How to Recover from Zoom Fatigue

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Day after day it is the same.  Zoom for several hours or maybe almost the whole day.  Stay inside with just your new pals–your computer and smartphone.  In March, 2020 this condition was given a name, “Zoom fatigue”.  And then no one thought it would still be with us one year later.

Working and learning online can sap your energy by requiring long periods of close attention to the image and voice of others as well as to yourself.

What Causes Zoom Fatigue

It requires more effort to interact with someone on zoom than it does to interact face-to-face.  In face-to-face interactions your gazes shifts from looking at the person to looking at the surroundings and you are not also looking at yourself.  In zoom the other person is closer than would be in a face-to-face interaction.  This closeness causes discomfort because your personal space is being invaded.  In zoom there is also a slight lag before the other person responds and this lag also leads to fatigue.

Then there is looking at yourself on the zoom screen, which can be embarrassing.  You notice every flaw in your appearance and conclude that the others on zoom must be aware of them too. 

Passive Versus Active Activity

And so much of what is on the zoom screen requires passive viewing.  Team mates are droning on and on.  Teachers are lecturing or assigning a short passage to read.  Even watching a video is boring because it is such a passive activity. 

If you could actively manipulate data or objects on the screen you would at least get some positive reinforcement and that would increase the “feel good” neurotransmitter, dopamine.  Actively involving the online viewer is why video games are so appealing and why teachers are encouraged to use a problem-solving approach rather than lecturing.

But, no, with zoom you just watch, listen, and occasionally reply.

Limits of Attention

After 20 minutes your attention has totally departed.  Twenty minutes is the attention span for the average adult.  Although attention span varies widely among people of all ages, for the elementary school aged child attention span is 12-20 minutes. Yet, everyone is often required to pay attention on online way beyond what is humanly possible.

Because you are unwillingly tied to Zoom, your attention lags and your resentment grows. Even apathy sets in.

Cognitive Overload

So, you check email or texts, or social media.  Yes, this breaks the boredom but it also subjects you to cognitive overload. You are fooling yourself if you think you can multitask and no one will notice.  The minute you divide your attention, you are adding more stimuli that you trying to respond to at the same time.  Cognitively you can’t do a good job of anything if you are trying to attend to too much at once.

Sitting in one place for long periods of time, working from the same room in the same house, all lead to despair.  It seems nothing will ever change.  Being isolated from face-to-face interaction is taking its toll on your mind and body. Yet, you quickly dismiss any escape because of the threat of being exposed to COVID. 

Do This One Thing

There is one thing you can do, however, to keep from going crazy, even if you have to work/learn online for long periods of time day after day.  You can break your online time into 45-minute (or, even better yet, 20-minute) periods.  Between each period stand up, take up to three deep breaths, stretch, and look out a window at nature. If possible, open a window and breath the fresh air or take a moment to go outside and “smell the roses”.  Notice all the different shades of green on one tree or plant.  Notice whether there is a slight breeze, what sounds you hear, and what smells are coming from nearby plants and flowers.  You don’t have to spend more than a few minutes doing this but those minutes will rejuvenate your mind and body. You then can focus on your work/lessons more clearly and with more interest. 

If there is another person in your household, during your break, smile and ask that person how he/she is doing. You then are giving both yourself and others a moment of much-needed face-to-face social interaction.  Even talking to your pet can help relieve the boredom of being constantly online.

The one thing not to do during your breaks is check your emails, texts, and social media. All of those can wait until you are finished with your work or lessons online.  Yes, co-workers might email or text you while you are online but you are not at your best trying to respond to them while you are also expected to be in a zoom meeting.  Let your co-workers know this and maybe that will give them some relief too.

Now, take that break.  You deserve it.

REFERENCES

Bailenson, J. N. (2021). Nonverbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of zoom fatigue. Technology, Mind, and Behavior, 2 (1) https://doi.org/10.1037/tmb0000030

Murphy, M. (2008) Matching workplace training to adult attention span to improve learner reaction, learning score, and retention. Instructional Delivery Systems, 22(2), 6-13.

Powers, S. R., Rauh, C., Henning, R. A., Buck, R. W., & West, T. V. (2011). The effect of video feedback delay on frustration and emotion communication accuracy. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(5), 1651–1657. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2011.02.003.

