Since social distancing and online learning began many months ago, the seemingly simple solution to these new social and learning obstacles has been Zoom (or really any other video chat program). However, if your days have included going from Zoom call to Zoom call with lectures and socially distanced get-togethers and game nights, there’s a chance that you have experienced some amount of exhaustion from being on call after call. This exhaustion is known as “Zoom fatigue”.
There are many ideas about why people are experiencing Zoom fatigue. In general, most seem to think that it is a combination of too much screen time and the pressure that video chatting puts on us socially. For example, it is harder for the brain to process non-verbal cues when it is using a video on a screen as the only way of receiving these cues. Simply put, picking up these cues on a video is less natural than doing so in a face-to-face conversation, causing more stress on the brain. These factors, along with the fact that video chatting is the primary way class lectures and meetings have been taking place the past few months, are cause for physical and emotional exhaustion.
With many DePaul classes being online this coming Fall, it is important to have strategies to protect ourselves from Zoom fatigue. Here are a few ways to prevent and combat Zoom fatigue:
- Take breaks from your computer (especially between calls). Use these breaks to take care of personal care needs. This could include making yourself a meal, going outside for a walk, stretching, or even just drinking a glass of water.
- Change up your work environment. Even if you are on calls in your bedroom or living room, try to change up the room itself or the specific spot you sit to take calls so that the room feels different from when you are on call to when you are relaxing. This could look like changing the lighting of the room or sitting at a desk instead of on your bed. This change will help your brain differentiate when it is time for work and when it is time for relaxation.
- If possible, use audio only and only have your video on when you are speaking or contributing to the conversation. This way, it is easier to focus on what is being said, as opposed to what you are doing or what you look like during the call.
- Find ways to socialize other than through video chatting to ensure that “hanging out” with your friends and family is still fun. This could include writing letters or having “Netflix Parties”. This is a great time to get creative with ways to connect with friends and family!
- Be mindful of your technology use habits even when you are not on video calls. Be aware of your social media scrolling habits to reduce the amount of distressing news you may be consuming. Also known as “doomscrolling”, endlessly looking at news and media about distressing topics can negatively impact mental health, so it is important to keep track of and adjust these habits. Similarly, the blue light that is emitted from our screens can have negative effects on sleep patterns, as well as other areas of health. This may be reason to consider setting limits on technology use.
- As always, pay attention to your needs. Take time every day for self-care activities to care for your mental and physical well-being. Have a list of things you can do at any time to allow yourself to take a break and focus on your health.
The uncertainty of what this upcoming academic year will bring is likely to cause some nervousness and anxiety as we prepare to (virtually) return to classes. Now is a great time to assess your own worries and create a plan for adjusting to these changes and managing the emotions that may come from these changes. By beginning with learning how to reduce your chances of Zoom fatigue, you are already taking steps to learning how to create healthy habits regarding technology use. Continue to take time to develop your own self-care practices so that you have healthy tactics to turn to that will help you handle stress and its effects. Remember, HPW is always here to help you with becoming your healthiest self, either through 1:1 support or providing resources. Remember to Take care of yourself, take care of each other, take care DePaul!