Becky Pell is a touring sound engineer with 26 years’ experience in the live music business. She is also a qualified yoga teacher and clinically trained yoga therapist.
Becky is a part of Music Support’s Mental Health First Aid alumni having taken our training via fellow industry charity, Backup Tech’s AJ Bursary to give freelancers free Mental Health First Aid training. You can find out more about the bursary and apply here.
Here, Becky shares ways in which she is managing stress as we re-enter touring and live events…
1 – Making sleep a priority
There’s no way I’m going to get as much sleep as I really need on the road, so it has to be about making the best of the situation, and that means getting to my bunk ASAP on a school night. I discovered a handy little trick on this last tour – if I take my bus bag into the venue before the gig, I can shower and brush my teeth before I go back on the bus with its siren temptations of snacks and drinks. Somehow having my teeth already done makes me think ‘I can’t be bothered doing it again’ and makes it much more likely that I head straight to my bunk to maximise the shuteye. Earplugs are a game-changer on a bus, but what about hearing the alarm? I got myself a cheap vibrating alarm watch which has the added bonus of not rudely awaking my fellow bussers if my call is before theirs.
2 – Giving myself some morning headspace
This was a challenge after getting used to not having to deal with other humans before coffee! I bought myself an insulated cup, figured out when other people were getting up and staggered my alarm time to miss the busy times and slipped off the bus with my brew to have fifteen minutes to myself in the open air before starting my day. Yes, it means not hitting snooze, but I find that little window of headspace makes a world of difference to how I feel for the rest of the day.
3 – Getting fresh air and daylight every chance I get
On an indoor tour it’s all too easy to never see daylight, and that’s really bad news for stress and mental wellbeing. Snatching a few minutes of open air and daylight is not just for the smokers – I find that stepping away any time I can, especially once the dock doors have closed, really helps me stay on an even keel. Bonus good feelings if you can get out for a short walk between doors and the show.
4 – Getting the good stuff in
You wouldn’t expect a car to run well on crappy fuel, and bodies are no different. Sussing out where I might be missing out on nutrients and supplementing accordingly helps me stay well, especially when we’re all trying to dodge the virus, as well as choosing the healthiest option in catering and snacking on fruit. Doesn’t mean I don’t succumb to dessert some days, but I prioritise getting the good stuff in.
5 – Going easy on the booze
I know it’s tempting to reward a day’s work with a drink, but would you feel a bit sprightlier if you saved it for Roadie Friday? I love the ‘aaaah’ feeling of a cold beer after a load-out, but I discovered that – for me at least – it’s largely about the ritual, so I have a stash of ‘zero’ beers to hit that spot.
6 – Staying hydrated
I bloody love tea and coffee, so I try to match my consumption with plain water. Most countries we tour in have perfectly clean drinking water on tap, so having a water bottle means I can refill and top myself up regularly. Some venues are putting water coolers in now – we need all of them to do that to make it as easy as possible for the crew to stay soggy! Keep an eye on your wee – if it’s darker than a pale straw colour, you need more plain water.
7 – Taking time out from the tribe
I’m an antisocial hermit on days off! Occasionally I go out for early dinner with the others, but usually it’s a picnic in my room, bath, and bed by 8.30 for an epic catch-up sleep. Maybe that’s just me – no matter how much I love my fellow roadies, I know I need time alone to recharge my batteries. The point is, whatever your leanings, doing what you know supports you and lets you de-stress in a healthy way on days off, makes the whole thing a lot more enjoyable.
8 – Putting my moaning to good use
Ahh, I know, we all said we’d never moan again once we got back on the road, right?! And we all knew it wouldn’t last. Touring can be awesome and it can be brutal, and we all need to let off steam from time to time. But there’s only so many times I can catch myself having a whinge about the same thing before a quiet voice in the back of my mind says ‘so what are you going to do about it?’ No, not go and dump on the already overloaded production co-ordinator by whingeing at them instead, but come up with an actual idea about how it can be resolved, and then having conversations. Maybe it’s too late in the day on this particular tour, but do management need to be made aware of an issue that could be addressed next time? If we don’t speak up about things that aren’t working and come up with better ways, then it’s not going to just magically improve. We need to work together to make touring as good an environment as it can be.
9 – Connecting with the outside world
It’s very easy to get stuck in the tour bubble and take ourselves all a bit too seriously. Not saying we shouldn’t take the work seriously, but healthier heads arise from staying connected with friends and loved ones on the outside too.
10 – Honouring the gaps
I’m so happy to have a wonderfully full diary for the foreseeable future, and as it would have been unthinkable to turn work down a year ago, I’m having to really discipline myself not to fill in every gap and day off with every bit of work that’s offered. Would it just about fit? Yeah. Would I be absolutely fried and no use to anyone six months from now? Also yeah. Flat-out busy is awesome after the last couple of years, and we also need to remember to strike a balance with time to recharge so that we don’t burn out. Tough to do when there are crew shortages and there’s such a temptation to do it all, but asking myself how I’m really going to feel by the time a date rolls around helps me to keep an even keel and manage stress, as we finally, gloriously, return to touring”.
Click here to find out more about Becky.
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