The pandemic has been hard on all of us. It has been very impactful on everything from business to education. At the center of so much that we do as a society is communication. But communication becomes difficult when we are dealing with a global pandemic, lockdowns, and quarantine. To communicate more safely we have turned to technology. Video chat seems like a good solution. The challenge is that it brings new stressors to us mentally. Screens can (and do) freeze and there are sometimes weird audio echos. Multiple faces are staring at you. It’s like you are on a stage and everyone is watching you. It can feel like you need to perform. For some it can be all to stressful. It is far too easy to feel self-conscious about the way you look or sound in the chat. When all of this builds up it can lead to Zoom Fatigue. Scientists say it is a result of suddenly becoming reliant on a technology that disrupts and complicates what we consider normal. Zoom Fatigue happens when it all gets to be just too much.
What is Zoom Fatigue?
Zoom Fatigue is like a burnout from overusing video chat platforms to communicate. Let’s face it, Zoom (and other video chat platforms like Skype and others) are everywhere and almost impossible to avoid. More than 300 million people use Zoom daily.
With multiple faces on the screen the brain is forced to decode so many things at once that it can be hard for one thing to come through in a meaningful way. It is like we are bringing our minds together while our bodies still know that we are separate. All of this can lead to conflicted feelings and exhaustion. It can feel like there is little room for natural conversation.
Being so reliant on virtual communication brings with it a lot of trade-offs:
- Loss of nonverbal communication.
- Possible interruptions.
- Stress from looking at your own face.
- Are they just listening or are they frozen?
- Reliance on video chat can be a reminder of all that we we have lost during this pandemic.
- Worry about how much to speak and when to do so.
Zoom Fatigue is very real and can be exhausting to those who experience it. Here are some tips that may help.
How to Combat Zoom Fatigue
Relax, settle down, and center yourself before starting your meeting. Not to sound too new age on this but maybe try closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. Just relax. Tell yourself that it’s just another meeting or class that you are doing in a different way.
Use good ergonomics. Try to keep your screen at eye level. Sit so you are comfortable. Arrange your space and sit in a way that you can watch and use your mouse and keyboard in a natural and comfortable way.
Avoid multitasking. In this new way of doing things it is already far too easy for your brain to get overstimulated. It is better to do one or very few things well right now than to do several things in a half-hearted way that leaves you feeling exhausted.
Take breaks. We all need them. It is healthy and can be refreshing to even take a few minutes for “me time” and relaxation where you can.
Try to reduce overstimulation. Take a second to think about all of the things your brain is trying to process. There are several faces on the screen. Did that person just freeze? Being self-conscious about what you may look or sound like on camera. Interruptions and random thoughts. Notifications and noises from your computer and other devices. The list can go on and on. It can all get to be too much. Try thinking about ways that you can minimize and simplify.
- Try concentrating only on the person speaking or make sure you are on Speaker View in Zoom.
- Tell others in your home that you will be in a meeting or in class and can’t be disturbed.
- Try putting your phone in do not disturb mode.
- Keep web browsers and other programs closed while you are in the call.
Just take some time to think about ways that you can simplify things so you can give your brain a break.
Get up and move when you can. It might surprise you how refreshing it can be to step away even if only for a few moments.
Switch to texting, email, and phone calls where possible. Mixing things up can help relieve the strain.
If possible establish meeting-free periods. I know this isn’t always possible but you owe it to yourself to do it when you can.
Try to reduce digital eye strain.
- See what you can do to reduce the glare on your screen.
- Clean your screen once in a while. If it is dust and smudge free it can make things a lot easier to see and look at.
- Try dimming the other lights in the room so the surrounding light and the light on your screen aren’t competing for the attention of your eyes.
- Increase the size of text on your screen if you need to. It can make the words a lot easier to read.
- Try to blink more often to avoid dry eyes.
The above are just a few ideas that you can try.
Parts of our lives that were once separate are now all happening at home. We now communicate with friends and family, go to school, attend seminars, and go to work in our living room (or some other room of our abode). We have so many worries, so many changes, and so much news (at times not knowing what to believe) constantly coming at us all at once. It can all get to be too much. I hope some the tips I shared will help somebody out there.
Maybe one of the best things we can do for ourselves is, though we are facing a “new reality”, to remind ourselves that storms don’t last forever. This too shall pass. For now try to keep your head up, don’t forget self-care, and keep hanging on. Even this pandemic one day will pass.
Tech on and have the best day.