Dr. Shannon Chavez on Why Masturbation is One of the Best Forms of Self Care

Dr. Shannon Chavez on Why Masturbation is One of the Best Forms of Self Care

How would you define self-care? 

Self-care is anything you do intentionally to take care of your overall health and wellbeing. There are mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual components. It is an intention with willingness and commitment to feeling like your best self. It is key to mental health and improves mood and the relationship you have to self and others. It’s not forced or something you don’t enjoy. It’s not self-indulging or selfish. It is up to you to determine what you need for self-care. It looks different for everyone and starts with considering your needs and not comparing yourself to others.
"It’s not forced or something you don’t enjoy. It’s not self-indulging or selfish. It is up to you to determine what you need for self-care. It looks different for everyone and starts with considering your needs and not comparing yourself to others."

Why is self-care important?

It’s easy to neglect ourselves and prioritize other people or things which can impact all aspects of health. Self-care is a health necessity. Stress is a big factor that impacts everyone. Each of us must learn to cope and take care of oneself. Lack of self-care has long-term effects that can include illness, mental health issues, and even changes in brain programming. 

Would you say there are different categories or forms of self care? If so, do you believe it's important to have a balance or do you think it depends on the person?

Mental categories include self-reflection, self-awareness, and mindfulness.
Physical categories include exercise, healthy eating, movement, sensations, connection, and arousal.
Emotional categories include permission to feel, laugh, cry, compliments, gratitude, connection with friends, family, and loved ones.
Spiritual categories include meditation, spending time in nature, faith based beliefs, religion, getting in touch with your spirit, soul, following your purpose and self-growth.
Professional categories can include a comfortable work space, decorating and making it your own, talking to co-workers, peers, mentors, and balancing work load and schedule. 
Often people are balanced in one aspect of self-care but other areas are suffering. I have my clients do a self-care assessment that helps determine areas to improve and ideas to incorporate self-care in other areas. 

Is masturbation a form of self care? If so, what are some of the benefits?

Yes! Masturbation has many health benefits such as improving mood, self-esteem, sexual function and can lead to improvements in partnered sex and stress reduction. It can help trigger orgasms that help us sleep. It’s easy to do and there is no wrong or right when it comes to masturbation as long as it feels good and you enjoy it. 
"Masturbation has many health benefits such as improving mood, self-esteem, sexual function and can lead to improvements in partnered sex and stress reduction." 

How many times a week is a healthy amount? Does it change according to a woman's cycle?

There is no norm when it comes to frequency. I would recommend focusing more on the quality of self-stimulation and developing healthy habits around masturbation including taking your time, become embodied, and setting up your space to promote relaxation and body awareness. Hormones can influence how you feel in your body and responsiveness to stimulation. It can also impact mood and interest in sexual pleasure. Certain points in a woman’s cycle are going to increase arousal response, desire, and mood. 
masturbation-is-one-of-the-best-forms-of-self-care

In your experience, are women typically hesitant toward/uncomfortable with masturbating and, if so, why?

There is stigma and taboo around masturbation for women that comes from media, culture, and religious belief systems. Some women were never encouraged to masturbate or were told it was bad or dirty. Some women believe that masturbation is unnecessary if you are in a partnership. I recommend that masturbating is for all women despite age or stages in lifespan. It is not a replacement for partnered sex. It is an act all on its own. The more you masturbate, the less likely you will feel awkward, discomfort, and shame.   
"There is stigma and taboo around masturbation for women that comes from media, culture, and religious belief systems. Some women were never encouraged to masturbate or were told it was bad or dirty. Some women believe that masturbation is unnecessary if you are in a partnership. I recommend that masturbating is for all women despite age or stages in lifespan."

How do you advise women who are less comfortable with the idea of masturbation?

I reframe masturbation as a form of self-pleasuring. Sometimes the word is a barrier because it has negative associations. I also normalize it as a part of overall health and wellbeing. I always start with education around sexual anatomy and physiology to help reduce anxiety and mental barriers. I help women feel comfortable in knowing techniques for how to masturbate and that there are many ways to experience self-pleasure. 

What tips or tricks do you have for women to begin exploring their bodies through masturbation?

Start with looking at your body as whole. I recommend looking in the mirror and looking at the entire body without judgment. It’s also important to explore your genitals in front of a mirror to become comfortable with your anatomy. You should start with light and soft caresses over the entire body - starting from the scalp, neck and shoulders, breasts, abdomen, inner thighs, and buttocks. Sensual body touch is arousing and can relax the body by releasing tension and increase blood flow and circulation. 

Is it typical for women to orgasm during masturbation, but not sex? If so, what are common reasons for this and what do you advise?

With practice, knowledge, and self-awareness most women can orgasm during masturbation. A woman’s potential increases to 95% with the assistance of a vibrator. I believe that a vibrator is the best investment women can make for their sexual health. Masturbation is completely in your control without having to worry about anyone else. During sex, people can experience performance anxiety or distractions that inhibit orgasm. I recommend mindfulness exercises with a partner such as eye contact, sensual touch, slowing down, kissing, and synchronized breathing. I also recommend that partners watch each other masturbate so they can observe how their partner pleasures their own body.

There is an infamous episode of Sex in the City when Charlotte is caught turning down social events to stay home and masturbate with her newly purchased vibrator. Is it possible to become dependent on a vibrator and, if so, is this normal/healthy?

A common myth is that a woman will become dependent on the vibrator or prefer the vibrator over a partner. It all depends on how you are using the vibrator. It's important to determine if you are using self-stimulation to avoid dealing with distress or other emotions. It’s also important to evaluate if you are using the vibrator to explore pleasure or to avoid intimacy with a partner. Everything in moderation can be considered healthy. We don’t want to rely on any sole source for self-care and pleasure. Try new things. Explore. Women should condition their body to respond to different forms of stimulation.

What other forms of self care do you recommend outside of the bedroom?

Exploring your sexuality is much more than the mechanics of sex. I recommend that women take a dance class such as bellydance or pole dance. It’s a great form of exercise and gets your libido flowing. It also gives women an opportunity to spend time in their body and feel sensual. 
"Exploring your sexuality is much more than the mechanics of sex."

What are some of your favorite ways of practicing self care on a daily/weekly basis?

I think self-care should incorporate fun and pleasure such as trying new things and making personal growth a priority. I also recommend creativity as a form of self-care. Painting, hobbies, using your imagination, etc. Anything that engages the senses and fantasy. 

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