On Fear | Brian MacKenzie

Notes From the Field of

Human Performance & Stress Resilience

Issue #4


Fear – a genetically encoded potential wired into the nervous system and our brain. No surprise there.

Many years ago, our ability to perceive and anticipate danger was essential in the context of evolution. Tens of millions of years ago, the nervous system began its transition to where it has been relatively unchanged for more lifetimes than we can comprehend. With the primary goal of our sympathetic nervous system to mobilize energy, I am sure you can do a little math on many of the problems that can come with a poorly regulated nervous system today.

Our fear response is the coordination of our biological, physiological, and behavioral systems to keep us alive in the face of danger.

These same responses elicit a rise in my voice when I feel that my safety is threatened by people, ideas, or concepts that I either disagree with or are foreign to me. The same response has previously made me physically leave heightened emotional and challenging situations in a fit of rage and an “I’ll show you” mentality.; the adult version of a temper tantrum. It is the same response we have all experienced in various scenarios where we feel threatened.

Those fears boil down to internal stimuli that we have become familiar with, a pattern that we play out from time to time in our daily lives to things that press our stress button.

Fear is the same thing that keeps us up at night or from moving forward out of a bad situation. It could be a relationship, a boss that berates or makes us feel less than, unhealthy work environments, or starting our own business. It keeps us bound to our status quo because it’s easy to stick with the known. What is on the other side is the unknown; therefore, we fear it. That unknown is what I’ve learned is potential beyond my wildest dreams.

I want to point out that generalized anxiety is the most common symptom clinically seen with fear.

After the COVID-19 pandemic (are we past it? Or still in it?), we see an enormous rise of anxiety disorders in school youth, not to mention the general population.

“The worst cruelty that can be inflicted on a human being is isolation” Sukarno

Recently the Health and Human Performance Foundation published a paper on the application of breathing protocols in high schools. It measured the level of anxiety experienced by these young adults.

The results?

High school students significantly reduced stress and anxiety by implementing breathing practices over five weeks.

Click here to view the results.

I can only imagine how our young adults and youth will respond years beyond this pandemic. How will the fear of interaction with others and/or intermittent isolation affect them? How many will be or have ended up on anti-anxiety medication?

This is no judgment, only an observation, and questions that sometimes percolate in me. I do care about the future.

I have six nieces and nephews, so this hits home for me.

I have dealt with my share of fear over the years. It has been quite a journey facing these one at a time!

I have found two options: apply a band-aid solution to reduce the ‘problem’ momentarily and (old behavior), and repeat, like any effective tool, had and continue to have their place.

The other option is something more long-lasting. I had to acknowledge how my fears played out in my life and understand how this impacted my decisions. We have developed proprietary work around this that has been integrated throughout the thinking and programming at SH//FT.

With all of this, I am talking about the ability to recognize whatever is holding you back (making the unconscious conscious) to decide if and how you would like to move beyond it.

Ponder this for now—play with the programming and even the breath calculator by being more aware of what is influencing your decisions, like how much weight you lift or how long your exhale is versus being okay with where you are. I’ll keep you posted with our following event dates or group openings.



brian mackenzie

Brian Mackenzie is an innovator in human performance on stress adaptation and a pioneer in the development and application of custom protocols to optimize human health and performance. His clients and work have included: Ari Emanuel, William Morris Endeavor, Sheppard Mullin, Deloitte, Google, Tim Ferriss, U.S. Military (Navy, Army, Marines), Canadian Military (CANSOF), San Quentin State Prison, The UFC Performance Institute, Altis, Jon “Bones” Jones, Laird Hamilton, Tia Clair Toomey (3X CrossFit Games Champion), Rich Froning Jr. (4X CrossFit Games Champion) and many others.


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