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Have you been finding yourself Fighting Zoom Fatigue?

Facetiming your significant other or best friend before bed seems like a great way to wind down from the day. Maybe. Then why is it that many of us are so stinkin’ tired of Zoom (and Skype, Facetime, Teams, Google Hangout, etc.)? You may have been familiar with video chat software prior to the start of COVID-19, but now we have more experience with Zoom than we ever wanted to have. It’s no disrespect to Zoom itself; it’s great to have the option to video conference, but sitting still in front of a screen for long periods of time is challenging for children and adults alike. It’s normal to feel antsy and distractable. This week’s blog will center on tips for fighting zoom fatigue.

What is Zoom Fatigue?

The term “Zoom Fatigue” has become popular since the major shift toward technology use for interaction have occurred for work and socializing due to COVID-19. Zoom fatigue describes how taxing it feels to be use video chat software for extended periods of time and/or for interactions that would normally be in person.

So why does it feel so exhausting, even when you may be talking to friends? One of the answers lies in how your brain is missing key information when you interact via videos online versus face-to-face. You don’t get to see the regular social cues and body language of your peers during a work meeting via Zoom and your brain works extra hard to try to make up for that. The “Brady Bunch” division of the screen can be very distracting. You may have someone’s adorable pooch come into frame, or someone accidentally leaves their microphone on and a baby starts crying. It’s a lot to manage when a group is trying to complete a task, especially for people who may have challenges focusing under normal circumstances. The crux of it is, your brain is working on overdrive to fill in missed information.

Additional reasons Zoom can cause stress

  • Poor internet connection
  • Anxiety about appearing on camera (or your house being on camera)
  • Not wanting to look at yourself but getting focused on that little image anyway
  • Being seated/looking at a screen for extended periods
  • Decreased water cooler moments & coworker connections
  • Increased snacking!

Though Zoom fatigue is normal under the circumstances, here are some of the common signs to be aware of. It is not a “disorder,” but rather a colloquial term associated with the stress interacting online can induce.

  • Dreading meetings
  • Feeling tired even when having enough sleep
  • Difficulty focuses and staying on tasks
  • Not wanting to interact with peers/use technology
  • Feeling lonely even after engaging with people
  • Finding yourself being less physical even after meetings are over
  • Loss of a feeling of structure and order to the day
  • Less interest in self-care and appearance

How can I Fight Zoom Fatigue???

You may be thinking: Well, I have to work, so what can I really do about Zoom fatigue? Unfortunately, Zoom and related technologies are likely going to continue to be part of our daily routines for a long time. However, there are some things you can do to help yourself in small ways feel better and more present throughout your day.

Steps to fighting Zoom Fatigue
  • Schedule in breaks and TAKE THEM, use that time to be away from the computer. Don’t just switch from Zoom to Facebook or from your computer to your phone!
  • Deal with the discomfort of saying no so you don’t overcommit and drain yourself.
  • Step outside into the sun, even if only for five minutes
    • Walk barefoot in the grass to reconnect to your surroundings
  • Weather permitting open your windows to allow in fresh air
  • Plan ahead
    • Have water to drink
    • A HEALTHY snack with protein/fat to help give you sustainable energy throughout the day (e.g. avocado and crackers, peanut/almond butter and apples, cheese slices, etc.)
  • Allow yourself to step away from your computer if you can, even during a meeting, to turn off your camera and stand up for a few seconds.
  • Get some energy out with exercise, vigorously if possible
    • Running
    • Swimming
    • Brisk walk
  • Take time to stretch
    • Make sure you aren’t hunched over
    • Pump your feet beneath your desk even during the meetings (flex and point your feet)
    • Stretch your arms over your head and behind your back
    • If it resonates with you, try to complete a few 5-10 minutes yoga breaks throughout the day
  • Redirect your attention periodically to something not technology related such as
    • A mini zen sand garden
    • A pet
    • Adult coloring book
    • A favorite picture
    • Songs on Spotify/playlist
    • Listen to an inspirational/soothing audio book (e.g. Untethered Soul)
  • Be honest with trusted friends, family, and colleagues about how you are feeling and seek additional help if needed
  • Set a reasonable “to-do” list for yourself for the day and check things off as you go to feel that sense of progress

