Top 4 Tools For Your Anxiety Emergency Kit

Self, Sex

How To Use Mindfulness Techniques To Combat Chronic Worry and Sexual Performance Anxiety

Fear is an illusion, according to spiritual teacher/author Marianne Williamson. She may be right about that, but if so, it's an illusion with many faces and real-world consequences. Flop sweat, nausea, crying jags, mental "blanks," and lost erections at inopportune moments, are just a few of its ugly manifestations.

Mood disorders are on the rise, and anxiety tops the list. Most of the time, when we're in fear, it's over a perceived future event. So, it stands to reason the antidote would entail refocusing on the present.

Cultivating mindfulness is key to loosening anxiety's grip. The following methods are effective against chronic worry and sudden bouts of anxiety in social, professional, and sexual settings.

Faith: Fear and faith cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Yet for anyone with a history of cold sweats, awkward first dates, or anxiety-induced sexual dysfunction, the concept of faith can seem counterintuitive. Past experiences create neural pathways in the brain that direct future expectations. A single incident of self-perceived "failure" can lead to a string of similarly disappointing outcomes. Trapped in an inescapable downward spiral, where the heck is faith supposed to factor in?

A foundation of faith can be built through a string of positive experiences. For example, if public speaking terrifies you, don't sign up for your first TED Talk until you've led a few dinner party toasts. As a next step, perhaps give a short speech at a close friend's wedding reception. If sexual performance anxiety has caused a string of "failed" encounters, stick to low-stress settings with a patient, trusted partner—at least, for the time being. Or hire an experienced sex coach to guide you through a gradual process to a series of positive outcomes. The idea is to control your environment, start small, and build from there.

Gratitude: In lieu of faith, a gratitude list can combat self-defeating thoughts and lower your heart rate. Whenever you find yourself caught up in negativity, jot down 5-10 things that are going well. Maybe your doctor just gave you a clean bill of health or you hit green lights all the way to work that morning. Big or little things, all that matters is that they're specific and heartfelt.

Another tactic is to list things you like about yourself. Are you witty, tenacious, smart, shrewd, or sexy? Maybe you're decent with crossword puzzles, or an animal on the tennis court. Listing your best attributes is especially helpful before doing any public speaking. It creates a subconscious boost of confidence that others pick up on, then mirror back to you as approval.

It bears mentioning that in a sexual setting, whipping out a moleskin to take notes may not go over well with your partner. To simply appreciate your experience of pleasure, from one moment to the next, is a way of being mindfully present. It's noticing the warmth of your partner's tender flesh or the sensation of their soft lips upon your neck. Dwelling on what could go wrong, however, is to focus on future events—a sure way to trigger erectile dysfunction if that's been your pattern in the past. Sensate Focus is a Masters and Johnson technique (meaning "focusing on sensation") that keeps you in your body and out of your head (where sexual performance anxiety lives).

Meditation: This doesn't have to be a ritualistic, woo-woo production. Counting to ten, slowly and repeatedly, can be a calming, meditative practice. Breathwork is especially effective, from simple, deep belly breathing to advanced pranayama techniques. You needn't spend a month sitting cross-legged in a Himalayan cave, when there are countless tutorials on YouTube. Or try a ten-minute full-body scan, by laying down with your eyes closed, focusing on individual muscle groups from head to toe (or toe to head), and releasing tension wherever it's found. To specifically combat sexual performance anxiety, study and incorporate the meditative techniques of a Tantric yoga practice.

Service: Getting out of your own problems by helping others with theirs, is a proven way to boost emotional and physical health. Be a mentor, Scout leader, Big Brother, or empathetic friend as needed. There's something karmicly healing about paying it forward, sharing the wisdom you've acquired through personal struggles, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Being of service can offset sexual performance anxiety by redirecting the focus from yourself onto your partner. The pressure to perform tends to trigger erectile dysfunction, so take it out of the equation. When focus is on your partner, it's no longer on your imagined future "failure." This can give your body a chance to reboot, and allow the natural sexual response to flourish and flow again.

Mindfulness techniques can stop anxiety in its tracks, but for longstanding symptoms or diminished quality of life, consider reaching out for professional help. Life is short ... the present moment, perfect and infinite.

Kristin Casey is an intimacy coach for men at Casey Consulting. Learn more about her services and experiential exercises here. Contact her for help with emotional blocks, dissociation, sexual performance anxiety, and other related dysfunctions.