How to overcome intimacy anxiety - and have better sex

Some people are feeling scared about getting intimate after lockdown. (Getty Images)
Some people are feeling scared about getting intimate after lockdown. (Getty Images)

If you’re single, dating or don’t live with your partner, the past year will no doubt have impacted your sex life, with thousands forced into a life of celibacy since Boris banned household mixing.

But after many sexless months, people are now able to get intimate again, thanks to the Government’s new guidelines allowing us to meet indoors, hug others and stay away from home overnight.

While the green light for getting jiggy will come as welcome news for some, others may be left feeling what's been called 'intimacy anxiety'.

And they certainly won't be alone – in fact, new research by dating app Badoo found that 63% of single people now feel nervous at the thought of intimacy and sex after a year of lockdowns.

Sex can feel like a lot of pressure at the best of times, let alone after months of no physical intimacy, so it's understandable that the thought could be making some people very anxious.

Read more: Is sex really better in your 50s? Amanda Holden says yes!

But there are some ways to navigate your post-pandemic anxiety, alleviate your intimacy fear and give your bedroom confidence a boost.

Be honest

There’s no shame in feeling a little out of practice if you haven’t been intimate in a while, especially with a new partner or someone you’re reconnecting with.

"If you want to relight the fire and ensure you’re going to be satisfied, be honest about how you feel and what you want," suggests Stephanie Taylor, intimate health expert and founder of Kegel8.

"Laying everything out on the table will mean there’s no awkwardness. If you both feel heard and respected, trust will follow and make the whole experience ten times better."

Taylor says this could be the perfect time to explore one another’s long-awaited fantasies and find a deeper physical connection.

Watch: Kris Jenner and Corey Gamble had a two-week sex ban.

Go solo

Sex isn’t all about being performative and pleasing the other person, it’s also for yourself.

"When you’ve been locked down alone or have gone through a serious dry patch, it can help to get back to basics and rediscover what turns you on," Taylor explains.

"Masturbation can help you re-familiarise yourself with all the things you personally like, to give you your sexual confidence back before you introduce a sexual partner."

Experimenting with self-pleasure can also increase your stamina in the bedroom, says Taylor, giving both you and your partner more time to enjoy sex.

Read more: Midlife women are happiest with their sex lives, study finds

Invest in aids

Preparation can be key in calming your nerves. "It might not be for everyone, but for those who suffer fear and anxiety with intimacy, being prepared can be a godsend," says Taylor.

If you’re planning on having sex but lack confidence, she suggests invest in products that will make you feel your best.

"It could be sex toys, underwear or a game to break the ice," she says. "If you’re feeling confident about your body and can introduce a playful element, it’s more likely to be enjoyable for both partners."

How to overcome your intimacy anxiety. (Getty Images)
How to overcome your intimacy anxiety. (Getty Images)

Take a breather

It can be hard to navigate anxiety during intimacy, and anxiety disorders can make it extremely hard to get in the mood.

"If you feel your stress levels are rising or a panic attack starting, apologise and remove yourself from the situation as soon as you can," suggests Taylor. "Getting some space, moving around and taking a breather is a great start."

‘Conscious breathing’ can also help prevent an attack if you can feel yourself starting to tense up.

"Breathe deeply from your belly, and with your hand on your stomach inhale for five counts, then exhale it all out," suggests Taylor. "Try and keep it consistent, monitoring the rise and fall of your stomach and focus your mind on staying calm."

You could also try the 5,4,3,21 method - by using your senses to list five things around you to distract yourself.

"If you find yourself in a triggering/uncomfortable situation, there is absolutely no shame in changing your mind about a sexual partner – your emotional wellbeing comes first," Taylor adds.

Read more: Relate and Rankin pair up in new campaign celebrating the joy of later life sex and intimacy

Find out if it is more than nerves

Sometimes our discomfort is more than just a little anxiety. Sexual dysfunction is more common than you might think.

"For millions of women, pain or discomfort during sex is a reality. In fact, researchers estimate at least 1 in 13 British women experience it," Taylor says.

There’s a long list of things which can cause sex to be painful or uncomfortable for both partners, including vaginismus, pelvic organ prolapse, vaginal atrophy (dryness), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and STIs.

"Don’t suffer in silence if something doesn’t feel right – trust your body," says Taylor. "Your GP or gynaecologist can discuss this with you and provide the right recommendations and treatments."

Watch: Ask Anna: How to I move on with someone else after a nasty break up?