Video chat is helping us stay connected as we work from home during the coronavirus outbreak, but they proving extremely tiring and stressful. Here’s how to overcome ‘Zoom fatigue’.
You would’ve made a few realisations after working from home for the past few months.
For example, you adore your partner, but they’ve definitely gotten on your nerves after spending 24/7 with them. Or realising the fact that you have zero willpower when you have access to a stocked pantry.
You’ve also realised that your online Zoom meetings are surprisingly more tiring than face-to-face ones.
For starters, you have think about fixing your hair, putting on makeup, making sure you have good lighting, changing into semi-appropriate clothes, ensuring the kids are occupied or your partner doesn’t make any embarrassing appearances in the background. Oh, the stress!
And when you’re actually on video call, you feel as though you have to make more of an emotional effort to appear interested, maintain eye contact with the ten other people staring right back at you, and focus intensely on what is being said, which is especially hard if your internet keeps on dropping in and out.
Why are Zoom calls SO draining?
But it’s not just you who dreads those stressful Zoom calls. In fact, there is actually science behind why we find them so damn draining.
It’s all because it increases our cognitive load, which takes up a lot of conscious capacity. Basically, increased cognitive load = conscious capacity overload = STRESS!
Lack of non-verbal communication
Non-verbal communication – think our facial expressions, the tone of our voice, posture and gestures – plays a huge role in how our feelings, attitudes and messages are expressed, more so than verbal communication.
A study published in the Journal of Advances in Medical Education & Professionalism found only seven per cent of concepts are actually expressed in the form of spoken words in a conversation. Most of the information is expressed through a combination of posture, limb movement, facial expressions, sight and appearance.
In face-to-face meetings, these non-verbal communication cues are clear and visible right in front of us.
But on video calls, our brains have to work harder to process these cues because we can’t see them as clearly. Just paying more attention consumes a lot of energy.
Observing your own face is confronting and stressful
A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found those who have body dysmorphic disorder – a psychiatric diagnosis that affects between 1.7 and 2.9 percent of the general population – are more likely to look in the mirror and think negatively about themselves. These people described mirrors as “controlling, imprisoning and disempowering forces”. Guess the same can be applied to your computer’s front facing camera.
The self-complexity theory comes into play
The self-complexity theory suggests that individuals operate off multiple aspects – social roles, relationships, activities and goals. When these aspects are reduced – as is the result of the current coronavirus restrictions – we become vulnerable to negative feelings and our thoughts are disrupted.
Lack of breaks and fresh air
When you’re in the office, you go out for your morning coffee break, walk around the block during your lunch hour, get off your chair every few hours to fill up your water bottle, and walk to and from meetings.
Working from home is a lot more sedentary. You wake up, commute from your bed to the living room, complete a few tasks and then hop onto Zoom meetings, often without taking breaks.
A Journal of Experimental Psychology study found the simple art of walking can stimulate creativity during and after. Plus, it’s also important to get moving for your physical health, too.
Overcoming Zoom fatigue
If Zoom meetings are draining to the point they’re affecting your mental health, Founder and Psychologist of The TARA Clinic Tara Hurster, shares her three top tips to overcoming this stress:
1. Practice no screen time periods regularly throughout the day
The best thing to do is watch something natural such as a tree or running water for 5-10 minutes. The restorative effects of nature will help you to feel like you’ve had a mini holiday between meetings.
2. Engage in grounding techniques
My favourite is to notice your feet – specifically the sensation of the floor pressing up underneath your feet, and the sensation of your feet pressing down into the floor beneath you. That way it helps to keep you present in the moment, rather than drifting away.
3. Ensure you’re caring for your basic needs well throughout the rest of the day/week
This means quality food, quality sleep and plenty of water. Our brain requires a lot of energy to focus on so many things at once, so when we are dehydrated or not feeling refreshed, we are impacted more by stress.