Zoom Fatigue: What causes it and how to combat it

PHILADELPHIA -- For almost a year now, real-life has pretty much been replaced with Zoom life.

Work, school, cocktail parties, birthdays and other events have played out online to maintain social distancing.

But have we reached the point of "Zoom and Gloom?"

Stanford University researchers studied Zoom fatigue, from what causes it to how to combat it.

"The Zoom fatigue is real," said Dr. Steve Stunder, a professor at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. "My eyes definitely hurt. One thing I've noticed is that I feel a little fried sometimes. You're in one place and then you click a button and you're somewhere else and you click another button. I almost feel like I forget to take breaks."

Rachel Lester, a mother of three in Roebling, New Jersey, feels the same way.

"I am not OK," she said. "I hate Zoom."

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Lester says she's truly missing human, personal connections.

"It's hard to figure out what somebody's body language is doing when you're just looking at a small portion of the screen," she said. "So you don't really know how the conversation is going. You miss out on those important body cues."

Stanford University researchers agree that it takes more energy to communicate that way. Also, all of that eye contact at close range can cause anxiety or trigger a fight or flight response.

They also found that staring at your own face can make you highly critical of yourself. Add to that, being trapped in one spot. We are getting restless.

So, what can we do to ease the fatigue?

"Take short breaks throughout the day," said Dr. Gillian Mandich, the founder of the International Happiness Institute of Health Science Research.

"Even ten minutes of movement, whether it be gentle walking, anything like that, can shift our mood instantly. It's one of the most effective instant mood shifters. Also, looking at the environment around us. If we're going to spend eight hours on our screen all day for work, make sure it is nice and organized. Oftentimes, less mess equals less stress."

Stanford researchers also recommend reducing the size of the Zoom window by taking it off of full screen. You can also turn off your camera and give yourself an "audio-only" break.

And, if staring at your own face all day is adding to the stress of all this, you can also use the "hide self-view" button once you see your face is framed correctly.
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