Give Love to Get Love

John Hain/Pixabay

We all want to be loved.  But how do we feel loved instead of lonely, especially now during this pandemic?  Surprisingly, ancient texts might give us an answer.

More than a thousand years ago the stoic, Hecato, asserted, “If you would be love, love”. And a similar sentiment can be found in the Bible (“Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”). Even Benjamin Franklin wrote, “If you would be loved, love, and be loveable.”

What all these wise people knew was that to get love, you have to give love. Give a love that is a deep caring for the well being of another person. That person may not look like you, act like you, or even believe in what you believe. But you can extend a loving hand to that person.

One of the best ways to extend a loving hand is through volunteering to enhance the well being of others. Volunteering can be anything from giving your time to giving your skills to help another person.  Most important is the care you are giving that person. A gentle touch or a loving word can mean so much to someone who is isolated or in need.

“But what is the love you are receiving by volunteering?” you may ask. Indeed, you may not feel like the other person reciprocated or even thanked you. Yet, it is in the giving, not the receiving that you feel love.

Doing something nice for another person gives you the social connection you may have been longing for. And it makes you feel better because you are focusing on someone else instead of the anxiety and loneliness you may be feeling. Indeed, research has shown that oxytocin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter, spikes in some people who regularly volunteer. The increase in oxytocin also helps you to better manage stressful events. 

Volunteering also has health benefits, such as lowering your blood pressure. Helping others can even lessen symptoms of chronic pain because it takes your mind off your worries. In fact, random acts of kindness light up the same reward centers of the brain associated with food and sex. A natural high occurs when you give to others.

Finally, volunteering gives you a sense of purpose. When you are isolated not only do you miss the social connection but you also start losing a sense of purpose. You can find meaning and direction (as well as an activity to just get out of the house) by helping others.

As you can see, the secrete the ancients knew is supported by today’s research into giving to others. So, now get out there and do for others what you would want done for you. Share the love.

WHAT WE NEED NOW IS A LITTLE HUMOR

A medical face mask with smiley face against a blue background

Lexicon for a Pandemic

The New Yorker July 20, 2020 Issue By Jay Martel

Maskhole: An individual who wears a mask in a way that makes it completely ineffective—e.g., below the nose, under the chin, on the back of the head.

Face naked: The state of facial exposure that occurs when an individual declines to wear a mask in public. For example, “Pence went all face naked to the Mayo Clinic.”

Body mullet: What most people wear on Zoom calls: a nice top and, below the waist, underwear or less. (“Business up top, party down below.”)

The novid-19: The nineteen minutes after a too-close interaction with a maskless stranger during which you experience a thickness in your throat and a certainty that you’re dying. This sometimes lasts longer if frantic hand washing, antiseptic gargling, and estate planning are not readily available.

Overdistancing: When the guy in front of you in line has a metric understanding of the six in six feet, allowing twenty feet to open up between him and the next person in line, which then allows others to interpret that next person as the end of the line and to cut in front of you.

Domino distancing: When the person behind you in line stands too close, causing you to crowd the person in front of you, and on and on until everyone dies.

Emotional distancing: Deciding that now really isn’t the time to make big decisions about a relationship or, for that matter, to have a conversation about it.

Covideo: A short video featuring a quarantined individual’s child doing something adorable and/or profane, the public sharing of which falls somewhere between cute and a cry for help.

Stockholm syndrome: The assumption that everyone would be just fine without any government restrictions.

Someday, Noneday, Whoseday?, Whensday?, Blursday, Whyday?, Doesn’tmatterday: Days of the week.

Parenting: The ability to figure out why the PlayStation isn’t working with the Wi-Fi.

Body Zoom-morphia: Finding your own image on a group video call so unappealing that you are unable to focus on anything else.

Quorumtine: The minimum number of family members necessary to decide what to watch on TV.

Pan-demic: A potentially dangerous increase in the baking of bread in a quarantined home.

covid-30: Formerly covid-15; the amount of weight gained by an average adult during quarantine. Sometimes related to a pan-demic.

Helter shelter: That moment in the quarantine day when everything seems dirty and chaotic and you feel like saying, “Fuck it, let’s go outside. I don’t care if we die and a bunch of other people do, too.”

Flattening the curve: Trying to fit into your jeans after three months of sweatpants. (See covid-30.)

Germophobe: Formerly, crazy people (e.g., Howard Hughes); now everyone except crazy people.

Going viral: No longer used. ♦