A conversation with Vanessa on mental health
In addition to your appearance, you pay a lot of attention to keeping your inner balance. It sounds logical, yet many of us neglect our mental health. How do you see it in your environment, are we doing enough to be mentally well?
As of today, I also pay a lot of attention to my inner balance, but it wasn't always like that. In fact, to be honest, it was only a few years ago when I started to deal more thoroughly with this topic. My work is completely unpredictable, which was a very difficult task for a system-loving and pre-planning person like me to accept. It was difficult to get used to the fact that I can't plan anything and everything can fall apart from one moment to the next. I worked constantly in addition to school, and because I wanted to do well in both areas, it put a lot of pressure on me. And after school came the freelance "full-time" job. Again, this was a lot of pressure, but of course, I am aware that I always created the pressure myself. After a while, I noticed that I was constantly stressed, unable to let go of myself, and constantly in spasms.
I felt that this condition did not exactly have the best effect on my health, but I did not pay much attention to it. At the same time, I constantly paid attention to my physical well-being and fitness and began to delve more and more into this topic. It was at this time that I began to connect the two areas, and it was also then, that the topic of mental well-being became important to me. Plus, my husband has told me many times that while I spend a lot of time, energy and money on my health and fitness, I don't care about my mental well-being. However, I should look at this in the same way as if I were training with a coach and starting to learn everything from the basics. After all, if I am not mentally balanced, how could I make important decisions, how could I bear the load and stress?
Unfortunately, I see that few people around me pay attention to this, even though it would help everyone a lot in their everyday life, especially in today's fast-paced and stressful world.
It is a well-known fact about your life that you modelled abroad when you were fourteen years old, practically a child, however, few of us think about the pressure and trauma this may have caused you. How do you remember that period of your life?
Looking back, I still only have positive memories of that period, but my very first trip to Tokyo was very difficult. To this day, my voice breaks when I think back to the day when my dad traveled home and I was left alone. Of course, the two months I spent abroad were an unforgettable experience, as I learned a lot and made friends. However, now that I've been seeing a psychologist for a while and I've started looking for answers to some of my reactions and behaviours, I've realised that I've been traumatized and faced many difficulties. I still wouldn't trade those years, but if I had known what would have helped, or if I had paid more attention to my mental balance, it would have been much easier to handle certain situations.
The pandemic was mentally stressful for everyone, so we talked more about how important it is to take care of our mental well-being. How did you experience the pandemic, and how did it affect you?
Looking back, I can't believe how much panic came over us and how scared we were! I admit the experience was very difficult for me to deal with. First of all, I had to travel a lot for my work, even though the virus appeared in more and more European countries. I had to work, even though I really didn't want to anymore. Back then, it was embarrassing to be afraid of the coronavirus, lots of people joked about it and viewed people as stupid and paranoid if they wore a mask. Then, when cities and regions began to be closed in Italy, everyone was shocked.
I was in Budapest when my then fiancé called me to tell me that if I don't get on a plane the next day and go to Sydney, it's likely that we will spend the next couple of months apart. While I drove home, Rahil – now my husband! - bought my plane ticket for the next day. I quickly packed, and in the evening my parents and I tried to figure out how to avoid the line of cars at the Austrian-Hungarian border so that I could get to Vienna airport on time. A row of cars thirty kilometers from the border was queuing on the Austrian side. It really was like we were in a disaster movie. It was very scary.
Plus, a burden has once again settled on me, who should I choose in such a scary and dangerous situation? My fiancé or my parents and siblings? It didn't matter either way, because I knew that I would feel guilty regardless. It was horrifying to see what was happening and that countries were closing down one after the other. The uncertainty was terrible, not knowing when I would be able to work again. How will it be possible to travel? Travelling is a key part of my job. How will I be able to be in studios without a mask? All control slips out of your hands and you can't influence anything...
In the first two weeks, I was very depressed, I cried and panicked a lot, but Rahil helped me stay strong and positive. At that time, I did a lot of yoga and exercise, and that helped me the most to keep my head calm and strong. It also helped a lot that I was in Sydney where the weather was wonderful, and the restrictions started to be lifted relatively quickly. I learned that you have to be positive and persistent, and I started preparing for the fact that if I can't model because of the coronavirus, I will immediately start looking for an alternative. Always be open-minded, and if you really want something, you will achieve it! Meanwhile, I tried to spend very little time reading the news and fake news, but I still tried to stay informed. Social media is something in which I'm constantly trying to find the golden zone of how much is good for me and when I should put it down. Sooner or later everything will be fine.
What strategies do you have for maintaining your mental balance?
Sports, training and yoga have worked the best for me. I couldn't imagine my life without them. Everything would fall apart. A healthy diet is also important. Of course, I'm no saint either, and I eat all kinds of things, but it's important that the main ingredients are healthy. It also helps my well-being a lot. Also performing breathing exercises and meditation have helped, although the latter is still difficult. Besides these, it is important to be able to talk to someone about things that I would not necessarily share with family or friends. This can be a psychologist or a coach. Journaling also works for me. It helps a lot if I can write down my burdens and problems. I like to read and thereby switch off and withdraw into a completely different world, while also improving myself. It is important that I use a book or ebook so that my attention is not distracted by social media and similar interfaces. Listening to music and dancing are good stress relievers. I immediately forget stress, switch off, and recharge, while music gives me confidence and puts me in a good mood! These are of course my proven strategies, it can be different for everyone and it takes time to find what is best for us.