I recently told a family member, “I had two 90 minute back-to-back Zoom meetings today, and I feel completely wiped out. My eyes feel like they are bulging, and I couldn’t concentrate on any major work projects for the rest of the afternoon.” I was experiencing Zoom fatigue. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime, or any other type of video call is taxing on the human body. A recent study confirmed this finding.
The pandemic created a massive transition from physical to digital interactions. Whether we are working or learning remotely, we need to use video conferencing platforms. These platforms have provided tremendous value, but at a cost—physically and psychologically.
During virtual meetings, we stare into the screen of a computer or mobile device, which is unnatural and causes participants to be on high alert. This high-alert state disrupts the body’s biological rhythm. Video conference meetings cause people to feel the need to exaggerate their nonverbal communications through thumbs up, clapping, nodding, etc. A participant becomes more conscious of their nonverbal cues, which adds to the brain’s overload, plus they need to interpret the nonverbal cues of others (the more things your mind has to process, the higher the cognitive load).
One can also feel mirror anxiety—a psychological phenomenon where seeing oneself in a mirror heighten self-awareness, which creates internal stress. We are forced to stare at ourselves, causing us to think—how do we look, are we smiling, should we stare at the person on the screen or at the camera, so people watching think we are looking at them. It is confusing to the mind! Social judgment gets blended into the mix—what are others thinking about me or what I say.
Can you imagine the effects online learning has had on children? Parents need to evaluate the excess stress distance learning has caused and implement some parameters listed in this article to minimize the effects.
Types of Zoom Fatigue
Being stared at by digital faces while speaking causes physiological stimulation and anxiety, which increases the brain’s load of managing this novel communication environment. All of this leads to stress and burnout. No wonder we can’t think clearly after being in this hyper-alert state for hours. Five types of fatigue are associated with video calls:
- Overall tiredness
- Social isolation (wanting to be alone)
- Emotional overwhelm or used up
- Visual symptoms such as eye stress
- Motivational by lacking the drive to start new activities
From my three hours on Zoom, I experienced #3, 4, and 5. Have you experienced any of these symptoms after being on a video call? Last year I led a monthly writers group for two-hour meetings. After each meeting, I was so wiped out I couldn’t accomplish anything for the rest of the day. Can you relate?
Researchers created a Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue scale (ZEF scale) to evaluate the effects of video calls. The study found:
- Zoom fatigue increases with the higher frequency and duration of meetings and the shorter the time between video calls
- Women experienced more fatigue than men, which was associated with more mirror anxiety
- Less fatigue for extraverts and more for introverts and the elderly
Video conferencing is a major part of our work and school schedule these days. However, you can lessen the negative effects of these meetings by:
- Limiting the number of hours on video calls per day
- Scheduling larger blocks of time between video meetings
- Planning the video calls late in the workday
- Switching off self-view (researchers recommend you do this)
- Making sure you have a least one day a week with no video calls
- Turning the video on for the first 5–10 minutes of the meeting and then turn the video off for the rest of the time
- Designating some meetings, video on and others video off
- Switching off your video during portions of the meeting where you are not talking
- Shortening video meetings to 20 minutes instead of 30 or 45 minutes instead of 60
In addition to these solutions, research has proven that “forest bathing” (spending time in nature while paying attention to the senses) improves a person’s overall well-being. While you walk in the woods, feel the wind against your skin, listen to the birds’ chirp, smell the flowers, and feel the leaves. Spending time in nature restores the body through effortless attention—simply walk in the woods. Nature helps regulate our emotions by calming our souls. God made the woods for us to enjoy, and it restores us physically and psychologically, which is absolutely amazing!
Hundreds of research studies have proven the benefits of forest bathing and found it improves:
- Immune system
- Mood disorders
- Overall health
- High blood pressure
- Prosocial helping behaviors
- Prefrontal cortex of the brain
- Mental relaxation and decreases stress and anxiety
- Functioning of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems
Forest bathing reduces mental health symptoms, especially anxiety. If you can, go outside and perform your work. While you do, feel the breeze and listen to the birds. I believe time in nature restores the brain and the effects of all the technology we encounter. So try to spend at least 15 minutes a day in nature.
Get your kids out in nature to climb trees, find bugs, and listen to birds. You could turn this into a fun, educational experience by identifying the name of trees, bugs, birds, and any other wildlife you encounter. Stop and spend time with your kids outdoors. They will value this time with you more than their Zoom time.
Video conferencing has provided a beneficial service that allowed us to stay connected with family, friends, school, and work during the pandemic. However, we need to minimize the biological costs associated with this technology.
~Pin for Later~