Choose your video conferencing space wisely

Where you Zoom can have a big impact on how you feel during the meetings and later on as you are going through your normal daily routines. For many of us, there are not a lot of choices in where we set up shop. Not all houses are equipped with an extra room, and table space can be prime real estate for a busy family (especially with online schooling and if your spouse is also teleworking). However, your brain gets accustomed to where you are supposed to be working and playing and will send you physical cues based off of this. This is similar to when we suggest that if you have trouble sleeping to train your brain to only see the bedroom as a sleep (or sex) space and to not watch TV or do recreational tasks in there. That being said, it helps if you work Zoom and social Zoom in separate ways. We have included suggestions for each space, try to implement what you can but realize many are ideal choices but not always realistic options.

Creating Your Work Zoom Space
  • Use a space designated only for work.
    • A separate room for a home office is ideal but you can also partition off a corner of a room with bookcases, curtains, or folding screens. The key is to not see your recreational space when working and not see your working space when relaxing. We want you brain to know when to switch gears
    • Adjustable Sit/Stand desks are amazing! They let you break up the monotony and shift positions throughout the day to keep you alert and focused
  • Choose your Chair wisely. You are spending A LOT more time on your tush these days, treat it nicely.
    • Make sure it supports your back and promotes good posture
    • Go to Staples and test chairs out. Don’t just buy what’s on sale, make sure it works for you
  • Trade out a Yoga ball for your chair a few times a day. This will let you burn off some energy and is good for your back and posture
  • Make sure your office space has lots of light and is appealing to the eye
  • Keep clutter and distractions down to a minimal
  • Don’t run the TV in the background!
  • If you have family home at the same time as you are working use sound machines, music and water effects to help drown out the noise
  • SET BOUNDARIES with the people in your home so that they understand that just because you are home that DOES NOT mean that you are available. Your work hours are work hours; interruptions for answering questions, calls and fixing problems can really drag out your work day and drain your energy.
Zooming for fun/social connections
  • Choose a space separate from your work space.
    • Your couch, porch, kitchen, you name it.
    • Choose a space that you would normally be entertaining your friends or family if they were visiting in person
    • If you are proud of your garden or flowers are blooming, take the phone outside and show them!
  • Don’t multitask unless it is part of the plan for the call.
    • Sit down, relax, and engage with your loved ones so that you can fully enjoy them and they can get ALL of you.
    • Dishes and laundry while talking can leave you not feeling like you actually connected at all
  • Put boundaries on your Zoom availability. We all need time to wind down. Try not to Zoom within an hour of bed so that you brain can shut off, all that blue light from screen time keeps it awake and over stimulated.

Be Patient with Yourself

You don’t feel like you’re on your “A game.” That’s ok. You are not functioning under optimal or normal circumstances and you are doing the best that you can. Beating yourself up on top of all of the other things you are managing will just drain your energy further. Try to notice if your inner dialogue is heading in that direction, pump the brakes, and redirect to something more soothing and positive in the moment—like a favorite memory, pet, or favorite song. No one is perfect. It’s no easy feat to try to manage working from home while you also have kids that are “attending” school from home. Stick to your reasonable to do list and don’t beat yourself up if the dishes don’t get done. They’ll be there when you get to them. Heck, if it’s a long day use paper plates and skip the dishes altogether! It’s ok to take a few short cuts when you are already being pulled so thin.

Ongoing Help

Though it’s normal to have difficulty focusing, that doesn’t mean that some added support wouldn’t provide relief! Consider making an appointment with an Angelus therapist today who can help process what has come up for you during the transition to online phases of school/work. You’re not alone. Even if you are on Zoom meetings with people all day long, it doesn’t mean that you can’t feel lonely and need extra support. Reach out today, we would love to hear from you and help you make a plan to take care of yourself during these strange and uncertain times.

Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, PhD LPC & Nessa L Smith, LCSW

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