Feeling Exhausted After Zoom Calls? Here’s Why you Experience Zoom Burnout and How to Deal with it

After a day replete with Zoom meetings, you feel exhausted– mentally and physically. Although it’s not the usual pre-COVID shuffling to meetings around campus, but rather just exiting out and logging into meetings with a click of a button, it’s still exhausting. Zoom calls seem to be more convenient but are also harder to do long term. Why is that?

Physically, Zoom calls are more tiring because they require us to stay more focused since we can’t exactly perceive body language and social cues as easily as we were able to during regular face-to-face meetings. It’s also tougher to stay focused on others because we’re more conscious about the way others are perceiving us, which is why some of us spend more time inspecting ourselves in the camera rather than focusing on everyone else (I’m definitely guilty of this).

It’s especially difficult to discern social cues in a meeting with multiple people in gallery view. You’re all simply sitting there staring at each other while 1-2 people do most of the talking. In person, you’re able to turn to those next to you and introduce yourself and make small talk, but that’s not exactly possible on Zoom. So again, that just leaves you sitting in awkward silence staring at each other, which is an uncomfortable feeling and one that’s tough to embrace.

In addition, internet connection can be a huge stressor for many of us. Not everyone has access to quick and reliable internet and have to constantly worry about that during meetings is fatiguing. Furthermore, lags in the connection can result in negative feelings, as a study in 2014 found. A lag of even just 1.2 seconds in a call can lead people to believe that others aren’t as attentive or focused and that they may even be unwelcoming.

There are other feelings that also arise from these calls; feelings of sadness due to a loss of community and the loss of daily human interaction. The thought of how we’re here stuck in our homes, and haven’t seen our colleagues, family members, friends, in a while can be a mental drainer. Even if you aren’t actively thinking about this loss, it’s still lurking in the back of your mind, and simply the fact that you’re on a Zoom call is a reminder of this loss. We’re social creatures and aren’t made to only interact with people over Zoom.

How do we deal with these feelings?

  1. Find Ways to Ground Yourself.

Some Zoom meetings for work or school or clubs are unavoidable and necessary, but make sure to not spend your entire day jumping from meeting to meeting. If you do have a packed day, try to grab a few minutes for yourself in between those meetings. Simply to stretch, breathe, grab a quick snack, journal, or any other way to ground yourself, mentally and physically.

If you have time for a longer break, try to distance yourself from your laptop and phone by going outside (safely) for a walk or to just lay in the grass. Reading a book or, if possible, interacting with the people you live with are also wonderful ways to ground yourself in the physical world and take a break from the virtual world.

Also, blocking out specific times and days where you won’t be taking any Zoom calls is helpful in creating a routine and structure; we all yearn structure in one way or another during this disordered time.

2. Find Other Ways to Communicate.

I personally have scheduled a call with my friends every Saturday night, and we’ve been doing so since the start of quarantine. It’s lovely seeing their faces, but again, some days it’s harder to join than others. So recently I’ve been making postcards to send them. This has been a nice creative break for my mind and a more personal way to interact with them than just logging into Zoom. Writing a postcard or a letter or another way of personally communicating can be a needed break from those exhausting calls!

For work or school-related Zoom calls, where casual correspondence isn’t possible, seek to not force calls. If you think there’s an easier way to communicate via text or email or phone call, try that instead before jumping into a video call.

3. Use Speaker View.

As mentioned earlier, gallery view is more distracting since your attention is on multiple people at a time as you attempt to pick up on social cues. When you’re only focused on one person through speaker view, that makes it feel more natural and personal, similar to a real face-to-face meeting. You feel more obligated to focus your attention on that one person who’s speaking.

4. Vary the Locations of Your Calls.

It can become monotonous taking your calls all from the same place, which for many of us, are our desks. Your desk might be the most effective location to take calls for school or work, but, if you can, try a new location. If you’re on a more laid-back call, perhaps sitting outside would be a pleasant change.

5. Go Easy on Yourself.

It’s okay to not want to turn your camera on during every meeting. It’s also okay to reschedule a meeting for when you feel more comfortable and prepared to join. It’s important to remember that your feelings are valid and crucial to acknowledge. These are difficult and unusual times, as I’m sure we’ve all read dozens of times, so prioritizing your mental health is extremely necessary and beneficial right now.

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