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How to get back in touch with your sexual side if you miss it

If you haven’t felt sexy since 2019—same.

It might seem strange to read a story about how to feel sexier right now. It can seem unimportant considering the pressing concerns we’re all facing. Maybe you’re worried about your health, maybe you’re concerned about clear threats to democracy, or maybe you’re overwhelmed by childcare, work, and other pandemic-related stress. If how to feel sexier is the last thing you’re worried about, it’s understandable.

“We have to normalize that if you haven’t been ‘feeling it’ over the last few months, you’re normal,” AASECT-certified sex therapist Stephanie Buehler, Psy.D., author of What Every Mental Health Professional Needs to Know About Sex, tells SELF.

In fact, when facing stressful or traumatic situations, it’s natural to “go back and forth between feeling disconnected as a coping strategy,” psychologist Liz Powell, Ph.D., author of Building Open Relationships, tells SELF. “It can be hard to reconnect with our body because our brain is trying to keep us from feeling fear, dread, and horror.”

So no one blames you if sexiness isn’t top of mind right now (or ever—that’s perfectly valid too). But if it’s a core part of yourself that you’ve been missing or craving, tapping into that feeling can come with benefits. Yes, feeling sexier is helpful if you’d like to have sex or just be more in touch with that part of yourself, but if you’ve spent the last few months as a disembodied ball of anxiety, finding ways to embrace sensuality and sexiness might also remind you of a time before the pandemic. You could end up feeling a little more secure in your own body. It could serve as an excellent distraction from the stresses of life, and if you’re exploring sex with a partner, it could also help you feel closer to each other as a big bonus. Below, you’ll find a few tips from sex therapists to help you feel a bit sexier—if you want—right now.

1. Gauge your baseline sexual energy pre-pandemic.

Before you stress about whether or not you’ve lost your “spark,” try to remember what your sex drive and sensuality were like before, er, all of this. Often we talk about these feelings as if strong sexual desire is a default way of experiencing the world (it’s not). But before you fret too much about even your pre-pandemic sex drive not being “high enough,” try to remember that sexiness and sexuality are multifaceted, and ask yourself what you think might have contributed to feeling less sexual than you would like in the past. Maybe you’ll realize some of those factors have actually changed for the better, like if your sex drive felt “too low” before the pandemic because you were dealing with health issues or relationship challenges that aren’t a problem anymore. If your drive was sort of faint or nonexistent before, be gentle with yourself as you explore. For instance, you might read some books to help you embrace your sexuality, you might consider getting a new sex toy, or if you’re in a relationship, you could try talking to your partner about what you’re feeling. Understanding what feels “normal” for you can help you set reasonable expectations for what “feeling sexy” may look like for you in 2021 and beyond.

2. Carve out time to prioritize pleasure—and remember that it’s important for resilience.

It can be easy, with all of the obligations you’re facing, to talk yourself out of any sexual desires that might be cropping up. In fact, given the Capitol riot, ongoing pandemic, police brutality, and more, it can feel downright silly or even selfish. But it’s not. “You cannot get through the long-term effort that change requires without having times you make for pleasure and enjoyment,” Dr. Powell explains, adding that you should schedule “protected time for self-pleasure” and make it as important as work and social obligations.

3. Recognize that your body has probably changed.

Just as it’s important not to romanticize who you were before the pandemic, remember to acknowledge that a lot has changed over the last few months—and that this impacts your mind and your body. “We are not in the world we were in a year ago,” Dr. Powell says. “That means that the way your body experiences pleasure and the way that your body functions may be different right now.” If, for instance, you’ve found yourself glued to your social media feeds and news (so, most of us), it could be having an impact on your mind and body. Experiencing chronic stress—which involves fight or flight hormones like cortisol and adrenaline—can have a major impact on your libido. So if your tried-and-true ways of tuning into that side of yourself are less effective, Dr. Powell suggests you ask yourself what you need, like, “Do I have to turn off the news and get off Twitter so that my brain can calm down?” It might not directly result in you feeling sexier, but it could help minimize stress so that you can reconnect to your body.

4. Then, adopt an experimental attitude.

To do this, you can revisit things you’ve ruled out or just never considered, and let your curiosity inspire new ideas. Dr. Powell suggests asking yourself questions like, “Does it help me to watch something really steamy? Does it help me to read some erotica? Does it help me to watch some porn or take a long bubble bath?” Trying new things and creating full-blown rituals—like turning off your phone notifications, lighting a candle, and watching a really sexy movie on Netflix—might help you feel a little sexier. You can absolutely experiment on your own, but if you have a partner who is ready and willing to help you get more in touch with your sexual side, you can include them in your experimentation. If necessary, work on moving away from the idea of sex only being one particular act, Dr. Buehler says, adding that you and your partner can find ways to be sensual and affection without feeling pressure to have “full-on” sex.

5. Consider playing around with your decor.

Stay with us here! It might be hard to find ways to feel sensual when you’re spending a lot of time in your house, Dr. Buehler says. “I think that’s part of our sexuality—getting out in the world, having adventures.” Clearly, the pandemic has pressed pause on many people’s ability to safely embark upon various kinds of adventures. But you might be able to bring items into your house that excite your senses a little. If reaching for a scented candle feels like advice you’ve heard before, consider a pillow spray, new perfume, or a fragrant floral arrangement. Dr. Buehler also suggests looking at your environment and making changes like rearranging furniture (maybe that means putting your bed closer to the window so you can feel the sun even if you’re stuck inside, or removing your TV from your bedroom). You might also upgrade your bedding to a softer fabric that feels great on your skin, or you could bring in a plant—somewhere that you see it often—to spruce up your environment.

6. Wear your sexiest pre-pandemic outfit (yup, just to lounge at home).

Much the way tweaking your decor might encourage you to feel a bit sexier, dressing up can help. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to walk around in lingerie (unless you want to). Instead, you might slip on that really cute dress that makes you feel like Rihanna, even if you’re just wearing it at home. It’s not about dressing for a specific occasion. It’s about wearing something that makes you feel good. “I think it’s a good idea to look in your closet and pull something out that you feel good in, even if you feel a little silly,” Dr. Buehler says. If your go-to outfit doesn’t work that same magic—maybe it doesn’t fit like it used to or simply doesn’t make you feel hot—it might be a good time to treat yourself to a new outfit if you have the money.

7. Try yoga or other forms of exercise.

If you’re not feeling particularly sexy at the moment, Dr. Buehler suggests physical practices, like yoga or deep breathing. “It doesn’t have to be a Vinyasa yoga routine, but just doing some breathing exercises, slow movements, or connecting with your body and reminding yourself that you can feel at home in the body can help,” Dr. Buehler says. Additionally, moderate exercise, like jogging or your favorite cardio workout, might help in a lot of ways, including boosting your mood and maybe encouraging your libido, the Mayo Clinic says.

8. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about your sex life.

To be fair, not feeling as in touch with your sexual side as you like may not top your list of mental health concerns. But that doesn’t mean you have to ignore it if it’s bothering you. If you feel like losing your sexual identity or having a low sex drive is part of a larger issue, or you’re experiencing this along with feelings like grief, sadness, rage, or despair, you might need some support from a health professional. Even if you think that not feeling sexy is NBD, given all of the “other things” to fret over, you might find that talking through your concerns with your primary care provider or a mental health professional has an impact on how you feel overall. And you can work directly with a sex therapist to explore some of your feelings, if possible. “Don’t feel any trepidation or shame,” Dr. Buehler says. “Sometimes just a few sessions can be really helpful.”

Written by Patia Braithwaite.

This article originally appeared on Self US.

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