Our Collective Zoom Burn Out

We all feel it, now that we are three months into the Covid-19 epidemic. In the beginning, it was fun to have so many places to stay connected with friends. To work from home and have after-hours social get-togethers with our friends. Now it all feels overwhelming, and like there are so many commitments, we can’t keep up.

Being on video calls where we have to pay attention, be mindful we are on camera, and being recorded, knowing we are always ‘on’ is exhausting. The level of concentration needed to focus on one person is easy; having to focus on 10 or 20 people is too much for our brains to handle. The conversations feel less natural. The silence is awkward and unnerving.

This, of course, doesn’t happen in everyday face to face conversations because we can allow the conversation to flow naturally when we can read non-verbal cues from the people we are chatting with. This isn’t the case when on a Zoom call because we only ever see people’s faces. We have no way of processing those cues, so our brains try harder to focus on all the other things we see and hear. Add to this all the natural distractions of having kids at home, a spouse working from home, and our daily activities, and suddenly, we have no brainpower to manage the everyday tasks, let alone the fifteen things we need to accomplish today.

We no longer have the disconnect between our home life, our work life, and our social lives. Everything is happening online, in our homes via Zoom, leaving us to feel like we never get a break from any of it. We feel obligated to go to a family member’s birthday online. We feel bad if we say no to the friend who wants to have a weekly coffee break because they miss our social circle. Our boss needs us to attend a weekly meeting to learn about stress management that makes us feel more stressed before it’s over. What can we do?

The answer is simple. We need less video conferencing in our daily lives. Half of the meetings we go to right now don’t require our faces to be on the screen, so turn off the video when you enter the room. Doing this will allow you to focus on the speaker without stressing about being on camera for the whole meeting.

Change your view on Zoom or whatever media platform you use only to show the speaker if possible—allowing you to focus solely on one person at a time and not having to try to read non-verbal cues from the others in the meeting.

Learn to say no. This is a big one. I know some people will struggle with this, but it is essential. We can not be at every zoom meeting, every social gathering, and every gettogether we know about. We would not expect that of ourselves if life were “normal,” so we shouldn’t expect it now that things have changed.

If you want to connect with friends, call them, write them the old fashioned way or meet with them online via Zoom one on one. This requires less processing for your brain and will allow you to have a meaningful conversation without feeling like you need to contribute in several different ways.

Most importantly, allow yourself screen-free time every day. We need to feel disconnected to recharge and refocus on life. This gives your brain a chance to reset and your soul a break from the constant bombardment of social media and work life. 


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