A Zoom meeting is open on a laptop, next to a cup of coffee

Zoom Fatigue: What Is It and How Can We Prevent It?

Zoom Fatigue: What Is It and How Can We Prevent It?

During yet another zoom semester, the continual stress of having to attend class on zoom and be present the whole time can be overwhelming. Why do we feel this way so often throughout the online semester? A peer-reviewed article by Jeremy N. Bailenson published in Technology, Mind, and Behavior discusses the details of this dreaded “Zoom Fatigue.” Bailenson lists four potential explanations for Zoom Fatigue, including “excessive amounts of close-up eye gaze, cognitive load, increased self-evaluation from staring at video of oneself, and constraints on physical mobility.” Requirements to keep one’s camera on could be disproportionately stressful for women, who are often held to a higher standard of appearance. Luckily, there are many ways we can overcome this fatigue and finish the year strong. From taking brain breaks to yoga stretches that you can do in your chair, there are many proven ways to give yourself the time and space to be the best student possible! 

Although zoom fatigue can affect everyone to some extent, Stanford News reports that Zoom fatigue is statistically worse for women. Studies have shown that one in seven women “reported feeling ‘very’ to ‘extremely’ fatigued after Zoom calls” whereas only one in twenty men reported those same feelings. This large contrast, Stanford News recalls, can be explained by something called “self-focused attention.” Essentially, “self-focused attention” causes many women to feel anxiety as time goes on from looking at themselves in their Zoom view. This phenomenon contributes to the problems of cognitive load and increased self-evaluation that Bailenson’s study describes. 

Armed with the knowledge of how Zoom fatigue happens, what are some ways we can prevent and stop Zoom fatigue in its tracks? 

1. Switch up your Zoom view 

Unfortunately, many classes require students to keep their cameras on. In this case, a great thing to do is change the Zoom view so you cannot see yourself. This not only helps prevent the anxiety that can come with “self-focused attention,” but can also aid in your concentration of the material at hand. On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to have a class that does not require your camera to be on, allow yourself to do the things that make you comfortable while learning without worrying how you’ll appear on the screen. 

2. Stop trying to multitask 

Unsurprisingly, humans are much worse at multitasking than we typically think. An article from the Harvard Business Review notes that multitasking can waste up to “40% of [our] productive time.” Multitasking can leave us feeling drained from virtual school as well. Attempting to reply to emails, work on homework, and respond to someone on Slack, all while being on a Zoom call can cause us to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Instead, as hard as it may be, try to minimize distractions by closing a few tabs and turning your notifications on silent. As unappealing as it may sound, this simple solution could make an impactful difference in your mental fatigue.

3. Take a mental (and physical) break 

Bailenson notes one of the contributing issues to Zoom fatigue is a lack of mobility while attending meetings virtually. There are a couple of very productive ways to combat this issue. The first, Bailenson recommends, is to increase the distance between your camera and your body. This allows you to do things like doodling or eating a snack without feeling so up-close and personal to others on the call. Another idea is to do some yoga at your desk. This article by Harvard University provides many yoga positions that could add some much-needed mindfulness to your school day. 

Although these are just a few ideas of how to combat Zoom fatigue, what is most important is that you choose something that works well for you. It is so important to take care of your mind and body so you can put your best foot forward in the classroom and beyond.