Zoom Fatigue is real, and it’s not just Zoom, it’s all the virtual platforms including FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.
Since the beginning of COVID-19 we’ve been coming up with creative ways to stay in touch, conduct meetings, even stream events live in unprecedented numbers. At first, it seemed like fun, but that changed pretty quickly. You may have realized pretty quickly that the online group meetings with friends and networking groups left you not uplifted, comforted, or fulfilled, but tired, grouchy, and depressed. I began to wonder why Zoom Fatigue was happening and did some research.
The Fishbowl Effect and Brain Fatigue
Virtual interactions are taxing to your brain. You sit at attention for hours – and unlike webinars, you are on screen all the time, so you need to nod, smile, etc, no more eating, walking around the room, or doing chores while in the meeting. It’s like being in a fishbowl and at the same time your attention is split by all the others on the screen if you’re seeing it in “galley view”. It’s overwhelming to your brain – you simply cannot process all the competing faces and stimuli. If you’re not careful you can end up with a serious case of Zoom fatigue.
Another difficult thing is that school, work, friends, family, and everything else is happening in the same space that we eat, sleep, play, etc. It’s hard to get perspective and privacy. The fishbowl isn’t just the people on screen but being constantly with family at home.
Full Attention Required
Another issue with the fishbowl is that you have to give the calls your full attention. Unlike phone calls, you can’t fold the laundry, empty the dishwasher, cook dinner, take a walk. It’s easy to start feeling like a captive rather than a willing participant and you slip quickly into Zoom fatigue.
Random or Monthly Meetings Have Changed to Weekly Check-ins
Have you noticed too that everyone has jumped on the idea that we need to meet weekly to “check-in”. Many of these groups pre-COVID simply emailed or had a focused meeting once a month or even once a year. But somehow thought that because of COVID we needed to be online with each other almost constantly.
On many of these check-ins, the focused part of the meeting comes only after everyone gets a chance to share how they’re feeling, coping, etc. Some people don’t understand what a “brief” comment is, and they go on and on and on until I’m ready to scream. When that happens, it’s not only information overload, but for Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) and Empaths, it’s energy overload as well. Hearing everyone’s trauma, frustration, anger, sadness, etc is exhausting on all levels.
The converse of this is at times I end up feeling completely shut down, resentful, and lacking in compassion. It’s just not possible to “be there” for everyone all at once. In order to protect myself, I shut down. Then I felt guilty for not being the kind, loving person, I know myself to be, and for not wanting to be on the calls. When the calls finally ended, I’d be too exhausted and depleted to even cook a decent meal.
Another issue with all these calls is that frequently the times were inconvenient. I didn’t like having my Saturday interrupted by a two-hour call right in the middle of the afternoon. It was hard to get projects done, or take a nap, or cook dinner at a reasonable hour when my time was being disrupted and
co-opted by calls that held me in place for long periods. I was experiencing a serious case of Zoom fatigue.
After about week three of our social distancing, I let go of my guilt for letting various groups down. I stopped jumping on all the calls I was invited to. I didn’t even feel it necessary to give an excuse. I just didn’t attend unless I felt like it. No one benefits by presence when I don’t really want to be there. I felt such a sense of relief when I quit pushing myself to participate.
Conversation Flow – Visual Clues – Human Touch
One of the exhausting things is that conversation doesn’t flow as it does in person. In normal conversation there are silences, but in a video call, there’s a worry that the technology has frozen. Studies show that delays of just over a second cause people to perceive the responder as unfriendly or unfocused. It’s hard to see your own face while on screen and not be conscious of every mood or expression.
We’re also missing the visual clues like hand movements and body language and even their energy. That last part can be especially hard for empaths and HSPs because tuning into someone’s energy is a large part of how we communicate.
Let’s face it, nothing can compare to in-person interactions. We miss the camaraderie of being with another human being, that light touch on the shoulder, the hug, walking shoulder to shoulder.
How can you ease your stress?
Make some changes in how you spend the rest of your time.
Set up times during the day for a digital detox. Go offline: take a walk, read an actual paper book, get out in nature if possible, cook a nice meal. All these things give your brain a rest and let you recharge.’
Set up a quiet space for your calls, away from noise and distractions. If you have children, spouses, or pets
Look away from the screen and just listen as if it were a podcast. When you aren’t searching for visual clues your brain is less taxed, and your eyes get a break as well.
Reduce call lengths
Consider making meetings shorter – 25 to 50 minutes instead of 90. If it’s a business meeting an agenda prior to the meeting can increase efficiency and reduce the time needed.
Avoid back-to-back calls
Give yourself 30-60 minutes between calls so you can move around, fix a snack, even go for a walk.
Multi-tasking between different kinds of work reduces performance by up to 40%. Your brain just can’t switch and refocus that quickly. When on a chat, close tabs or programs that might distract you, and even put your phone away and on mute.
Hide yourself from view so you aren’t spending much of the time conscious of every move and expression you make. Encourage people to use plain backgrounds – processing 5-10 different rooms at once is mind-boggling for your brain. It’s even possible to have everyone who isn’t speaking, turn off their video.
Does it really need to be an online call?
If you find yourself resisting or dreading yet another call, find another way. If there isn’t a need to visually share information, change it to a phone call instead. Most likely the other person or persons will be relieved as well. You can even suggest texts or emails.
Wear a BioElectric Shield
Another issue with our increased screen time is how the EMF (electromagnetic radiation) from your phone, computer, laptop or tablets affects your energy. Some of the symptoms are brain fog, headaches, fatigue, difficulty focusing, and that’s just for starters. If you haven’t already done so, take one of our quizzes for a recommendation and more tips.
Enjoy your online calls by using some of our tips.
AnnaMariah & Virginia