According to Zoom, the number of annual meeting minutes on the video-conferencing platform is now over 3.3 trillion, and 45 billion minutes of webinars are hosted on Zoom every year.
While Zoom has been a lifeline throughout the COVID-19 pandemic—which forced lockdowns, quarantining, and social distancing requirements—all of those hours in Zoom classes, meetings, and social gatherings each week have left many people feeling mentally and physically exhausted at times.
“Zoom fatigue is definitely real,” said Margo Spencer, a senior clinical psychology major and Illinois Counseling Center paraprofessional who spent a semester studying the psychology behind Zoom fatigue with Lucy Kovacevic, a Counseling Center graduate assistant.
They offered the following strategies for online meetings to help reduce Zoom fatigue:
Before a call
- Do the things you would normally do before an in-person class.
“Get dressed. Eat something. Fill your water bottle,” Spencer said, adding that allows students to engage in something that was important to them and create a routine for themselves. “The more important part is they’re creating a mental barrier between the place they sleep and relax … and move into their academic zone, which helps them be more engaged when they’re there.”
- Turn your phone off or keep it out of arm’s reach.
During a call
- Stay in a location that’s designated specifically for class and homework.
“We specify that you try not to let it be your bed,” Spencer said, adding most people have a desk. “But if (a bed) is your only space, the best thing you can do is sit on the other end (of where you relax). It sounds silly, but knowing that one end is where you relax and the other is for you to get work done can hopefully help you feel a little more motivated and attentive.”
- Participate when you can to make sure you’re mentally engaged.
- Turn your camera on if it helps you be attentive. Turn it off if it causes you stress.
- If your professor requires that you turn your camera on, turn off the gallery view and self-view so that you can only see the speaker.
“It’s a little more mimicking of what real life would be as you’re just paying attention to who’s talking, so you’re not looking at everybody and feeling like everyone’s looking at you.”
After a call
- Step away from the computer to reset your mental barrier.
“If you need to, you can spend a couple of minutes organizing your notes,” Spencer said. “But it’s important to separate your academic time from your recreational time. Maybe do a short guided self-meditation or get up and stretch or do something to mentally destress.”
- Prioritize self-care – and be realistic.
“Some people think of taking a bubble bath or a spa night, but you can’t do that every day,” Spencer said. “We want you to do something sustainable. Practice kinder self-talk. That’s something you can do every day. Prioritize emotional reconnection. Nurture your physical health in whatever way that means to you – eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep.
“Detract from stressor but only for a while,” she continued. “If you allow that to keep going, you can kind of numb yourself to your stressors, and that can be an unhealthy coping mechanism, too … I think the big takeaway is to be kind to yourself. Our brains are doing the best they can now.”
Need more? Watch Zoom Ahead: Surviving and Thriving in Online Classes Margo Spencer and Lucy Kovacevic's Counseling Center Tuesday @7 Workshops presentation. Get tips for success in the online environment on the CITL Student Resource page and read Strategies for Surviving and Thriving on Zoom, which was the inspiration for this blog post.
Noelle Laghmam is a marketing and communications specialist at the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning. Prior to joining CITL, she served as a staff writer at The News-Gazette