How to Have a Mentally Healthy Sex Life During COVID-19

Published on: 02 Apr 2020
Clinically Reviewed by Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
mentally healthy sex life during coronavirus

I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, how is anyone supposed to have a sex life at all during this pandemic?”

Well, just because your sex life as you know it is on pause, it doesn’t mean that you have to throw your sexuality out the window and live like a nun (unless you want to!)

We spoke to two “sexperts” about how you can have a mentally healthy sex life during COVID-19 while still following quarantine guidelines and practicing social distancing.

Follow the Rules

Sure, you’ve heard the old cliche that rules are meant to be broken, but in the present case, the rules are really, really, really meant to be followed. We have to listen to the doctors and public health experts. In order to flatten the curve and keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy, we have to keep up with the social distancing measures. If you live with your partner and you both have been quarantining together the whole time — go ahead and have all the sex you want!

If not, listen to the experts. Stay home – and that doesn’t mean inviting someone over to stay home with you for the night. By doing so you’d be exposing yourself to the virus. While sexual frustration can get real bad, real fast, it’s important to still follow the guidelines set by medical professionals. You can’t have sex (as we know it) with someone who is six feet away from you. But, that said, there are other ways to have a mentally healthy sex life while quarantining or social distancing.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

Though there are hundreds of uncertainties surrounding this pandemic, one thing we know for sure is that we are not alone in this. Many people are feeling lonely, scared, anxious, and sex deprived. It’s okay to feel sad and frustrated about what we’re going through, and this includes the change to your sex life.

“It’s legitimate to grieve what you’ve lost for the time being,” says Jennifer Gunsaullus, PhD, Sociologist and Intimacy Speaker, and author of From Madness to Mindfulness: Reinventing Sex for Women. “There have been so many disappointments in the past few weeks…things canceled and [changes to the] lifestyles that we’re used to. Fear and anxiety around loss of human connection and sexual outlets and expression and everything that comes with that…those are legitimate things to acknowledge and grieve.” She recommends being mindful, acknowledging what is going on, and allowing yourself to process it, but not wallowing in the loss.

Get comfortable with your sexuality and address shame

All this newfound alone time can be a period to be introspective and explore your sexuality and get more comfortable with yourself. Sex and masturbation are 100% natural and “normal,” regardless of whether some folks still feel embarassment or shame surrounding sexuality. Gunsaullus recommends leaning in to your feelings and sitting mindfully with them, and digging into what the roots of your shame could be. She suggests asking yourself what you might have been taught about sex and masturbation from a young age, whether through family or church or school.

“You are a product of your society and how you’ve been trained around sex,” she says. “Do not blame yourself and do not think you’re broken or beat yourself up.” She recommends journaling as a tool during this time to help dig through feelings. This could also be a great topic to discuss with your online therapist if you have one.

Reap the Benefits of Masturbation

Masturbation is absolutely the safest type of sex to have during this pandemic — and at any other time. You can use this partner-less time to become your own best lover, learn more about your body, and get in touch with yourself (no pun intended).

According to sexologist Jess O’Reilly, PhD., host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast, masturbation’s benefits go far beyond releasing sexual tension. She notes that many people who masturbate regularly are more comfortable with their bodies. “Masturbation not only fosters a positive connection with your body, but it can enhance self-esteem,” she says. “When your body performs – through a sport, dance, a hike or a session of pleasure – you may experience an increase in confidence and tend to focus on its strengths as opposed to its ‘problems.’”

Not to mention, masturbation during quarantine can set you up for better sex once we’re finally allowed back into the world. “[Those who masturbate] know more about their bodies and their unique sexual responses, so they can better direct their lover during partnered sex,” says O’Reilly. “They realize the orgasms are experiences — not something you simply give or receive.”

Plus, O’Reilly notes masturbation and orgams can help you de-stress, and I think we can all agree we need some stress relief in our life right now. This is because feel-good hormones like dopamine and oxytocin, and neurotransmitters like endorphins, are released during the masturbation, which will make you feel relaxed and maybe even give you a mood boost and a better night sleep.

Spice up your solo sex life

It’s normal for couples want to spice up their sex life, but it’s equally normal for an individual to want to spice up their solo sex life. If you’re already a seasoned self-pleaser, you might want to consider doing some online shopping for new sex toys to spice things up.

If you aren’t ready for the world of toys, or if you’re just beginning your masturbation journey and getting comfortable with your body, both O’Reilly and Gunsaullus recommend mindful or meditiave masturbation, which involves being present, curious, and in touch with your body and breath. “It really is a self nurturing and nourishing time to slow down with your body and appreciate it,” says Gunsaullus. “There’s no right or wrong, but you don’t want to have an orgasm as the goal. Anytime you’re distracted, just acknowledge the distraction and choose to bring your focus back to this really mindful experience of cherishing and exploring your body.”

Practice safe sexting

While physical sex with another human is out of the question, sexting, phone sex, Skype sex, and everything in between is fair game. This can be a fun way to add some excitement into your solo play and to get some much needed human interaction. Gunsaullus recommends sexting with those who you were physically intimate with before quarantine, if it’s someone you felt comfortable with and feel like you can continue to trust. While sexting doesn’t come along with risks of STIs or unwanted pregnancies, there is the potential risk of the texts, photos, or videos being shared — so make sure you choose your virtual sex partners wisely.

Gunsaullus says, “I’m a fan of thinking before you go into any sexual act, online or otherwise, ‘Okay, tomorrow morning when I wake up, am I going to be like, ‘I’m so glad I did that’ or ‘Why the hell did I do that?’”

That being said — use your judgement as you would in an in-person sex situation. With the right trustworthy person, you can have some very fun virtual sex. Gunsaullus recommends using this as a time to explore fantasies and use your imagination.

See? There are plenty of ways to have a mentally healthy sex life during these unsettled times — without breaking the guidelines for social distancing. Follow these tips to keep yourself healthy and your libido in check during quarantine, and please, please stay at home!

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

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