Creating a morning or nighttime routine. It doesn’t need to be a big production, but having something that you do for yourself on a consistent basis can be so helpful for your mindset. For me, it’s having a cup of coffee with my husband before the kids wake up. In fact, I race out of bed at 5:30am just so I can have at least 15 minutes to myself. I’ve had clients say that having a routine around washing their face helped them have a sense of normalcy and productivity during the early months or years of having a baby.
Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?
As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristin White.
Kristin White is a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC) with a specific interest in using coaching to advance efforts in maternal health. Her own postpartum experience led her to quit a career in e-commerce and focus on solving the problem: How can we reduce the prevalence of postpartum mood disorders and really support families during the early years of parenting? In her practice, Kristin works with mothers (and fathers) on the transition to parenthood by focusing on the wellbeing of the individual. She is also a maternal health advocate, postpartum health expert, and a mother of two.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Thank you so much for having me! I grew up in North Carolina and enjoyed the privileges of a middle class upbringing: piano lessons, neighborhood pool, road trips to the beach, and annual family vacations. I was born in 1980 so I also had a lot of birthday parties at McDonalds, lived off packaged foods, and was never really educated on how to care for my mind, body and spirit, outside of being forced to church on Sundays.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
While I didn’t know it at the time, the birth of my first child was the start of my new career and passion. Specifically, it was at my 6-week postpartum appointment where I cried my eyes out to my OB, told her I was suffering, was handed antidepressants, and was sent on my way with no follow up appointment. I was shocked. Is this really how we care for women after going through the most vulnerable, life changing experience of our lives? If my doctor wasn’t my go-to for support, who was? Throughout the next year, I found myself saying on repeat, “this cannot be how it is”. Each time I saw a doctor to help me, or spoke with other parents at the park, I was in disbelief that my story was not unique. No one was getting better care than me. Women were still holding on to their birth trauma, postpartum nightmares, and, as a result, they were less healthy now than they were prior to getting pregnant. We have become a society where we have come to expect prescription over prevention. And we have turned our back on the basics: support, guidance, and healthy living. So here I am, hoping to do my part to change that. Women deserve to be heard and supported in their health goals. I want a world full of stronger, healthier, and more confident mothers.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My husband is my most supportive person, both personally as professionally. He was there to support me as a partner when I was experiencing the deepest emotional and mental pain I have ever felt. And he is here now as a professional partner helping me development my business into a model that will fit into market that is hard to navigate: healthcare
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
As a health coach, I never know where a conversation will lead me. While someone may come to me with help loosing baby weight, by asking a few thought provoking questions, they may reveal they are struggling with their new identity as a mother. To me, this is the most exciting part of my job in that it challenges me to never make assumptions. I have to always remain curious since I never know where the conversation will take us. I’ve been honored to experience some pretty big “ah-ha!” moments with my clients.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
There are so many pregnancy books out there but, “What No One Tells You” by Dr. Alexandra Sacks and Dr. Catherine Birndorf is my favorite as it covers, in detail, the emotional side of pregnancy and motherhood. In particular, they normalize the ambivalence of motherhood, describing it as a constant feeling of “push and pull”. I am so honored to work with parents through ambivalence.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Its Ok to not be OK”. I think we’ve heard it a lot this year but it still resonates so much for me personally and as a coach. It’s ok to love your child but not want to be with them all the time. It’s ok to have wanted to be a mother your whole life but have days where you just want to run away. It’s ok to have this ambivalence, and it’s normal.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Currently, I’m working with a doctors in the maternal health space to really understand the needs and holes in care we provide to women post-birth. Is it in the weeks after birth or the years where women need the most support? How well are we preparing women for postpartum? How can the new field of health and wellness coaching solve these problems or fill in any gaps in care?
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
I work with families during such a vulnerable and unique time period. Lack of sleep, the demands of a new baby, and the strain it can put on a relationship can make it hard to cultivate wellness habits. However, it is during the challenging times that it is more important than ever to put your wellbeing first. Habits that can lead to optimum wellness during this time include:
1 — Creating a morning or nighttime routine. It doesn’t need to be a big production, but having something that you do for yourself on a consistent basis can be so helpful for your mindset. For me, it’s having a cup of coffee with my husband before the kids wake up. In fact, I race out of bed at 5:30am just so I can have at least 15 minutes to myself. I’ve had clients say that having a routine around washing their face helped them have a sense of normalcy and productivity during the early months or years of having a baby.
2 — Practice mindful breathing. I love this type of self care because it’s free, easy, and you can do it anywhere at any time. The more you do it, the more you will get better at it. You will also have the power to activate your parasympathetic nervous system which will release any anxiety or stress, instantly.
