Load-In: An Introduction to Mindfulness for Stagehands

Rhino Tempe: Talking Stick Resort, Footprint Center, arena load-in with ground riggers setting up bridles, rock’n’roll baskets, and chain motors.

Mindfulness may cushion the blow of stressful environments and experiences.

– Bergson et al., 2023

Stagehand life is one of the most exciting and rewarding things in the world, but it can also be one of the most physically and mentally taxing. Early mornings and long nights coupled with hours of driving from gig to gig on too little sleep. Not to mention the abundant job hazards like overexertion, heat, struck by, and crush and pinch hazards to name a few. On top of it all, we have our own personal lives to maintain. We’re all providers, caregivers, survivors, and dreamers.

All of these stressors compound and compound until we reach a breaking point. Without intervention, these stressors can lead to anxiety, depression, or suicide. That is unless we advocate for and take care of ourselves. One way we can protect our mental health is by practicing mindfulness.

Setting the Stage: What is Mindfulness for Stagehands?

Rhino Colorado: Coors Field stadium stage build for Billy Joel and Zac Brown Band concerts. Photo by James McCarthy.

Mindfulness – the capacity for cultivated non-judgmental attention to present moment experience – doesn’t decrease the stress of touring, but it moderates the likelihood of that stress turning into depressive symptoms and suicide risk.

Amber Health via Instagram, 2023

Mindfulness is that moment you take after you’ve signed in for the load out and wait for an artist you enjoy to wrap up their concert for the night. Behind the concrete walls, the thumping bass rumbles through your body, and your heart pounds to the rhythm. You see show-call stagehands and tour roadies weaving between stacks of weathered road cases and even notice the imperfect white paint across the bumpy black texture. The odor of beer diffuses through the air, as you feel the energy from the crowd and crew. You think to yourself, “This is real. I am actually here.”

You are fully present and aware of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and surroundings at that moment with an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance. No distractions, no judgment, no dwelling on the past or fretting about the future. Good, bad, or indifferent, you pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, and accept them for what they are without trying to change them. This is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a skill that can help you stay focused, calm, and centered, even in the midst of a busy and demanding job as a stagehand. By integrating mindfulness into your day-to-day, you can experience a range of benefits that can help you both on and off the job.

Standby: Getting Started with Mindfulness for Stagehands

Rhino Tempe: Robert Fansler and Anthony Venegas doing some preventative maintenance on the spotlights at the Talking Stick Resort, Footprint Center

Mindfulness can be practiced at any time and in any place. And the good news is, you don’t have to go at it alone! You can work with a therapist to integrate mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) into your psychotherapy, or you can practice mindfulness on your own. Remember, psychotherapy is not just for people with mental health conditions. It’s a way to learn coping skills and improve your overall well-being. Mindfulness-based techniques include guided meditations, yoga, body scanning, and breathing exercises. These techniques can help you stay focused, calm, and centered, even during the most stressful moments of your job.

“Recent research suggests that these approaches could be efficacious in treating many of the contributors to suicidal behavior, including difficulties with emotion dysregulation, stress regulation, depressive symptoms like hopelessness, and symptoms associated with cognitive deconstruction.”

Safe Mindfulness for Stagehands Practices On-The-Job

When it is safe, you can do mindfulness-based techniques before driving to the gig, after signing in and while waiting for the safety talk, while on standby, during breaks, and at appropriate moments throughout the day. Here are some tips:

  1. Take a few deep breaths. Focusing on your breath can help you center yourself and clear your mind. This is a good technique before engaging in a hazardous activity such as team lifting, incident response, and rescue.
  2. Practice mindful walking by paying attention to the physical sensations of each step you take. This can help you stay present and grounded while building your sense of awareness of your surroundings. This is key to injury prevention.
  3. Take moments throughout the day to stretch or do some yoga poses. Dynamic stretches such as neck turns and circles, shoulder rolls, arm swings, torso twists, hip hinges, leg swings, and ankle stretches also keep the blood flowing and muscles ready for movement. Stiff muscles are prone to sprains and strains.
  4. Practice gratitude by taking a moment to appreciate the people and things around you. This can be extra challenging during a rough gig, but this can help shift your focus from stress and worry to positive thoughts and feelings. Mindful gratitude practice, especially on those rough gigs, helps fortify your mind.

What other mindfulness practices can you do safely on the job? Share them with your fellow Rhino crew!

