Five ways to cope with Zoom fatigue
Six months ago the phrase 'Zoom fatigue' didn't even exist and yet today, it's probably one of the most commonly used phrases in the English language.
As our lives are moving more and more online, our days are taken up with back to back video calls and it's leaving us feeling exhausted. I don't know a single person who is not complaining about just how tiring video calls are.
According to Andrew Franklin, an assistant professor of cyberpsychology at Virginia’s Norfolk State University, the research gives a number of reasons as to why we struggle after too much Zoom.
You may have heard the expression that only 20% of communication is what we say. This is because a lot of our communication comes from non-verbal cues, for example whether someone is facing you or slightly turned away, if they’re fidgeting while you talk, or if they inhale quickly in preparation to interrupt. These non-verbal cues allow us to develop intimacy easily by unconscious interpretation of them.
Our disembodied heads seen over video combined with pixilation on our screens means we lose these cues and have to spend much more energy concentrating on words and the few facial expressions we can interpret.
While technology is allowing us to connect and foster a sense of togetherness that we wouldn't be able to get without it, the price is mental and physical exhaustion.
So what can we do to combat zoom fatigue?
1. Connect with your body
In contemplative psychology we talk a lot about being embodied i.e. connecting with our bodies - something we lose a sense of when our focus is on the computer screen. Take a moment to check in with your body. Start at your feet and feel the sensations of your feet on the floor. Scan up your body. Feel your bum on your seat. Your hands on the keyboard. See if you can notice how your body feels. Are there areas that are more tense than others? Are you tilted forwards or hunched over your screen? We don't need to change or interpret these, just try to stay connected with the physical feeling.
Noticing the feelings in our bodies can give us a deeper sense of what we are interpreting about the video call we are on. Whilst we may not be able see the detail about others' facial expressions or postures, by connecting with our own bodies we can have a deeper sense of non-verbal cues that will help us process the cognitive information were are hearing at the level of conversation.
2. Take some travel time
Our normal working day includes lots of mini-break moments - being interrupted by a colleague, the minute or so it takes to travel between meetings or getting up to make a cuppa. These mini-breaks allow our mind to briefly rest before we take on the task. Working from home means it's easy to close one video call and immediately open the next without taking a moment to rest. And we notice it at the end of the day when we feel exhausted.
There are many ways to add mini-breaks to your day:
- finish meetings a few minutes early if you can and go for a wander round the house
- try a 3-minute breathing space exercise
- set a regular alarm to remind you do some stretching
- stay hydrated by getting up to make a cuppa regularly.
Can you think of any more?
3. Focus on your senses
Our sense perceptions include the sense organs or faculties (eyes, ears, nose etc), the sense fields (our experience of seeing or hearing) and sense objects (what we see or hear etc). We can enhance our sense faculties by working with the process of sense perception.
There are many ways to increase our sense perceptions but you could try this three step process as a way to take a couple of minutes break from work.
- Just be. Take a deep breath and feel your body relax as you breathe out. Allow your breath to remind you that you are present, here, now.
- Connect. Engage one of your senses (sight, sound, touch, smell) - it's easier to focus on just one at a time. Be really inquisitive about what you can see (or hear etc).
- Communicate. Really communicate with the object of your sense. For example, if you are seeing, what do you notice? The subtle variations of colour. The way the light dances over the object.
Why do this? Well, heightening our sense perceptions allows to connect more with our world and with the people in it. It can also leave us feeling refreshed and invigorated.
4. Care for your eyes
Staring at a monitor all day can be harmful to our eyes, causing dry eyes, eyestrain and fatigue. Meetings used to offer us a break from this so now it's even more important to make a conscious effort to care for our eyes.
- Blink. We often blink less when using a computer which can contribute to dry eyes. Making a habit to blink more can help us produce more tears and keep our eyes fresh.
- Take eye breaks. Throughout the day, give your eyes a break by looking away from your monitor. Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
- Light up your life right. Too bright a monitor can make it too bright to see easily. Similar reading in too dark conditions can also cause eye strain. Experiment with your lighting to reduce glare and allow your eyes to read comfortably.
- Massage. Learn some gentle massage techniques, particularly for tear ducts (check our some of the videos on You Tube). By massaging our tear ducts we can keep our eyes hydrated reducing the chance of eye strain and fatigue
Invest in some chamomile tea. Not only is chamomile tea a great relaxing drink but popping a couple of damp teabags over our eyes for 20 mins can leave us feeling refreshed and soothe tired eyes (tip: cover with hot water then cool with cold water to a comfortable temperature, you can use more than one but be sure to use boiling water again).
I'm sure there's no need to remind you that we are living in a very stressful time but it's also easy to forget the impact that has on us.
Stress is exhausting!
And now more than ever it is important to take time out to relax.
Relaxation can mean different things to different people. For some it's meditation, yoga or breathing techniques. For others it can be a 20 mile run (I am not one of those!). Maybe it's spending time with friends or in nature. Or perhaps it's doing something creative like art, woodwork or cooking.
Whatever relaxing means to you, I strongly encourage you to take a couple of hours out for yourself and relax
p.s. this is not an excuse to bingewatch the latest box set - TV has been shown to stimulate not relax so please switch off the screen and try something else instead.