Travel Stress, Screens, and Balance | Brian MacKenzie


Being on the road teaching for the last few weeks has been a refreshing experience and a sobering reminder of what allostatic load means.

I’ve traveled for work for more than 15 years, and still, when I return home, I too often jump back into my routine far too quickly. As a result, it’s easy for me to forget the impacts travel and working abroad have on me.

And yet these actions of “getting back to it” are all part of a stress response – a presentation I’ve done probably a dozen times in the last few months.

The stress response (as Gabor Mate outlines in “When the Body says No”) is a 3 part process: it starts with the stimulus, then moves to the nervous system’s action, followed by a physiological response and resulting behavior(s). In its simplest form, a stress response is perceived as a threat or desire for safety.

However, in the complex process of being human or human being, the stress response in the case of my travel can be seen in how much time I spend in front of a screen when seated in a chair traveling across the country at 30,000ft, for 4 hours. Or the toughest one, getting to a vacation spot and not being able to relax. I’ve experienced both.

To be human is to accept the machinery that we are. The ‘being’ part is tricky because we are often caught up in pursuing things as ways to fit in or fit back into…, and the notion of getting back to my routine ASAP fits perfectly into this paradigm.

Stress has an interesting way of creeping into my process. Most of the time, I am acutely aware of the load I take on because it is a routine; it’s habitual. Add to it maneuvering an airport, sitting longer than regular periods on planes where it is tough to stay hydrated and remain nutritionally adequate. So I now have to be extra vigilant.

I bet you all know what I’m talking about when we bring up screen time, causing a stress response. Take Instagram, for example. When we see something we don’t like (stress), there is an emotion and hormone (reaction), and this is sometimes repeated 5, 10, 20, or 100 times a day. I know I’ve caught myself more times than I’d care to admit scrolling the infinite loop of social media… and becoming reactive to it!

I still fall off the ‘being’ part pretty hard.

Does it pay off when I am dialed in and acutely aware of these stressors? – YES, giving me a straightforward approach back to my daily routine.

Fortunately, I’ve got a few tools to help:
– I’ll take a short walk
– do a little yoga
– or simply backing down during training to a Gear 1, or easier Gear 2 (Breathing Gears)

If you can relate to this, I hope these tools can help show you the road to more awareness, just as they have helped me. I am not getting younger, so it seems to be required more often than a few years ago… And I love every part of the process.

Stay aware,


PS. If you have signed up for our Mentorship, we cover this in the group calls. If you haven’t and are interested in the next sign up date, you can click here to learn more and sign up to be the first to know.


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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