Ask Yourself These 3 Questions -- Reduce Holiday Stress through Mindfulness

“Wander into the center of the circle of wonder.” This was a suggestion by Hongzhi Zhengjue, a Zen teacher in the 1100s. Consider how perfect this is for the holidays. Our minds wander a lot. The holidays are about wonderment and joy. But we are often so far off-track from this and wandering without awareness, we can’t enjoy the wonder of the holidays and without getting mired in habit and negativity.

What are your top priorities of the holidays? Often people will say food, family, quality time, shopping for presents, parties, and juggling many priorities.

What are the values of the holidays? Perhaps these resonate with you: love, appreciation, time with loved ones, generosity, belief, laughter, pleasure.

But what gets in the way of living these values? Stress, over-juggling, materialism and consumerism, trying to please others out of guilt, decorations and food to “perfection,” and focusing on the above priorities without being present, grateful, or recognizing your choices.

So if you find yourself feeling off-track these holidays, or feeling overwhelmed with resentment, frustration, guilt, judgment, or sadness, use these three questions to guide you back on course:

  1. Am I present and aware in this moment? (And do I have compassion for myself and others in this moment?)
  2. Am I grateful for myself and others? (And if I’m writing this down, or sharing verbally with others, am I including details about WHY I’m grateful and WHAT it means to me?)
  3. Am I making healthy choices? (Consider whether you’re realizing and owning that you’re making decisions, and consider if those choices are in your highest interest.)

I suggest writing these three questions down on sticky notes and posting them in places that will break you from your automatic patterns, and remind you that you can do things differently if you’d like. Being present in any moment helps us observe more accurately what’s actually happening, versus being on automatic pilot and reactive. Wonder and awe live in the spontaneity of a moment. So take a few deep breaths, observe with gratitude your surroundings, and make a choice to nurture and love yourself through wonder.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego Sexuality Speaker, Sexologist, Sex & Mindfulness Speaker

(The lovely image was borrowed from this site.)

Dear Dr. Jenn - Too Stressed for Sex

Dear Dr. Jenn~

My girlfriend and I haven’t been having much sex recently and I think it’s because I’m always stressed about work. I just don’t feel like having sex much (I never thought I would say that!) and although it’s still good when we have it, I feel like I’m always distracted. I’m 29 and my girlfriend says I’m too young to be feeling this way! What can I do to want sex more?


Too Stressed for Sex

—- Too Stressed for Sex,

Work stress can definitely take a toll on a relationship, as well as your ability to enjoy sex. Unfortunately as Americans, we often “live to work” instead of “work to live,” and this focus on work can detract from other more meaningful parts of our lives. Stress can impact sex in multiple ways. First, the ongoing release of stress hormones in the body can cause our adrenal glands to inhibit our sex hormones. This can mean a reduced sex drive. As well, stress fatigues the body and can interfere with sleep, all leading to less energy for life overall, let alone sex. You also said that you are distracted during sex, which sounds like you can’t let go of work once you are home.  This can certainly hamper your pleasure in the moment, and I’m guessing your girlfriend can tell the difference too.

One of the best ways to reduce stress is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is being present in the moment, and observing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, without judgment. This is a skill that can be learned through daily practices. I suggest sitting quietly for 10 to 15 minutes each day, to start retraining your brain. Just begin by observing your breath. If your thoughts lead you away from observing your breath, gently bring your focus back. Do this over and over and over again. That is the practice of mindfulness. It sometimes helps people to label their thoughts once they notice the distraction. You can ask yourself: Was I planning? Worrying? Judging myself? Making a list? Organizing? Place a label on the thought pattern and bring yourself back to the present moment. I also recommend finding a guided mindfulness meditation online to help strengthen your focus and build your meditative muscles.

What does mindfulness or mediation have to do with sex? Research has found that mindfulness-based practices are incredibly valuable in reducing stress. As outlined above, reducing stress is important for your sex drive. Mindfulness can also help you slow down, be more aware of your state of being, and make different choices regarding thoughts and feelings. This will allow you to be more present with your girlfriend. The more you practice mindfulness in everyday ways, the easier it will be to apply to the bedroom. This will keep your sexual energy flowing and help you enjoy the delicious sensations in the moment.


Dr. Jenn

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker