What’s the best way to relieve stress and experience more pleasure?
“I swear to all that is good, if you tell me to ‘just breathe’ one more time, I will punch you in the throat.” Those were the words that came out of my mouth during a counseling session about 15 years ago. The more people told me that breathing was the key to fixing all that frustrated me, the harder it became for me to breathe. “Just breathe,” they would say. And my response was to feel ashamed, which came with tightened muscles, increased stress and anxiety, and quicker, more shallow breathing.
They thought they were being helpful but, instead, they added fuel to the fire and pushed me closer—or into—a full fight/flight response. This frustrated them and it made me feel like a complete failure. I had to find another way! So I did.
I spent years studying trauma, stress, and the nervous system response. Then I used what I learned in my classroom with teachers and parents in the high-needs community where I worked as a public school teacher. Today, I couldn’t be more grateful for what I learned then, as well as what I learned during my journey with Sex Coach U. Being a sex coach means helping our clients experience their maximum pleasure potential, which is associated with nervous system regulation.
Throughout the day we encounter stressors which, when we feel we do not have the ability to handle them, trigger the stress response. When triggered, we go into fight or flight mode and the sympathetic nervous system is activated. At first, this can feel exciting, but a sustained stress response inhibits the parasympathetic nervous system (aka “the relaxation response”), which is a key player in arousal.
In order to have the best sex of their lives, our clients need to feel they have the resources to deal with stressors. You can provide them with tools to do just that.
More than “Just Breathe”
Breathing is, in fact, one of the fastest and most effective ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, but it is not the only one. Providing our clients with a variety of methods to relieve stress and to complete the stress response cycle helps them move closer to their innate ability to regulate breathing, rather than pushing them away from it.
Let me give you an example. During a sex coaching session, I was working with Jamie* who had recently recovered from Covid. They had been sick for six months and were finishing up physical and occupational therapy to help get back to their pre-Covid self. At one point, tears welled up in their eyes, their muscles became tight, and they were taking shallow breaths high in their chest. The last thing I wanted to do was tell them to “just breathe.”
Instead, I made eye contact to create a personal connection, invited them to cry, and hit the button to play nature sounds in the background. In less than a minute, Jamie’s muscles relaxed and they started taking deeper abdominal breaths naturally on their own.
During sex coaching sessions, we can guide our clients through this. However, they need to feel confident they can regulate their own systems so they can move from a state of anxiety and into a state where they can focus on what is important to them, be that practicing breathwork meditations, playing with their kids, or experiencing sexual pleasure.
13 Ways to Relieve Stress
Here is a list of tools you can discuss with your clients as you guide them to finding what works best for them.
Relieve Stress with Water
Water is a physical focus element, whether taking a shower or bath, sipping from a glass, or playing in it. Staying hydrated also helps to reduce the amount of cortisol, “the stress hormone,” in our systems. Water sounds can be calming and soothing for some.
Visualization and guided imagery exercises activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Activities like roleplay, writing, drawing, or talking about hopes and dreams, reading fantasy, romance, or other fiction books, and making up and telling stories are just some of the ways your clients can engage the imagination to reduce stress.
Activities like prayer, yoga, Tai Chi, chakra meditations, reciting spiritual affirmations, and practicing spiritual BDSM helps us feel a spiritual connection. Spiritual people have more stress resilience and a heightened sense of belonging to the world around them.
Relieve Stress with Music
Understanding how music affects our nervous system and providing clients with a playlist or assisting them in creating their own can be a powerful tool in your sex coaching practice. One song in particular, “Weightless” by Marconi Union, has been studied and proven to reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, and effectively reduce anxiety in patients prior to surgery. It even proves better at increasing relaxation levels than massage.
Therapeutic laughter is another way to regulate the nervous system. Because the body doesn’t know the difference between laughter that happens spontaneously and simulated laughter, it is posited that laughter yoga and other methods of inducing laughter are effective ways to support mental health.
Celebrating is a super fun and easy way to practice gratitude and giving this option to your clients is a great way to help them reap its benefits! Celebration doesn’t have to be only for milestones or big projects, it can be done for “little” accomplishments, too. And it doesn’t have to be expensive or take a lot of time. Bonus: It’s also fun to do during sessions!
Self-compassion has proven to reduce levels of stress and anxiety, increase resilience, and improve relationship functioning. This is a powerful tool for clients with body image issues and those struggling with self-criticism. I have found it especially helpful for my clients who struggle with feeling like they have to do “all the things” and just can’t quite get everything done the way they “should.” Understanding that they are not alone in this and giving themselves permission to be human relieves stress and creates space for sexual curiosity and pleasure.
Intimacy happens in a variety of ways with romantic partners, friends, family, and the community. This could be a conversation with a friend, cuddling, a 20-second hug, or a six-second kiss. One of my favorite resources to share with clients looking to connect with their partner is Dr. Patti’s “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sensual Massage.”
Crying is a natural human response but many of our clients believe it is a “negative” behavior. Helping them understand its benefits gives them permission to lean into this expression of emotion and let it move through them. This process activates the parasympathetic nervous system and induces calmness.
Getting creative allows one to process emotions, to share with others, and gives a feeling of value. It isn’t just about art; it happens when we intentionally express ourselves through clothing, makeup, and hairstyles, in the way we decorate our homes and offices, when we problem-solve, and when we allow ourselves to have fun.
Connecting with nature allows us to get back in touch with our senses. Spending 20 minutes outside in nature is a sure way to feel calm during a hectic day. And if that’s just not possible, listening to nature sounds is effective, as well. Think about how you can bring this powerful tool into your practice to create a calm, safe feeling for anxious clients during sessions.
Consistent use of social media can create feelings of isolation and loneliness. The pandemic only exacerbated those feelings for many people. Social connection, specifically face-to-face interactions, reminds you that you are not alone. Help your clients make a list of ways they can create and maintain connections.
Sleep is another way for your clients to process their emotions. Everyone’s sleep needs are different but most people would agree their needs are not being met and this is one of the biggest reasons for burnout. Help your clients understand the importance of sleep and begin to get their sleep needs met and you will be better able to help them experience their maximum pleasure potential.
Not only is physical activity necessary for our clients to feel good about and in their bodies, it also is one of the best ways to combat stress. It doesn’t have to be intense, they just need to move their bodies! Get creative with your clients and find fun ways for them to regularly move their bodies. My personal favorite? Having a nerf sword fight with my husband. See, it doesn’t have to be boring!
Don’t Stress About It
The tools in this list can be incorporated into coaching sessions, as well as serve as a basis for resources and techniques that you share with your clients. Using MEBES© is a great way to assess which methods would be best for a client’s individual needs.
Additionally, being a sex coach and solopreneur comes with its own stress. There will be days when “just breathe” doesn’t work for you, either. What would happen if you implemented some of these techniques in your own life?
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