Erectile Dysfunction

Why Stress Isn’t Sexy

If you want to attract a partner, letting go of stress can play an important role

When women want a catch a man’s eye, most of them up to their beauty game and reach for their go-to little black dress. However, if you really want to attract the opposite sex, a new study has found that makeup and mascara can only go so far. The study, which was led by researchers at the University of Turku in Finland, discovered that men found women with lower levels of stress to be more attractive than stressed-out women.

The researchers asked men to look at pictures of over 50 women, and then they tested the women’s blood to check levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”). They found that men consistently found women with low levels of cortisol to be the most attractive.

What can account for this? The researchers believe it could be in part due to our biological programming. The men might be more apt to be attracted to women with low cortisol levels because stress is bad for fertility. Hence, procreating with a woman with a high amount of stress could be more difficult, so it would make sense for a man to be attracted to a mate with less stress and a better chance of conception.

Not to mention, stress can also play a role in our physical appearance as well. When you are stressed out, you might not sleep well and you might be less inclined to go to the gym. In fact, high levels of cortisol have been linked to belly fat, so if you are constantly on edge, you might end up storing even more fat in your midsection. Talk about stress! Now you not only do you have emotional issues to contend with you, but you also feel tired and run-down from caring excess weight.

The good news is that there are several ways you can help to combat stress and get back your natural glow. Consider the following:

• Mediate.

Mediation is one of the best ways to reclaim your peace of mind and restore your spirit. Sit quietly in a dark room (or even a closet!) and focus on your breath. You might try repeating a mantra in your head (a short, seven-syllable mantra is best for breath work). Don’t worry if your mind strays. It’s natural. Let the thoughts happen and then get back to your breathing without judging yourself or getting frustrated. There is no “right” way to meditate.

• Exercise.

Exercise, even if you don’t want to. The best way to decrease cortisol and increase feel-good endorphins is through exercise. If you’re stressed out, the gym might be the last thing on your mind, but if you commit to just 30 minutes of physical activity (whether walking, swimming, or taking a dance class), you will reap the benefits.

• Yoga.

Yoga is one of the best mind-body exercises for stress because it forces you to completely clear your mind and focus on the poses. It’s easy to get distracted on the treadmill or elliptical, but when you are doing yoga, you are constantly focused on your breath, your posture, and your frame of mind.

• Sex.

Sex can decrease stress by helping to release oxytocin, the bonding chemical that helps lovers to feel close and intimate. Not to mention, simply being close with your partner will help you to feel more relaxed and loved.

Last but not least, make sure to keep your to-do list manageable and don’t overload your schedule. There is nothing selfish about taking time for yourself and making sure that you are okay, physically and emotionally. You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t first take care of yourself.

Dr. Laura Berman,

Dr. Laura Berman is a world-renowned expert in the studies of relationships, sex and love. Dr. Berman attended New York University and has obtained her master's degree in clinical social work and a doctorate in health education specializing in human sexuality.

View Laura Berman's Profile