How can kink help with stress?
There are many reasons people participate in kink. Some do it as a way of connecting more intimately with their partner(s); some enjoy pushing themselves to extremes through kink; some love giving up control to a partner because they have too much responsibility "in real life"; some enjoy having sexual adventures they can later tell stories about... There are about as many reasons to do kink as there are kinksters in the world!
One key motivator for some kinky folks, though, is the way that kink can reduce their stress level, both in the moment during a scene and in a more long-term way over months or years. Here are some of the ways kink lowers stress in the body and brain:
That sweet, sweet endorphin rush
You've probably heard of endorphins: they're a type of neurotransmitter that can be released in your body when you exert yourself or experience pain, among other endorphin-boosting situations. These chemicals are the reason why, for example, marathon runners may feel euphoric mid-run rather than exhausted. They're also one of the key reasons that sex and kink can help reduce stress.
Intense physical experiences are likelier to cause a burst of endorphins than your regular day-to-day activities – and, as you probably know, sex and kink can be pretty intense. In particular, many people find that engaging in sadomasochism, such as spanking or biting, creates a "natural high." This can be equally true whether you're the person being hurt or the person doing the hurting, since providing painful sensations to a partner can be athletic in its own right.
Subspace, topspace, & flow state
"Flow state" is a concept that was coined by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly. Also known as being "in the zone," flow is the state you get into when you're very focused on a task that you find challenging and engrossing. If you've ever gotten so into exercising, playing music, making art, or any other activity that you felt like you lost track of the time and temporarily lost awareness of anything outside of the task at hand, you were very likely in flow state.
Flow has been an important component of a lot of psychological research on kink and BDSM. Some researchers go so far as to say that it is one of the main benefits of this type of play. This makes sense: psychologists who study flow have identified that flow-inducing activities must have 1) clear goals and a sense of progress, 2) real-time feedback, and 3) a good balance between the perceived difficulty level of the task and the doer's perception of their own skills in relation to that difficulty. Kink, and especially sadomasochism, can meet all of these criteria and thus can easily induce flow state in participants.
Experiencing flow on a regular basis has been shown to increase a person's sense of happiness and wellbeing. Stress tends to be reduced or eliminated while a person is in flow state; over time, repeated instances of being in this state may enable a person to be less stressed overall in their day-to-day life. So bring on the floggings – it seems that they'll lower your stress and improve your mood!
You may have heard of, or experienced firsthand, the cathartic effects of kink. Some people cry when they're cuffed, spanked, or bossed around; some people love taking on a dominant, sadistic role for the duration of a scene and then dissolve into purifying tears after the scene is done; some people reach catharsis from sex or orgasm, particularly when paired with kink. It's a highly emotional way to connect with other people.
One of the methods of "completing the stress cycle" – i.e. flushing stress hormones out of your body – is having a "big old cry," according to the book Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. Crying helps you release some of the tension that accumulates in your body as a result of stress, and thereby helps you release the stress itself. So if you find yourself crying during or after a kink scene, keep in mind that it's not necessarily a bad thing at all!
Have you found kink helpful in reducing your stress? How so?