In the last two posts, I discussed the origin of performance anxiety as well as the errors in one’s thinking that fuel the cycle of anxiety when it comes to sex. In this post, I will share a few practical tips for men struggling with performance anxiety.
As always, if you are unable to work through a sexual issue on your own, seeking sex therapy and working with a skilled sex therapist can help you and your partner work address sexual blocks and barriers.
Let’s get right to it!
1. Practice mindfulness:
Learning to be mindful and focusing solely on the present moment is a great tool for everyone and especially people with anxiety. Most men with performance anxiety often experience anxiety in other areas of their life but some men report that they rarely get anxious outside of sex.
In my experience, men who fall in the latter category are sometimes oblivious to the signs and feelings associated with anxiety. Sometimes, anxiety does not manifest itself in a straightforward way – it could appear in the form of being uncomfortable with one’s looks, one’s body, or one’s self-image/identity.
2. Learn to hyper-focus:
This goes hand-in-hand with practicing mindfulness. If you are able to make mindfulness a daily practice in all areas of your life, you will find it easier to hyper-focus on the sensations of pleasure during sex. By staying grounded, it will be easier to put a tighter leash on your mind that is trying to wander in the direction of anxiety-producing thoughts about losing your erection or not being able to satisfy your partner.
Rope in your mind by hyper-focusing on the sensations, smells, sights, and tastes of a sexual experience. Focus on what your partner’s skin feels like, or maybe their fragrance.
3. Take it one experience at a time:
Men who struggle with performance anxiety tend to ruminate on sexual experiences that were not successful and begin to anticipate future failure based on past failures. By approaching each sexual experience as a unique event and not allow the feelings associated with the last experience guide the one in the future can be very helpful.
One way this can be achieved is by having a high level of flexibility in how you and your partner engage in foreplay, varying the lead up to sex every single time, and changing what you do after foreplay- outercourse vs. intercourse. When couples stick to a very rigid script of a ritualistic foreplay followed by a structured and predictable activity of intercourse, it is easy for the brain to associate certain aspects of the script with anxiety.
4. Take a break from goal-oriented sex:
This is useful in moving away from the “performer” mentality and learning to approach sex as a sensual experience where the focus is on non-demand pleasuring of each other. Take a week or two off from sexual intercourse and only focus on sensual activities such as erotic massage and foreplay. Focus on communicating with each other about what feels good and take turns focusing on each other’s pleasure.
5. Ask rather than assume:
Resist the tendency to read your partner’s mind. If you begin to feel anxious before or during a sexual experience and you are unable to keep your mind focused on the present, let your partner know that you need to take a break to reset. By naming your anxiety, you release some of its hold on your mind. Communicate to your partner if you want to try again later in the day or later in the week. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. The hope is that your partner will be kind, loving, and non-judgmental, and support you in a whole-hearted way.