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DEAR DR. JENN,
I spent most of my quarantine in sweats ordering contactless takeout and working my way through all of Netflix. I didn't get on the at-home workout bandwagon but I did attempt to cut my own hair (disaster). I had no sexual desire and no one to get it on with anyways. But now that I'm vaccinated and ready to date again, I'm feeling a lot of anxiety about how to interact with new men. I feel like I've lost all my social skills and don't know how to small talk. I'm also nervous about the idea of having sex again now that it's been well over a year. I used to be really good in bed, or so I was told. But now I feel lost and anxious, and it doesn't help that I feel like I've had an anti-"glow-up" over the past year. What do I need to do to get back in the grove? -Anxious
After fifteen months of hearing about how dangerous sharing air can be, the idea of swapping saliva, among other things, can seem very anxiety-provoking. I am hearing this from singles across the board. Not to mention, many people feel out of practice when it comes to sex. Many are worried that their libidos will never be the same.
But, it's like riding a bike. We just have to put on some training wheels first. So here is what you need to do to graduate to your adult bicycle.
1. Up your self-care.
When we are abusing our bodies with food, alcohol, drugs, and poor self-care we tend to feel sluggish and it kills our libido. Getting on a good healthy schedule where you are eating healthy, exercising moderately, and getting enough sleep can help your anxiety and improve your libido. This is a good time to have a check-up with your doctor and make sure everything is healthy, especially given that most people did not have even basic checkups during the last year. It's always a good idea to rule out any physical causes for changes in desire before assuming the emotional.
2. Treat yourself to a makeover.
If you haven't treated yourself to your first haircut and manicure post-Covid, do it. Same goes for getting your brows or bikini waxed (cue the 'vaxxed and waxed' memes). Doing all of these things can make you feel more put together and more confident. When we are dating, we tend to think of doing those things for the other person but the truth is, they tend to make us feel sexier and give us the boost we need, especially when getting back out there after a long hiatus.
3. Get in touch with your body.
Take the time to tune into your body. You may want to start with a simple meditation body scan going through your body from head to toe getting in touch with your bodily sensations. Many of us disconnected from our bodies during the pandemic. Trauma, fear, and PTSD from losing those close to us can make us numb. Learning to touch yourself again both sensually and sexually can help you get back in touch with your sexuality. Make a commitment to explore your body and or masturbate a couple of times a week in order to revive your sexual energy.
4. Take care of your mental health.
If you feel that your mental health has really suffered, this is a good time to talk with a therapist. (Most therapists are doing online therapy and if cost is a concern, check out local mental health clinics.) You also may want to check out online support groups or Facebook groups. Sometimes just knowing that you are not alone - and that your feelings of anxiety around dating and sex are normal - can help enormously.
5. Figure out your Covid comfort zone.
Before you go on a date, figure out what you are comfortable with and what you are not. Once you have figured out your boundaries, make sure to ask questions in advance. Are you requiring your potential dates to be vaccinated (if so, make sure they have had both shots and are far enough out from their last injection to have full immunity)? Are you requiring that your dates get tested for Covid? Are you asking questions about their behavior to get a sense of how much exposure they have had to other people or high-risk situations? This will all help you feel more at ease when you actually go on that first date.
6. Have sex - even if it's with yourself.
When you don't have sex, even solo sex, your testosterone levels drop which means your desire does too. Start getting your juices flowing solo in order to increase your level of desire. And then, if you do feel like you've found a safe partner that turns you on, give yourself the room to have sex with another person.
7. Revive your social skills.
If you've spent the last year or more in isolation spending most of your time on Zoom, it's totally normal to still be experiencing some re-entry anxiety. Getting back out there slowly - with friend dates in the park, or at an outdoor restaurant - can help you feel more like your pre-Covid social self. Basically, work your way up to date-like activities prior to actually dating. Better you work through your feelings of re-entering the world with your bestie by your side than a hot new potential love interest.
8. Talk it through with your date.
After facing mass casualties and death, many people are choosing not to waste time on dates and are getting real fast. This trend of honesty bombing allows more room for honest vulnerable conversations. While I don't think you need to tell your new date every detail about your struggles with your libido and body image, letting that person know that it's been a while since you've had sex and you're a little nervous is healthy, if you think they are a candidate to lose your newly acquired pandemic virginity to.
9. Go slow.
When you are ready to be in a room alone with your date/new partner make sure you take it slow. Allow yourself to enjoy feelings of excitement, calm, affection, and connection. You have been deprived of touch which is a biological human need, for a long time. Some call this "pandemic skin hunger." It is real. Just being touched is huge for you. Enjoy! Don't feel pressured to jump straight into sex. Take your time.
10. Trust your body.
Try not to think too much when it comes to the actual act. Trust your body to remember how to do it. Also, don't put too much pressure on yourself to be the greatest lay anyone's ever had, your first time out. Think of it as more like losing your virginity. It takes a while to feel confident and secure but you will get there.