Romance: The Perfect Antidote to Stress

Some people think falling in love can be stressful, quite honestly it can be. When you are first getting to know someone, we tend to spend a lot of our time worrying about all kinds of weird and wacky things. Years ago I dated a guy in the army, and during our second or third date I found myself in a rather precarious position. My fingers got stuck in his toupee! yes – really, it shocked me too. To make matters worse, I ‘dislodged’ his hair piece when I freaked out and ripped my hand back “Ooops! …Let me pat that back down for you” 😦  I spent the rest of the evening worrying about what other surprises he had in store rather than his personality.

While the sight of your date can give you a serious case of the ‘heebie jeebies’, there are many times when romance can have a wonderful effect on your health and wellbeing. There have been many studies over the years regarding stress hormones in the body. Many scientists and doctors have acknowledged the effects cortisone and the adrenal gland has in our daily lives. In one such case, it was noted that cortisone levels were significantly higher in those entering new relationships compared to those in longer, more established relationships.

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When I look back on my date with Mr Army Guy, it is easy to see how my hormones affected my response. It was a ‘wtf’ moment that resulted in my ‘fight and flight’ response going into over drive. Ripping his hair piece off wasn’t the right thing to do, but in my response it was my glands fault…not mine…. 🙂 If I acted a tad more mature about the situation, and asked him if he was ok, our relationship could have been something much more special.

“What happens in the brain when you love someone is that there’s more activity in the ‘reward’ system,” explains Dr. Helen Fisher, a physical anthropologist who studies the neurohormonal phenomena of love and is a research professor at Rutgers University. “Your brain floods with dopamine, which gives you focus, energy and optimism and those things can all be good to counter stress.” As Ms Fisher explains, as you fall in love, your dopamine levels surge, which in turn contributes to testosterone production. More testosterone is linked to increased sex drive. And sexual release has a particularly healthful effect.

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“Sex with the right person has a lot of health benefits,” she says “It lowers blood pressure and enhances the mood by releasing endorphins. It’s a sedative that helps you sleep and soothes aches and pains. It even gives you healthier skin and even emotional confidence.”

While taking a good old ‘roll and tumble’ can be beneficial to reducing stress, you don’t need to have sex to achieve an inner peace. Kissing, holding hands or something as simple as cuddling can work just as well. Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, can work to impede the production of cortisol. So something as simple as providing emotional support can be enough to help you feel better. Next time you think dating or falling in love is more stress than its worth, think again. Getting to know someone may not lead to ever lasting love, but then again it might. Who knows…your next date could turn out to be the love of your life. If you don’t try, you will never know.

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