Krista Steele on Being Gentle With yourself & Postpartum Self-Care

[Editor's note: The thought of starting to take better care of yourself can be daunting but it doesn't have to be. These interviews feature individuals who have successfully incorporated self-care into their daily routines. Read their stories, be inspired by them, and take on the challenge of self-care!]

Krista is a licensed social worker and freelance writer living in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, Jeff, their daughter, Lucy and dog, Hank. She believes the best moments in life happen around the table, that there's always room for one more book in your Amazon cart/suitcase/purse, and that every load of laundry folded is an hour out of purgatory. You can find her outside wither her motley crew, hunkered down with a novel, or sipping coffee while she writes. You can read her column “The Ask”, a Catholic advice column, at CatholicSistas.com. Find her thoughts on relationships, mental health and faith at GrottoNetwork.com where she contributes regularly. Follow her adventures in marriage and motherhood on Instagram at @KristaSteele_.

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1. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Right now, I’m first and foremost a wife and a mom. Our daughter was born on April 3rd and we are in the weeds of learning what it means to be a family of 3.  I change a lot of diapers and watch a lot of Netflix. I wash tons of laundry that only gets folded because my mom comes over and does it for me. We eat a lot of take out and snuggle on the couch every afternoon for a nap.

Some would call this “survival mode”, but I don’t like that term. I don’t feel like we’re just surviving. I feel like our live has been simplified in a really beautiful and necessary way.

In July, I’ll return to work two days per week as a therapist in a private practice where I work primarily with teens and young adults. I’m also a freelance writer. We live in Columbus, Ohio and have an Australian Shepherd named Hank, who loves being a big brother. My husband and I are the coordinators of our parish young adult group in our spare time.

2. What is a typical day like for you? 
I’m woken up every day by a super cute, tiny alarm clock between 7:00 and 8:00 and my husband brings me a cup of coffee while I feed her in bed. He is the absolute best dad and husband. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Sometimes it’s a trip to the grocery store, a walk at the park, meeting up with a friend. Other times we hunker down and spend most of the day snuggling on the couch. Sometimes I can squeeze in phone calls, a workout or some writing time during her nap, other times not so much. Sometimes dinner gets made and the house gets tidied up, sometimes we’re living in squalor and eating frozen pizza.

Again. I’m learning that much of what my day looks like is out of my control, so I try to go into it with an idea of what I’d like to do, and then let the chips fall where they may.

Sometimes I get to the end of the day and think “I’m a freaking rockstar” and other days I have to remind myself I’m still a rockstar when the only thing I crossed off my to do list is “Keep baby and self alive.”

3. What has your relationship to self-care been like throughout your life? Did you always make it a priority?
For a long time I was very unkind to myself. I’m a recovering perfectionist and a chronic people pleaser. I’m my own harshest critic. I don’t say this as some kind of twisted false humility, like saying my biggest weakness is being “too dedicated to my work” in an interview. No. My biggest weakness is a fundamental inability to be satisfied with anything less than my idea of perfection and it often keeps me from doing meaningful work by keeping me distracted with stuff that doesn’t matter like scrolling through Instagram or organizing a pile of papers that doesn’t really need organized.

I’ve only really started prioritizing self-care in the last 5 years or so, and only because I witnessed the damage a lack of self-care can cause by observing other women in my life.

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4. What is your favorite self-care practice?
Oh man. There are so many. My definition of self-care has gotten more and more broad over the years. Today, I went to the ObGyn alone and stopped for coffee on the way. It was the first time I left the house alone since Lucy was born. I sipped my cold brew and read a novel while half naked on the exam table and it was absolute bliss.

All that to say, my definition of self-care is constantly changing and it isn’t always glamorous.

In general, long walks outside, working out, making and eating a nourishing meal, going to therapy, taking myself and a crisp $20 bill to my favorite bookstore, having lunch or a glass of wine with friends, time with my husband, a hot bath. Also, as a graduation gift to ourselves and each other when we both started our careers, we hired a housekeeper to come twice a month and it’s probably the best thing we’ve done as family self-care. I don’t do all the things every day or even every week, but I try to do at least one thing every day for myself. Right now, therapy and working out are the two big game changers when it comes to self-care.

Going to therapy and being on the other side of the couch really helps me get out of my head. I tend to be anxious and overthink things. Therapy gives me a place to gain awareness of my thoughts and emotions and is really helping me, a type A control freak new mom, enjoy the unpredictability of life with a newborn. Working out helps me feel at home in my body and the endorphins give me a nice energy boost.  I’m not trying to get my “pre-baby body back.” That’s never going to happen, and even if it could, I’m not interested in moving backward. I’m committed to moving forward in a body, mind and soul that have been transformed by motherhood.

5. Is there any area that you struggle to take care of yourself? How do you want to grow in that area?
I struggle to give myself grace. I want to do things right, even when I know there is no one right way to do most things in life. Cue all the overthinking. This is something I talk about and work through in spiritual direction and therapy. I’ve been focusing on the playful nature of God and thinking about my relationship with him as a dance. He invites me to dance cheek to cheek with him, a spin here, a dip there, moving to the music. I want to stop taking life and myself so seriously all the time. It’s such a buzzkill, you know?

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6. What do you wish you could tell your younger self when it comes to self-care?
I would tell myself to stay the course and let yourself be surprised. Everything I did or didn’t do, every experience that shaped who I am now, it was all part of the journey that has led me to care for myself so well as an adult. Caring for myself not only allows me to care for my friends and family better now, but in some small way I’m also caring for my younger self.

7. Lightening Round!
a. Coffee or tea?
Coffee! And the occasional cup of chamomile tea before bed, but always coffee.

b. Current favorite TV show?
Right now I’ve been binge watching ”Friends” while I nurse, and I love it. Sometimes I laugh so hard, Lucy loses her latch. Before that I watched Blue Bloods and absolutely loved everything about it.

c. Early bird or night owl?
Early bird 100%. These days, it’s a struggle to stay awake until the 10:00 feeding.

d. Favorite quote?
“God is just too busy loving us to have any time left for disappointment.” - Fr. Gregory

e. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
Smooth. Preferably inside Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.


Thank you, Krista! 

You can follow Krista on Instagram at @KristaSteele_.