At-Home Mindfulness for Stagehands Practices

When you’re not rocking a Rhino gig, try some at-home mindfulness practices:

  1. Guided Meditation: This is a simple yet powerful technique that can help you develop a sense of calm and inner peace. All you need is a quiet space and a few minutes to focus on your breath or a mantra. There are plenty of free guided meditation apps available to help you get started.
  2. Yoga: This is a great way to improve your flexibility, strength, and balance while also practicing mindfulness. You can find plenty of beginner-friendly yoga videos on YouTube or download a yoga app to guide you through practice.
  3. Body Scanning: A body scan involves paying attention to each part of your body, from your steel toes to the top of your hard hat (okay, okay from your toes to the top of your head). By focusing on your physical sensations, you can develop a greater sense of self-awareness and relaxation. Body scanning can be done anywhere, anytime, and only takes a few minutes.
  4. Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing is a simple but effective way to practice mindfulness. Take a few moments throughout the day to focus on your breath and take slow, deep breaths. This can help you stay present and centered, even in the midst of a busy day. Deep breathing can also help reduce your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and promote relaxation.

Share your favorite mindfulness practices with your fellow Rhino crew and let’s all work together to improve our well-being!

Showtime! Benefits of Mindfulness for Stagehands

Touring Rhinos setting up the Luke Bryan Farm Tour

Mindfulness teaches you how to stay composed and centered, even in the midst of chaos. While mindfulness cannot prevent stress, it can help dampen its effect. Here are some ways that mindfulness can benefit stagehands:

  1. Decreased perceived stress
  2. Protection against depression in high-stress periods
  3. Protection against suicidality
  4. Greater engagement in valued behaviors and interests
  5. Increased self-awareness and self-acceptance
  6. Increased behavioral and emotional self-regulation
  7. Increased ability to engage in goal-directed behavior when emotionally upset
  8. Improved clarity, focus, and attention to detail
  9. Improved mood and well-being
  10. Lower levels of cortisol awakening response

Mindfulness can improve your overall mental health. By reducing the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression, mindfulness can protect you from suicidal ideation or intent. There are also positive impacts on physical health, such as reducing blood pressure, improving sleep quality, and boosting immune function.

Mindfulness can also help you develop emotional resilience and mental clarity. By being fully present and managing your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations effectively, you can maintain a calm demeanor and make sound decisions under pressure. Additionally, mindfulness can increase your ability to focus and improve job performance by avoiding distractions, mistakes, and incidents.

Load-Out: In Conclusion

Road case for Cher’s “Here We Go Again” Tour

Mindfulness is a powerful tool in your mental road case! Stagehand life can be stressful, especially during high-pressure situations like fast-paced load-ins and load-outs, tech rehearsals, or live performances. But, at safe and appropriate moments, mindfulness can be a convenient practice for stagehands who are always on the go. You can try breathing exercises, mindful walking, stretching, gratitude, yoga poses, guided meditation, body scanning, and more!

By incorporating mindfulness into your routine, you can:

  1. Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
  2. Protect against contributors to suicidal behavior
  3. Improve emotional resilience and physical well-being
  4. Attain a greater sense of self-awareness and self-compassion
  5. Improve clarity, focus, and attention to detail
  6. Improve safety and incident response

Take a few moments each day to practice mindfulness. Give it a try and see how it can support your mental well-being behind the scenes and transform your life on and off the job.

Rhino Resources

Ask HR if you qualify for on-call employee benefits so that you can take advantage of our mental health benefits.

Think Rhino -the employee portal- has a Resource Library with a link to Mental Health Resources such as crisis hotlines, online therapy services, support finders, and more.

Rhino crew members in leadership roles (supervisors, crew chiefs, etc.) can inquire with management about attaining a Mental Health First Aid certification through the Behind the Scenes Foundation. There are additional mental health tools and resources available on the Behind the Scenes website.


Bergson, Z., Newman, C., George, R. P., Beitz, T., & Zemon, V. (2023). Trait mindfulness plays a protective role in the positive relationships between stress, depressive symptoms, and suicidal behavior in an at-risk population: Music industry touring professionals. Psychology of Music, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/03057356231159217

Keng SL, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ. Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies. Clin Psychol Rev. 2011 Aug;31(6):1041-56. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2011.04.006. Epub 2011 May 13. PMID: 21802619; PMCID: PMC3679190.

Newman C., George R. P., Beitz T., Bergson Z., Zemon V. (2022). Mental health issues among international touring professionals in the music industry. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 145, 243–249.

“Psychotherapy: What It Is, Why It Is Done & Types.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/23445-psychotherapy.