I know I might not look it, but I am an anxious person. I worry constantly about my status as a non-employed person being supported and about several other existential worries. And yes, for a long while I worried about sex. But over the years, I’ve slowly learned ways to manage the nagging fears and worries in the sexual arena, and it’s made all the difference. This is intended to be a comprehensive guide to conquering all of your insecurities, but are some tips to get you started. And so without further ado: how to manage your anxiety and have better sex.
- Get on a reliable birth control method. If you’ve got a vagina and ovaries, there’s a lot of fantastic options out there. Personally, I would advocate for the IUD if your insurance covers it and you can tolerate slightly more painful menstrual cramps that the procedure feels like. But if that’s not your style, other options include the pill, the ring, the implant, and the Depo-shot. If you’ve got a penis, sadly there are far fewer options for controlling your fertility. The best I can offer you is condoms unless you’d like to get a vasectomy.
- Get an STI test. Most health clinics will offer one and most insurance covers it. This is basic sexual health and I understand that it may be incredibly nerve wracking to go into a clinic, but you shouldn’t encounter anything other than routine tests. They may take blood, do a vaginal swab, and may take a urine sample. It’s a little inconvenient, but having test results to look at will alleviate a lot of gnawing fears. And being tested in advance makes it easy to ask your partner or partners to get tested as well since you’ve gone ahead.
- Have pregnancy tests on hand/emergency contraception on hand. If there’s a possibility you or your partners could get pregnant, having a test handily available will make it much easier for the pair of you to learn your results and then make decisions from there. Emergency contraception (the pill kind) is also extremely valuable, as having it handily available will kneecap a lot of pregnancy anxiety. It’s no substitute for regular birth control, but if your regular methods should fail, then this is vital. Plan B has a four year shelf life, so you don’t have to use it right away for it to be effective. It can be ordered online now, so make sure you’ve got something on hand before you have sex to prevent these sorts of fears.
- Negotiate in advance what you want to do. This can be as simple as you like. But honestly telling your partner what you’re into and what acts are on or off the table is a good way to start.
These are the beginner tips. Once you’ve got these settled, here are a few more specific ones to make your sex life that much better:
- Light the room. Having a softly lit room can do wonders for the ambience and will cast you in your best light. If you overhead light leaves something to be desired, consider some fairy lights or a standing lamp to cast your room in a warm glow.
- Wear your good luck accessories. Not everyone has access to perfectly tailored lingerie or fetishwear. But a pair of bondage rope earrings? Rocking that accessory is not only cute but gives your partner a sorta subtle clue about what you’re into. If that seems too daring, pick anything that makes you feel sensual and beautiful.
- Fish for a compliment or two. Listen, we all want to feel attractive and appreciated. While you shouldn’t pester your potential partner with questions about your own attractiveness, asking for a little feedback is normal and will boost your self esteem.
- Journal about your worst fear. Once you’ve got your fear on the page, you can properly address it. Maybe you’ll see it’s something irrational, like your partner being a murderous serial killer. Or maybe it’s more rational, like you’re worried about a particular scar. Either way, now that you’ve got it on paper, you can address it and formulate a way to communicate it to your partner.
- Take a deep breath and think about your best feature. If you’re plagued by anxiety with how your body looks, consider that this person likely wouldn’t have accepted your invitation to sleep with you if they didn’t find you attractive. And also? Mostly, people have what you expect under their clothes. There will be genitals, shaved or hairy or some stage in between. There will be cellulite, scars, freckles and birthmarks. They have all these things, just like you. And they probably don’t care about yours.
- Exercise. Now I don’t mean in the lose weight sense. I mean in the ‘get your blood flowing and your endorphins going sense’. Exercise often makes people feel more positive and upbeat. Whatever this looks like for you is excellent. Maybe you go up and down some stairs or walk around the block a few times. Maybe you bust out a couple squats. Whatever it is, a little light exercise will help you feel more confident.
- Know that you’re valuable and worthy even if the encounter isn’t magical. This one is hard. If something goes wrong, it’s very easy to get very down on yourself. Please don’t. Not being able to make someone come or having a a lackluster experience in bed is normal and not something you need to beat yourself about. If you listened to your partner, respected their boundaries, and had consensual sex then you did your best. Encounters can go wrong for all kinds of reasons, and some may not have anything to do with you.
As I said, this isn’t a comprehensive guide. But as someone who used to agonize over sex and what could happen, following these kinds of guidelines has helped me to have much more pleasurable encounters that don’t have anxiety buzzing in the back of my head. So go forth and have fun!