3 — Get comfortable with accepting and asking for help. Let’s just all agree having a new baby is hard. If you’ve done it, then please be available to a friend, neighbor or co-worker that needs a healthy meal or even help with another child. And if you are the new parent, always say yes to the help! And if it’s not in the form of the type of help you need or want, let people know your needs.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
My favorite meditation practice is a body scan. In the early years of having babies, I would wake up at night and find it hard to go back to sleep. I was constantly thinking about my kids, my to-do list, work, and who knows what else. During these times, I started practicing body scans, which is where you “scan” down your body — from your head to toes — relaxing every single muscle. Doing this would instantly help calm my body and mind and put me back to sleep.
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
If you are a new parent, then you know it can be hard to fit in a work out, and as a new birth parent you may not even be cleared to exercise yet. Here are three habits you can still cultivate during the early years as it pertains to physical wellness:
1 — Practice mindful breathing — yep, it’s back. Not only can it help with your mental state as mentioned above, but will help lower blood pressure and increase lifespan! Even more immediate is how it can help your core muscles heal from birth and is a very low impact way to “exercise” during your six-week postpartum period.
2 — Walking. Regardless of weather, try and take baby on a walk every day. Walking is so helpful for your physical recovery from birth and fresh air is great for both of you.
3 — Consider seeing a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist. After birth your body changes again, moving itself back to where it was pre-pregnancy. During this time, and the years following, be mindful of your pelvic floor and core muscles. Many times women experience diastasis recti, which is the partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis muscles in your stomach area.Consult with a pelvic floor PT on exercises that can help tighten and repair your core and pelvis floor.
Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
For new parents this all goes back to time. It’s not easy to eat healthy unless you have the time to grocery shop, prep food, and cook it. When you are taking care of children, you are usually eating when you are starving and grab the quickest thing you can, which is either take out or packaged food. Consider setting up a meal train or finding healthy/quick food options to have on hand before baby comes.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
I wish they taught emotional wellness in birthing classes! Once baby comes, everything changes, not to mention the hormonal shifts that mothers experience postpartum that can really be difficult on your emotions. Some habits to consider include:
1 — Boundary setting. Do you have a mother-in-law that isn’t so helpful? Or a neighbor that shows up unannounced? It’s time to communicate your needs and set boundaries so you can take care of your emotional needs. It can be hard but such a great gift to yourself.
2 — Give yourself grace. The house may be a mess, you haven’t showered in a few days, and you feel like things are out of control. Welcome to motherhood! But give yourself grace during this time and know that you are doing the absolute best you can.
3 — Practice gratitude. Just having a little gratitude each day can help you so much emotionally when things feel overwhelming or don’t go as planned. And it doesn’t need to be gratitude for the big things. Even when you can’t find something, just look around you. I’ve had some clients give thanks for small things like drinking water or Netflix!
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
There is an amazing experiment conducted by Dr Ed Tronick in the 1970’s called the “Still Face Experiment” and shows our need for connection from very early in life. In the video, you watch the mother look at her child with no facial expression which upsets the baby. Once the mother smiles, the baby reacts in the most joyful manner. And, of course, when baby smiles back at mother, the mother’s feelings of joy come back to her as well. Smiling at yourself in the mirror can even trigger this same emotional response!
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
To clear up any confusion, spirituality does not have to be religious based. And for non-religious parents, it’s the birth of a new child that can trigger a desire for spiritual wellness. Consider exploring the desire for spirituality using any of these habits and see where you land!
1 — Disconnect and enjoy nature. Leave all technology behind and study nature for what it is. Hear the sounds, feel the plants, smell the air, touch the ground, and see the colors.
2 — Be Curious. Let your mind wonder. Ask yourself the big questions and observe connectedness of world.
3 — Develop a spiritual routine. This doesn’t need to be a huge commitment but rather something small you can do daily or even weekly to connect with your spiritual curiosity and wonder. What provokes these feelings in you and when can you incorporate it into your life on a regular basis?
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
As mentioned, being mindful in nature can be very spiritual for many people as it connects us to the earth and the greater meaning of our purpose in the world. Slow down and really observe the world around you. Even if it’s a rainy, gloomy day. What does that rain do for our earth? For plants? For animals?
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Since I am so passionate about mothers and families, I would bring the idea of flexible work schedules and paid maternity leave to all families. I would also like to see the idea of community come back where we embrace family and support each other during the early years of parenthood. Our birth rate is declining and could it be because we don’t provide any sort of support to parents with young children? Also, almost 3 Million women have left the workforce during COVID to care for children that were not able to attend in person school. How are we going to support these women if they choose to re-enter the workforce?
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would love to meet Serena Williams and discuss her own experience with birth trauma, postpartum and her thoughts on the maternal mortality rate, particularly as it relates to women of color. The US has the highest rate of maternal deaths amongst all developed nations and this doesn’t even include data on women that almost died and are now suffering from emotional, mental, and physical trauma as a result. I would love to hear her experience and perspective.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
More information on my story and how I work with families can be found on my website www.kristinwhitewellness.com or follow me @kristinwhitewellness on Instagram and Facebook.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.