Holiday stress can dampen your sex drive. Here's why — and what you can do about it.

Christmas socks of couple in bed
Not feeling frisky during the holiday season? You're not alone. (Getty Images)

While some couples see the holidays as a time for connecting and canoodling by the fireplace, others may find that sexy and romantic thoughts are the last thing on their mind this time of year. Why? In a word: stress.

Although some people are having more sex around the holidays, we know that holiday stress can put a damper on intimacy. There’s shopping, wrapping presents, cooking, attending holiday parties, money stress, traveling and seeing family — it can be a lot. And if you’re a parent, you’ve got the added pressure of keeping track of all the holiday activities your child is involved in, as well as doing what you can to make things extra festive. Who can be blamed for not being in the mood after you’ve spent the afternoon trying not to get into fights over who gets the last gingerbread house at the local Target?

So what can you do if holiday stress is affecting your libido? Yahoo Life spoke with experts to get the intel on why your mojo — or your partner’s — may be low this time of year, and what you can do about it.

What exactly is a healthy libido?

“There is no one-size-fits-all definition of a ‘healthy’ sex drive or libido,” Dr. Martha Tara Lee, clinical sexologist at Eros Coaching, tells Yahoo Life. “It varies from person to person and can be influenced by factors such as age, hormonal changes, stress levels, relationship dynamics and personal preferences.”

Lee says the most important thing is that all partners in the relationship feel satisfied and fulfilled with their level of sexual desire and activity. Rhiannon John, a sexologist at Bedbible, points out that there is a wide range in terms of how much — or how little — sex works for them. “For instance, many people identify as [asexual] and find fulfillment in asexuality, and this is perfectly healthy,” says John. “On the opposite end of the spectrum, some individuals enjoy what some might consider a high frequency of sexual activity, which is also healthy when all parties involved are consenting adults.”

Why does holiday stress affect our sex lives?

“Stress impacts every aspect of our lives, including our sex lives,” Jillian Amodio, a clinical social worker at Waypoint Wellness Center, tells Yahoo Life. “When we are stressed, we might feel like we have no time for intimacy. We might feel touched out, especially as parents. We might not be in the mood, etc.”

Amodio says stress can cause fatigue and anxiety, which makes it hard to get in the mood.

“Stress also has an effect on hormones, which can cause a decrease in libido as well,” says Amodio. “Chronic stress and increased levels of cortisol biologically suppress our sex drive.”

The irony, she notes, is that sex can often help decrease stress, but when you’re bogged down in it, getting to the point where you even want to have sex can be a challenge.

How can you get your libido back on track?

If you’ve noticed that your sex drive has taken a dip, whether it’s because of the holidays or not, experts agree that good communication and addressing stress levels can help. Here’s how:

Talk about it. John recommends choosing a time and place where you can feel relaxed and have privacy and enough energy to engage in conversation. Once you’ve decided where and when to have the talk, it’s important to stay calm, open and nonjudgemental. “Share your feelings and concerns about holiday stress with your partner,” says Lee. “Open communication can help alleviate tension and create understanding.”

If it’s your partner who is struggling with low libido, “approach the topic with empathy and understanding, expressing your concerns and desires for intimacy,” says Lee. To kick things off, she recommends saying something like, “I've noticed that holiday stress is impacting our intimacy. Can we talk about how we can address this together?"

If your partner is unwilling to talk when you approach them, John advises giving a bit of time and space and to remember that sexual arousal and desire aren’t always linear. “They have peaks and troughs that are normal in everyone's life,” she says.

Find ways to reduce stress. Lee reminds people not to “put too much pressure on yourself or your relationship to meet unrealistic holiday expectations.” She also recommends delegating any tasks you can to lighten your load and taking breaks to rest and recharge when you can, along with getting enough sleep, which helps you better cope with stress. Also, a lack of sleep can negatively affect arousal and libido.

Plan for romance. “One highly successful approach to maintaining your libido amid holiday stress is to actually plan romantic encounters,” says Dr. Edward Ratush, a psychiatrist and co-founder of SohoMD. While having to plan yet another thing may sound counterintuitive, Ratush says this will give you and your partner something to look forward to, looking at it as a respite from holiday-related responsibilities. When it’s time, try practicing some mindfulness by focusing on the present moment. “By redirecting our focus to our present bodily sensations, we create an opportunity for increased sexual arousal and desire,” says John.

Take the pressure off. Amodio also suggests couples spend time being intimate in a variety of ways that don’t involve sex, including having thoughtful conversations, cuddling, going on walks, or even something simple like holding hands.

Focus on what you’re grateful for. Having a gratefulness practice, where you share things that you appreciate, can include noting something about your partner that you like or turns you on. "This can have the simultaneous effects of calming you down about holiday stressors while also exciting you about the prospect of intimacy with your partner," Ratush says.

Try self-pleasuring. One sure-fire way to help out your libido? Masturbation, say experts. “Masturbation can do wonders to reduce stress, increase sex drive and arouse interest in involving your partner,” says Amodio.

When should someone get help?

If there are significant and persistent changes to your libido or your partner’s that are causing distress and negatively affecting the relationship, Lee says it’s wise to seek help. “This could include consulting with a health care provider, such as a primary care physician or gynecologist, who can rule out any underlying medical conditions or hormonal imbalances that may be affecting your libido,” she says.

Lee adds that working with a sex therapist or counselor who specializes in sexual health (you can find a sexuality counselor or therapist here) “can provide guidance and support in addressing the emotional and relational aspects of libido changes.”