In the coming weeks, final exams, research papers and endless nights glued to a textbook are sure to be the story of our lives. That means more work at a time when we can barely keep our heads above the stress. So what is a Northwestern student to do?
Answer: SEX! (Bet you didn’t see that one coming from the sex column.) Yes, that’s right: we should all have sex. I’ve figured out that the key to surviving finals weeks is to get out there and have the most satisfying, mind-blowing, wild and crazy, safe and consensual sex that you’ve always dreamed of. Along with being simply amazing, there are some wonderful stress relief benefits that come along with getting it on. First of all, sexual intercourse falls into the category of physical activity: it gets your heart pumping, your body sweating, your muscles flexing, and can sometimes prove a test of our flexibility. That means that sex, like other forms of exercise, comes with an increased production of dopamine and endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals produced in the brain. Endorphins in particular reduce perceptions of pain and other negative feelings, while triggering positive sensations throughout the body. Get more physical with your sexual positions to get even more of boost (try the radio flyer or zero gravity for an added challenge)!
Increased or regular sexual activity can also help reduce stress through touch and massage, which are too often overlooked. Humans both need and want physical contact. Touch is one of the first senses to develop in the womb and one of the last to fade away in old age. But why wait? Let’s get touchy-feely now, while we’re young and sensitive. Give someone you care about a neck massage during her study break, or pour on some lubricant and incorporate massage into foreplay. For men, the most sensitive parts of the body to touch are definitely those that lie “below the belt.” If he’s up for it, try blindfolding him and get creative. Touch him with a feather, a fuzzy glove, a silk scarf, your hand, your lips… you get the picture. While women are equally sensitive from the waist down, they also have erogenous zones around their ears, neck, armpits, and inner-thighs. Explore the sensations of touch and you’ll find yourself working even harder just so you can get to the next “study break.”
Ever wonder why most good bed sessions are followed by a long nap? Sex can also be used as a good sleep aid. Besides being physically exhausting, the aftereffects of sex can relax your body into a deep, revitalizing sleep. Most of this can be directly attributed to the orgasm. Achieving climax can relieve pent-up tension in the nervous system, aiding in relaxation. The drop in blood pressure, decrease in body temperature and outpouring of endorphins all have sedating effects, prompting your body to sleep. It’s important to point out that while an orgasm is not necessary for an enjoyable sexual experience, it certainly helps. Communication is key to make sure that both partners can reach the big O. Be in constant communication with one another; share what you like, what you don’t like, what hurts, what drives you wild and what you want more of. If you’re having trouble sleeping after hours of staring at your computer screen and drinking that fourth cup of coffee, make a booty call for a late-night quickie and you’ll be blissfully dreaming in no time.
It’s true that the weeks leading up to break can be tough on all of us, but there is no need to work yourself into a stress-crazed mania. Use some of that energy toward a more productive cause and have someone else help handle your stress. When it’s safe and consensual, sex can be just as beneficial as spending hours in the library. Maybe it’s time we redefine “all-night cram session.”
*Myrtie Williams is a contributor from Sexual Health & Assault Peer Education