If your to-do list leaves you in a panic — to the point it even infiltrates your thoughts during sex— your body is going to have a tough time getting in the mood. Making a mental grocery list is fine when you’re bored at work, but getting caught up in your schedule while getting it on is probably going to hijack your orgasm.

“For women, (arousal) is all about the mental aspect,” says Dr. Kathleen Green, an OBGYN who specializes in sexual wellness at the University of Florida Health Women’s Center. “That’s why we don’t have any medications for female libido that work. It’s so much more complicated than the act of sex.”

Dr. Green says practicing self-care and taking mindfulness breaks are musts for the overly stressed. She tells her patients to do something every day that makes them happy and to make a habit of giving their minds some freedom to relax.

So whether you take a solo coffee break or a bubble bath, try to set aside some quiet time to give yourself a break. It could translate into a more focused experience in the bedroom. If you have trouble pausing your planning, here are a few of Dr. Green’s tips that have helped her patients wind down.

Meditation
If you can’t wrangle your focus, try meditating. Dr. Green touts the benefits of even five or ten minutes of mindfulness. For help learning the practice, Dr. Green recommends the Headspace app. Users are guided through focused meditation by the program’s co-founder Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk with a British accent. (I’m a loyal Headspace user, but anxiety-laden friends have also raved about the Calm app.)  

Make a physical to-do list
This means actually writing down everything you can think of that needs to get done. Since I tend to start thinking about the next day while attempting to drift off to sleep, I keep a notebook at my bedside to jot down any nagging thoughts. Dr. Green tells her patients to do the same and make a note of every responsibility they can think up. Then she tells them they  have to close the book and put those thoughts away for the night.

If keeping a running list isn’t enough, Dr. Green has her patients try a visualization technique to interrupt their rumination. She tells them to picture a literal giant stop sign that acts as a signal to stop whatever they’re thinking about and get back to focusing on the moment.

Masturbate
Don’t feel like writing? Try masturbating before sex. This can increase blood flow and jumpstart arousal. If you’re embarrassed to do this in front of your partner, try a little self-pleasure while they’re out of the room, suggests Dr. Green.

“They can tell their partner or not tell their partner. But if they masturbate while their partner is in the shower, by the time they come out, all those hormones are going to be released,” says Dr. Green. “Their blood pressure is going to be down, and they’re going to be more relaxed.”

Speaking of talking to your partner
While having arousal issues is frustrating for the person not having an orgasm, telling your partner can be another source of anxiety. If you’re worried about making them feel inadequate, don’t bring it up during the act.

“I think the biggest thing is having these conversations not in the heat of the moment of sex,” says Dr. Green. “That’s when everybody’s guard is a little bit up.”

Above all, try to relax. You want to get to a mindstate where you feel comfortable and safe with your partner. “Because becoming aroused, you have to let your wall down,” says Dr. Green. “You have to be ok letting go of that control.”   

Keri Wiginton is a writer and photographer focusing on issues related to women's health, mental well-being, and feminism. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Austin-American Statesman, Tampa Bay Times and Houston Chronicle. Follow her work at www.keriwiginton.com or on Twitter at @keriphoto.