Stress affects us all to varying degrees. Personally, prior to exercising on a regular basis, I was a major stress head. I remember suffering from major insomnia because I was so stressed about an exam the following day. This was in high school.
But for many people, stress can be far worse than what I have experienced personally. Sure, insomnia isn't pleasant (and can be very serious) but some other serious serious side effects of stress include hair loss, high blood pressure, ulcers, rashes, depressing the immune system, heart problems...need I continue?
Of course, there are many measures that you can take to prevent the onset of stress. Good nutrition and supplementation with B-group vitamins in particular has been shown to assist in reducing stress by enhancing brain function. Relaxation techniques can also be of great use. However, from both personal and professional experience, exercise is such a powerful tool that practically everyone has available in order to combat stress.
There is a lot of research going into the benefits of corporations encouraging employees to exercise around the world. It's fairly conclusive that it is well worth the company's investment to get employees to exercise in order to reduce stress and boost productivity.
Following a bout of exercise, your brain releases friendly hormones termed endorphins. These are major stress fighting molecules! You may have noticed that after a bout of exercise, you feel calm and relaxed. This has colloquially been referred to as a "runners high" because you are actually getting a "high" from a flood of endorphins.
Personally speaking, whilst I exercise for a range of reasons (my profession, health, body composition, fitness, brain function etc.) I also utilise exercise as a form of therapy to combat stress and boost productivity.
Running a business can be stressful at times and whilst I love what I do, stress can be significant hindrance to my daily productivity. For this reason, I aim to exercise at least 5 times a week, typically around lunch time. What I've found from personal experience is that I wake up feeling energised and rearing to go. Late morning after hours of non-stop work, my brain begins to cloud up and stress can sometimes build up. So I'll typically exercise around this time to clear my head and get those endorphins secreted. Following the workout, I feel relaxed, clear headed, motivated and highly productive.
Take today as an example. Monday is the day in which I am often most stressed because I have a truckload of emails and personal training client feedback to attend to. 11.30am this morning I departed for the gym, performed a high intensity 15 minute bout of cardio, nearly collapsed, stretched and then returned to the office. I came back to the office feeling GREAT and finished everything ahead of time (hence why my blog post is 2 hours early!). Even now at 5.30 I am feeling so relaxed. It's amazing what 15 minutes can do.
Your situation will be different to mine. Maybe you are unable to exercise in the middle of the day. Maybe you prefer to exercise when you first wake up. Whatever your scenario, use exercise to your advantage to combat against stress. I cannot quantify the magnitude to which exercise boosts my productivity by reducing stress, yet if I could, it would be pretty darn big!
So, reducing stress with exercise is a very powerful tool within your arsenal. Use it!