Can’t just flip a switch and get instantly turned on? Yea, we feel you—and it’s even more frustrating when your partner’s ready to go and you’re, well, not.
“There are so many different factors that can influence our desire,” sex therapist Vanessa Marin tells us.
But what exactly comes into play (er, foreplay?) when it comes to figuring out what works for you? Marin offers the low-down on your libido and nine ways to really get you in the mood.
1. Don’t Bother Eating a Ton of Aphrodisiac Foods
“In general, food doesn’t have a huge effect on your libido,” says Marin. In other words, a want-to-rip-their-clothes-off libido isn’t going to come from downing dozens of broccoli florets. Instead, Marin recommends focusing on foods that are pleasurable or sensual to eat, like figs or peaches. Chocolate and oysters, the two most famous aphrodisiacs, are still fair game, depending on your own tastes. “If the act of eating oysters and chocolate feels sensuous, you’re naturally going to get a little revved up,” she says.
2. Exercise Before Sex
Working up a sweat is a guaranteed way to boost your sex drive, says Marin. “It helps you feel more in touch with your body and forces you to be more present in your own skin.”
So whether you take a yoga or Pilates class, spin your way through an hour at SoulCycle, or kick some ass in a boxing class, you’ll be connecting to your body. “That helps you feel more comfortable and confident in the bedroom, too, so you can spend more time thinking about how much fun you’re having, and less time worrying about what your thighs look like,” she adds.
3. Try Some Actual Sexercise
As we’ve written about before, pelvic exercises are super important for your sex life. “Your PC muscles form a hammock around your sexual organs and pelvis, and contract spontaneously during orgasm,” says Marin. That means doing your Kegels religiously—and reaping the benefit. Read more about how to do them here.
4. Pay Attention to How Your Body Reacts to Birth Control
Whether you’re on the pill, the patch, or a LARC like an IUD or implant, when you’re putting hormones into your body, your sex drive can suffer.
“Try tracking your arousal levels for a few months before starting the pill, then for a few months while you’re on the pill, and compare the two,” says Marin, stressing that every woman’s experience with BC is vastly different.
If you’ve been a longtime disciple of The Pill, try going off it and seeing if that changes things (but make sure to use another reliable method). And, of course, talk to your doctor about additional concerns, or look into a copper IUD, which is 99 percent effective and doesn’t use hormones.
5. Seriously, Deal with Your Stress
“Stress and anxiety are the biggest sex drive killers that I see in my practice,” says Marin. “When you’re feeling stressed out, it’s extremely difficult to get aroused.” True, but that’s stressing us out more.
Look at stress as a wakeup call for a lifestyle change. “If you want to have a happy and healthy sex life, you have to create the space in your life for it.” Marin says that looks different depending on the person, but recommends spending 20 minutes of uninterrupted, electronics-free quality time with your partner every day—no work emails, no Instagram distractions, just the two of you.
6. Try Flying Solo
Marin is a “huge advocate” for female masturbation (and so are we!). So much so that she has an online course teaching women how to get down and dirty with themselves. “Explore different masturbation techniques on your own to get a sense of what your body responds to best.” That way, when you’re with your partner, you know what doesn’t work and what does.
7. Up Your Sexiness with a Confidence-Boosting Hobby
Want to not only look sexy, but feel it? “Try finding a type of exercise that makes you feel sexy while you’re doing it,” says Marin. She recommends trying out an activity like hip hop, bellydancing, burlesque, a pole dancing workout, or even yoga.
8. Make Sex an Honest-to-Goodness Priority
It’s so easy to get sucked into the daily minutiae and forget about carving out time with your SO. “Try to have sex first thing when you’re both home,” Marin recommends. It may feel a little forced or even unromantic, but putting sex before your work emails or your Netflix queue speaks volumes. And as they say, the more sex you have, the more you want sex.
9. Take a Step Back
Libido is a mysterious beast, and sometimes, the more you try to chase it, the more difficult it gets to track. “Your sex drive can be affected by your general level of health, the dynamics in your relationship, stress, your relationship with your body, your beliefs about sex, and your medications, just to name a few,” says Marin. If your sex drive still feels pretty low, Marin recommends talking to your doctor or an expert. Besides, you’ve only got everything to gain.
A version of this article was originally published in January 2016.