Understanding Stress

"I'm the first to admit I experience stress. But I've come to realise it's not caused from outside pressure, but from thoughts and emotions inside." Executive coach Kate offers her view on how we can better understand stress and regain control.

A wide world of stress

Stress is such a big topic and has been for many years. Whether it's stories of city workers or the NHS recording that treatment of people with stress, it seems to have increased. Either we are more stressed or we know how to diagnose it better.

I am going to be 'the rebel writer' and not write about techniques to use to limit stress, but I am going to share an understanding of the human experience, that I hope will help readers see where stress comes from, and, hence, experience it differently so that it doesn't control their lives quite so much.

Understanding the human experience

So, what do I mean by 'an understanding of the human experience'?

Our experiences in life are created from the inside out, even if we're fooled into believing that how we feel comes from the outside in. Your experience in the moment comes from what's going on in your mind and how you're feeling. So, if your mind is full of personal 'chitter chatter' and a long list of things you have to do, you are going to imagine the situation around you is stressful.

Stress does not come from the things we do, the situation, or - in fact - our children. We are thinking beings, we are always thinking, 24/7. Whatever we're thinking is where we experience stress, not from the external circumstances, but we forget that. It's about realizing that when you're stressed, you don't want to keep looking outside for the source of it. That's where we get confused.

Maintaining a clear head

The best thing you can do is to understand how stress is created. Sometimes you'll know and sometimes you won't. When you do see it coming, stress will not make sense as a state to 'hang out in'.

You can live a healthy life with little or no stress, regardless of how complex, demanding or challenging work and home may be, as long as you can keep a clear head. That has been my experience when dealing with what I perceive as stressful life experiences, such as moving house. Others deem this to be one of the most stressful situations in our lives.

Stress - the illusion

I recently moved from London to Somerset as part of a family of five. I carried on working while we got the house we were moving into and making it habitable. Before gaining an understanding of the human experience, I would have felt pretty stressed out by what I needed to do to get ready for the move, as well as what I had to do on a daily basis.

I would have felt exhausted, become impatient and intolerant, suffered from headaches, not slept easily and woken up in the night having to write down what I needed to do! I might also have felt overwhelmed a lot of the time.

I would have seen stress as a given, as something that comes with the territory, and is the price I pay for being an adult. I had friends ask me, "How can you be so calm whilst selling your home and getting ready to move house?" My answer is that it's not about how not to have stress, it's about how my understanding of the human experience has enabled me to see that stress is an illusion and is not what I thought it was!

I now see stress as avoidable and not a side effect of moving house. Well, not a huge amount of it, anyway, if I keep a clear head.

A different outlook

I have heard, over the years, a lot about how to manage your stress, and there are things we can do to relieve stress, such as running, yoga, going for a swim or going on holiday. We have set up areas in our lives where we allow ourselves not to have stress, and I am the first to say that I do a lot of those things and feel so much more relaxed and back in control.

However, what I have experienced from this 'inside out' understanding is much less stress at home, at work and in my day-to-day life. I hope that this might help you to look at stress differently.


Kate Adey, Executive and Maternity Coach, Mother of Three