and not feel so big anymore.
And the last thing is to ask for reassurance. When you're talking it out loud and you're working through stuff, all you need your partner to say is, "Come here and be anxious with me." You don't need them to fix it or offer solutions or tell you just to calm down and get over it or to be more easygoing. None of those things really work, do they? But if you can ask for what you need, that’s where anxiety loses some power. You can ask yourself, "Is it okay that I have some funky feelings right now?" and then you can tell him what you need. And all you need him to say is, "Come here and be with me in your anxiety. I accept all of you."
So these tips will work whether you're experiencing anxiety around the intimate experience (if you're worried about performing, or your body working, or have some trauma left over), or if you're experiencing anxiety from other stuff in your life. Again, the tips are, welcome the anxiety in, talk it out loud, and ask for reassurance or ask for acceptance. Let your husband know exactly what you need him to say and what you need to hear because he doesn't know. He thinks, "I’ve got to fix it." We're not going to fix the anxiety owl. We're just going to accept the anxiety owl. I hope those helped you. You have all my empathy because I know what it's like to feel this way. It's very, very challenging and you're not alone. I hope those tips helped. I'll talk to you next time.