For Helena Vestergaard, Getting Dressed Is A Way To Improve Mental Health
Author: India Hendrikse
DOCUMENTED BY: Helena Vestergaard
When Helena Vestergaard answers my video call from her North Sydney home, her kids have just left for daycare and she’s realigning herself after the routine morning rush. Her day began with her four-year-old son, Sway, waking her up by continuously flicking her face. “I wanted to head-butt him,” she laughs.
The 29-year-old model, influencer, and yogi lives with her husband, Nathan, and their two kids and dogs. Helena is a familiar face in Australian fashion campaigns, but it’s her Instagram account where you’ll find an honest look into her life.
While Helena’s grid shows a picture of cohesion – a minimalist, uber-chic home, eco-cleaning hacks and perfect asanas – in her stories she offers snippets of the inner struggles she’s faced. Her mental health battles include bulimia, which began at age 16, and post-partum depression, following giving birth to now-five-year-old, River.
Helena, it’s lovely to speak to you. How have you been lately?
In the grand scheme of things and in the journey of my life, I’m really good. But my partner went away recently on a work trip for 12 days, so I was on my own with the kids and I had some moments. I had to force myself out of the house and ended up doing a lot of yoga – thank god I have that because it really makes me feel so much better.
You obviously have a lot of self-awareness.
I think that’s the thing that can get you through anything; to actually look at yourself and ask ‘What am I doing? What are these thoughts?’ And I think yoga is the one thing more than anything else that has taught me the deepest self-awareness.
What else does yoga offer you?
It keeps me grateful. People think yoga is just the physical aspect, but it’s so much more than the asana and the movement; it’s a whole lifestyle of thinking and being. It’s being completely self-aware and surrendering to the world. Yes you move your body and do all these things, but it actually opens up meridian lines within your body so you can receive things.
Does fashion and how you dress for the day have an impact on your mood/state of mind?
Yes I really think it does for me, whenever I put in that little bit of extra effort and consciousness into my dressing I feel like it perks me up a bit and sometimes that's all you need to slightly lift your spirits and add a little extra confidence into your mood to have a better feeling day.
You’re quite open on social media about your mental health. I’d love to know, how did you come to the initial decision to share your struggles publicly?
One day I remember feeling down and thinking ‘everybody’s just putting all their best attributes and highlights online, and it’s all so false and unrealistic’. It would make me feel like shit. I’ve always been pretty open about things because I don’t believe in falsifying or sugarcoating. And I wish someone had done that for me: been really open and told me it’s okay to do this, or feel a certain way. I hope it helps someone else.
Especially when people who follow you probably see that you’re a model and have a beautiful family. Is it about making that image more realistic?
I still feel like my Instagram is totally unrealistic. But for the most part, I want to look at things that are funny and positive. I do think you need to give yourself a break, let go of things and move on and be in the now, because if you keep going back to the past and your worst moments – talking about them and constantly looking at things – it brings you back there.
Documented By: @helena.vestergaard
What else would you say has helped you get through the darker moments? Have people been a big support?
Yes, I had a really good therapist when I was living in America. She was amazing and was a support for me. My partner and my kids as well, they’re the ones that keep me going. But, also, at the same time, it’s such a personal thing for me. I found the only way I could truly get better is by looking at myself, and really wanting to be better.
It’s rare, but I still have days where I can’t get out of bed because I feel like I cannot deal with the world. Then there’s that part in the back of my head that’s like, ‘you are wasting a whole day, imagine the things you could do, you could be with your kids, you could go for a surf or do yoga, you could make a really yummy meal…’ it’s such a waste of a day. It’s hard for other people to spark that light in you, you have to want it.
Documented By: @helena.vestergaard
Is there any media that you find helpful and would recommend to someone struggling with their mental health?
Just the classics are good; Eckhart Tolle, anything of his is amazing for opening your eyes and making you feel connected and enlightening you in some way. There are a lot of kid and parenting people I love to follow, such as Dr. Shefali, Big Little Feelings, and Dr. Gabor Maté.
Is there anything you’re working on that is making you happy right now?
I’m working on my children, on making them the best little human beings they can be, and I think that’s my most important thing. I look around and I’m so lucky. So at the moment my biggest practice – and I had this epiphany at yoga the other day – is being content and not feeling like I need to be working on something. The human disposition is always wanting more. I’m trying to work on that. All I want to do is go surfing right now. If I could surf every day, I’d be so content.