Zoom fatigue is a term that describes the exhaustion and stress that many people experience after spending hours on video calls. But what are the causes and consequences of this phenomenon, and how can we cope with it?
Zoom fatigue is not just a feeling of tiredness after a long day of video meetings. It is a complex psychological response to the unnatural and demanding way of communicating through a screen. According to a recent study by Stanford University researchers, there are four main factors that contribute to Zoom fatigue:
- Excessive and intense eye contact. On video calls, we are constantly staring at faces that are close to the screen, which can be overwhelming and uncomfortable. In real life, we rarely maintain such prolonged and direct eye contact with others, and we often look away or shift our gaze to other things.
- Reduced mobility and freedom. On video calls, we have to stay within the camera’s field of view, which limits our ability to move around, pace, or stretch. This can make us feel physically trapped and constrained, and reduce our sense of autonomy and control.
- Increased cognitive load. On video calls, we have to work harder to process non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. This requires more attention and mental effort, and can lead to cognitive overload and fatigue. Moreover, we may also experience self-consciousness and anxiety when we see our own image on the screen, and worry about how we appear to others.
- Lack of natural feedback. On video calls, we often miss the natural and spontaneous feedback that we get from others in face-to-face interactions, such as nods, smiles, laughs, or gestures. This can make us feel less connected and engaged, and more isolated and lonely.
Zoom fatigue can harm your health and well-being
Zoom fatigue is not just a temporary inconvenience. It can have serious and lasting effects on our health and well-being. According to experts, Zoom fatigue can cause:
- Stress and anxiety. Zoom fatigue can trigger the stress response in our body, which increases the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in our blood. This can lead to symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, insomnia, irritability, and mood swings. Moreover, Zoom fatigue can also exacerbate existing mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
- Heart problems. Zoom fatigue can affect our cardiovascular system, which regulates our blood pressure, heart rate, and blood flow. When we are stressed, our blood vessels constrict and our heart beats faster, which can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, or arrhythmia. Moreover, Zoom fatigue can also interfere with our circadian rhythm, which affects our sleep quality and our heart health.
- Brain damage. Zoom fatigue can impair our brain function, which is responsible for our memory, learning, creativity, and problem-solving. When we are fatigued, our brain produces less dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters that regulate our mood, motivation, and reward. This can lead to symptoms such as brain fog, confusion, forgetfulness, and lack of focus. Moreover, Zoom fatigue can also reduce the volume and activity of our brain regions, such as the hippocampus, which is involved in memory formation and consolidation.
How to prevent and cope with Zoom fatigue
Zoom fatigue is a real and serious problem, but it is not inevitable. There are some strategies that we can adopt to prevent and cope with Zoom fatigue, such as:
- Limit the number and duration of video calls. Try to schedule video calls only when they are necessary and beneficial, and avoid back-to-back meetings. Set a time limit for each call, and take breaks in between. Use other modes of communication, such as phone calls, emails, or texts, when possible and appropriate.
- Adjust the settings and layout of video calls. Try to reduce the size and number of faces on the screen, and use the speaker view or gallery view depending on the context and purpose of the call. Turn off your self-view or hide your image from the screen, and use an external keyboard and mouse to create some distance from the screen. Adjust the lighting, sound, and background of your video call to make it more comfortable and pleasant.
- Use non-verbal cues and feedback. Try to use gestures, facial expressions, and vocal cues to convey your emotions and intentions, and to acknowledge and respond to others. Use the chat function, emojis, or reactions to provide feedback and support. Ask for feedback and clarification from others, and check in with them regularly.
- Take care of your physical and mental health. Make sure to get enough sleep, exercise, and nutrition, and to stay hydrated and well-rested. Practice relaxation techniques, such as breathing, meditation, or yoga, to calm your mind and body. Seek social support from your friends, family, or colleagues, and share your feelings and experiences. Seek professional help if you are struggling with Zoom fatigue or any other mental health issue.
Zoom fatigue is a challenge that many of us face in the digital age, but it is not insurmountable. By being aware of its causes and consequences, and by applying some simple and effective solutions, we can make video calls more enjoyable and productive, and less exhausting and stressful.