“It’s ok to feel uncomfortable. If life is particularly hard, just understand you’ve suffered before.”
At 25 Brian Hall aka Boy Bjorn, began experiencing panic attacks. Burdened with anxiety and self-doubt, the singer decided to go solo and learn from past experiences and lessons learnt along the way.
His latest hit single ‘Anchorage’ is about the loss of childhood. We caught up with Brian to discuss what he terms his ‘quarter life crisis’, growing up in Wisconsin and how it’s ok to feel uncomfortable.
What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?
I’m always bouncing between passive listening (Geotic’s Abysma is one of my favorites, Thrupence, Four Tet etc) and following up with some bands I’ve loved and seeing what they’re doing. In that regard, I can’t get enough of the new Beach House album.
Still trying to get through One Hundred Years of Solitude. Why oh why did the author give everyone the same name…
What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?
By far it was some quarter life crisis I seemingly fell into after waking up at SXSW 2015. The strangest part of it all was that it didn’t *seem* like I was struggling before (I now know that all of the stress had built up and led to an explosion of anxiety). I overcame it slowly. Still overcoming it. It’s part of me now and I’ve accepted that.
I’ll still have bad days, bad nights without sleep and feeling like the world is crushing in on me. But I know what it is now. That’s been the hardest but most effective way out of this for me. Acceptance, letting go when I need to. When I was in the worst of it though, I don’t know what I would’ve done without my wife Kate by my side. She was my voice of reason when I didn’t have one.
What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?
You don’t know how often I try to set this up. Alright. It’s waking up around 7:30am. Fresh pot of coffee. No problems that are calling my attention right away in the morning. So it’s probably a weekend or holiday.
And Kate and I and our dog Bjorn go for a nice long walk or hike. Doesn’t matter as long as it’s pretty, long, and we’re able to talk about more than bills. We come home and make lunch. Probably sandwiches. Probably Zapp’s Voodoo flavour chips on the side.
Watch a documentary – Chef’s Table, Planet Earth. Something to pull me out of the focus of my own life. Nap. Meet up with some friends for a beer later. It’s quite simple. But you can’t do it all the time. “Perfect” isn’t sustainable, because it’ll just change. I imagine that scenario I just laid out would get boring quite quickly if I was able to do it every day.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
When I properly do my “morning routine”, I include a small 5-10 minute sit where I try to close my eyes and think about things I’m grateful for. My mind immediately goes to my wife Kate. My pup. Our house together. Our health. But I try to move beyond that, and it gets really simple. The rind of an orange. The way the first sip of coffee tastes.
Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”
Putting your ego aside. Understanding your smallness against the grand scheme of the cosmos. Realising the ebbs and flows of life and being ok with them.
What do you eat to stay healthy?
I keep to a pretty vegetarian diet unless Kate and I go out or a meal is prepared for us. We eat a lot of veggies. Keep it simple.
Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?
I wish it were daily but sometimes the weather doesn’t allow (today, for example). But I typically get on my bike everyday for a ride to the nearest coffee shop. It’s a pleasant six mile roundtrip ride along the lake here. It’s less about getting my heart rate up than it is about just getting outside of my house/studio. Fresh air, seeing other people going about their days.
Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground everyday and loving it – can you share a similar memory?
Oh gosh…so many. I grew up in a small court. Five or six houses, outside of a small town in south east Wisconsin. We were outside everyday with neighbour kids. We had a grouping of trees we called The Grotto, with vines in between them and we could reach each other’s trees by monkeying around on these vines.
What three songs lift your spirits?
Broken Social Scene – Our Faces Split The Coast In Half
Jon Hopkins – Light Through The Veins
Goldmund – Threnody
What is your favourite self-help book, or motivational quote?
Well, the Book by Alan Watts is probably my favourite self-help book. But he also has this video that crushes me, in a good way, every time.
What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?
I just try to let them know they’re not alone. And it’s ok to feel uncomfortable. If life is particularly hard, just understand you’ve suffered before. Everything changes, including suffering.
Ride the wave of anxiety and tune in to your body. Don’t trust your mind in the worst moments (it will be screaming at you that you’re not ok). If you don’t give power to the screaming voice, it will fade away. And you’ll be closer to baseline and rational thinking again. Breathe.