Kate Couchman has witnessed firsthand what stress can do to the body – both personally, and within her family. Those lessons motivated her to become a certified coach, and for 25 years, she has specialized in helping people manage stress so they are able to live healthier, happier lives. Then, in 2020, she decided to start her own U.K.-based consultancy, Dr. Kate’s Smart Health. Today, Couchman not only helps clients find and foster internal peace, but also teaches other coaches how to start their own businesses, to widen her helpful reach.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
Tell us more about why you started your business.
My work is not just about promoting health and wellness, but also about challenging societal norms and expectations that often lead to stress and overwork. I believe that work should not hinder health and happiness.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
I’ve seen the pain and suffering that stress causes – from heart attacks to chronic diseases. I’ve studied how the brain works under stressful conditions, and I use my experience and knowledge to support my clients in taking small steps to ensure sustainable results.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
A doctor became a client of mine after having brain surgery. He had lost his driver’s license, his relationship was hanging on by a thread and he was being “let go” from work due to his health. His confidence was incredibly low – he felt humiliated. But after a few weeks, there was a noticeable improvement in his attitude, memory and health. He made plans to start his own business,his relationship got back on track, and he was happy once more.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
I struggled with work/life balance until I started valuing my boundaries and time as if I were my own client. I prioritized my time, scheduled in daily needs such as exercise and time with my husband, and incorporated more activities that brought me joy.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
My sister has a rare autoimmune condition. When her prognosis was unclear, my husband and I left the U.K. to be with her in South Africa. I remember watching her suffer and recoil in pain as the medication destroyed her body.
After 14 years of treatment, her body became resistant to it, and the doctors said she was too weak to have surgery – but that she also wouldn’t survive without it. We needed stem cell therapy for her body to “reset itself,” they said. We thought this would be the answer, but it was another massive hurdle – she lost all her hair, as well as an incredible amount of weight, and was in extreme agony at times.
Damn, it was hard. Seeing her suffer to that degree hurt me. But after a long road to her ultimate recovery, she knows – we all know – how important it is to prioritize health. Her experience showed us, on many occasions, how fragile life is.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Take care of yourself. Prioritize your own health every single day – without you, your business won’t exist.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I look at my “why.” I am driven by my mission to help make change happen. I want to spread the word about stress management, so people are able to live healthier, happier lives without chronic pain or chronic health issues.
What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days?
“Everything’s Going to Be Okay!” by GoGo Penguin.
Who is your most important role model?
I believe we need to be our own role models. Each person has so much to give. Unfortunately we also have so many limiting beliefs and doubts – but comparing ourselves to others doesn’t serve anyone. Learning from our mistakes, accepting feedback and growing as people is how we can all be successful. ◼