Sex should be good for you, right? That's why we created a self-care sex guide that allows you to take control of your sex life—which can help improve your overall well-being.
They don't call self-care self-love for nothing. Self-care is about giving our mental, emotional and physical health priority. While spin class, stress reduction, confidence-boosting, getting some rest, face masking, et al, are a part of that, sex should fit in the lineup, too.
"Self-care is highly individual," says Toronto-based sexologist and host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast, Dr. Jess O'Reilly. "If sex makes you feel good—physically, emotionally, spiritually or in some other way—then it might qualify as a form of self-care."
If you want to improve your sex life, sexual relationship or just have more fun between the sheets, the way to do so is by taking a self-care approach. Here are the rules to follow.
Rule 1: Put yourself first
The first rule of self-care club is to focus on yourself. "Prioritizing your own needs is important in all relationships—including sexual relationships," says Dr. O'Reilly. Be willing to ask for what you want and set boundaries, too. "Learning to be a receiver of pleasure is just as important as learning to be a giver." This can not only benefit you, but also the relationship for both of you.
Rule 2: Create rituals
Do you know what puts you in the mood? Really puts you in the mood? Dr. O'Reilly offers clients, and you, this "Fire & Ice" assignment:
Create a list with two columns; one labelled "Fire" and the other "Ice." Under "Fire," write down all the things that put you in the mood and/or make you enjoy sex more. She gives examples such as being well-rested, a white-noise machine to drown out background sound, yoga, turning off your phone at 7 p.m., flirting throughout the day, fantasizing about sex with a stranger, whatever. Under "Ice," list the things kill the mood, such as exhaustion, kids banging on the door, frustrated with your partner, working late, drinking too much the day before—anything. Update this list as needed and aim to facilitate more "fire" rituals into your daily routine.
Rule 3: Add more fun to #SelfCareSunday
"Self-care isn't as effective if it's special," says Dr. O'Reilly, "it's most effective when it's the norm as opposed to the exception." And that makes sense. The benefits of a one-off will be short-lived.
Scheduling sex isn't a bad thing. In fact, it can be fun. Dr. O'Reilly says to take turns planning and instigating the romp. "When one partner is disproportionately tasked with initiating sex, it can lead to frustration and resentment." And create fun rules too to keep sex fresh. "For example, ban sex from the bed for a few weeks or introduce a new toy every month."
Rule 4: Be in the present
Mindfulness is a big part of self-care, and it should be with sex too. It boosts sexual satisfaction and will allow you to fully enjoy the sexual experience more. Dr. O'Reilly says that intentional breathing, visualization, emotional presence and touching can help. She teaches a course on "Mindful Sex: Deeper Connection, Intimacy and Pleasure" and offers the following breathing techniques:
Wave breathing: Visualize yourself lying on a beach. With each inhale allow the waves to roll over your body, and with each exhale allow the waves to retreat and roll back out to the ocean.
Cloud breathing: Visualize yourself inside a warm fluffy cloud; with each inhale, allow the cloud to tighten over your body providing warmth and comfort and with each exhale allow the cloud to expand into the blue sky.
Rule 5: Empower yourself to say no
We often think of improving sex as saying "yes" more often, but that's not the case when it comes to self-care sex. "If the pressure to have sex causes you distress or is a source of tensioning the relationship, it's important to work to resolve this pressure." You can say no.
"One exercise I assign involves learning to say ‘yes' and ‘no' to simple offers and requests. Think of three tasks that you would usually say ‘yes' to despite your reluctance to complete them," says Dr. O'Reilly, adding examples like driving a friend to the airport during rush hour. "Make a commitment to say ‘no' without guilt." But also consider the reverse, she says. What would you say "no" to despite a desire to say "yes?"
"It may be difficult at first, but being honest about your boundaries and needs can be empowering and with time these communication skills will begin to arise naturally translating into greater satisfaction in and out of the bedroom."
Don't wait for anyone else to take charge of taking care of you.
Single? Partner not around? "Self-Pleasure—masturbation—can also help you to discover new pathways to pleasure and learn to prioritize yourself in bed," says Dr. O'Reilly. "I suggest that you treat your own self-pleasure routine with the same care and respect with which you treat partnered sex: Change things up, keep it fresh and try new things." Benefits can include, better orgasms, increased body awareness and avoiding sexual ruts—plus, "sex can be hotter by yourself."