Frequent virtual meetings can be especially taxing on the brain, and this is especially true for college students. As COVID-19 continues to be a threat to public health, many classes and meetings are being held virtually, with one study reporting that only 5% of universities planned to offer exclusively in-person learning for Fall 2020. (The Institute of International Education, 2020). As a college student myself, I am familiar with the exhaustion that constant virtual meetings can have on the mind and body. Often these meetings feel tiresome, anxiety-producing and it can be difficult to stay engaged. The exhaustion that comes from overusing virtual meetings, otherwise known as “zoom fatigue”, is a real problem that impacts the mental health of college students (Psychology Today, 2020).There are numerous reasons why virtual meetings take a mental toll on students, such as the brain being unable to normally process non-verbal communication virtually, hyper-awareness of how one is perceived, and external factors like distractions in the background or technical issues. All of these reasons are exacerbated by pandemic related anxiety and stress, which leads students to feel anxious, drained, and unmotivated. Some signs that you may be experiencing zoom fatigue are headaches, sore eyes, and increased difficulty focusing or staying engaged in virtual classes. As the pandemic continues, Zoom and other virtual meetings will continue to be used and here are 3 helpful tips that Kerry Mackey, PA-C, recommends for helping combat zoom fatigue:
- Know your limitations. Ask yourself if you have the ability to focus for hours in multiple zoom classes. It may be difficult for you to take the same number of classes virtually as you would in person. If you have difficulties staying engaged in zoom classes, possibly opt for some in-person classes if you feel safe and have the opportunity or even limit your course load.
- Prepare for the day. On days where you have a schedule packed with zoom classes, it is helpful to yourself physically and mentally for the day. This means making sure you have enough nutrients and food, as well as preparing for the class by gathering notes and other needed materials. It is also crucial that you get a good night’s rest, as a “tired mind is not a useful mind”.
- Take time to mentally decompress. Although this may seem difficult for college students, reducing the time spent virtually when you are not required to be on zoom can help minimize zoom fatigue. During times where you do not have to be on a zoom meeting, take some time to do other things that you enjoy, such as exercising, reading, or playing sudoku. It is important that you take time to mentally decompress, so it is okay to tell people when you are not mentally able to engage in optional virtual meetings.
Additional tips found helpful in reducing zoom fatigue:
- Don’t multitask. It can be tempting to do other things while on a virtual meeting, but multitasking can increase zoom fatigue because you are constantly switching back and forth between different tasks. Focusing on the class in the present will not only allow you to take the most information away from the class but decrease the exhaustion you may feel.
- Take breaks. If you have the opportunity, take breaks in-between or during classes just to walk around, stretch, or even stand.
- Turn the video off or hide the self-view. As mentioned before, one reason zoom calls are so exhausting is that we are hyper-aware of how we look, and we spend a lot of time looking at ourselves. Use your discretion to see if it is appropriate to turn your video off in some classes or meetings and if not appropriate, hide the self-view.
- Use speaker view. It can be overwhelming to focus on all of your classmates’ faces at once, so using speaker view allows you to only look at the person who is speaking at the moment. This allows your brain to only have to focus on one person’s nonverbal cues, instead of trying to focus on multiple students at once.
- Meditation. Incorporating meditation into your daily routine can help reduce anxiety and stress. Not only is this a relaxing practice, but it also gives you some time away from virtual stimulation after a long day of zoom classes and meetings.
- Balanced eating. A balanced diet is important for your body to operate effectively. Eating healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, provides your body with the nutrients it needs to fight fatigue.
- Developing healthy sleep routines. Much like having a balanced diet, having a healthy sleep routine is essential to optimal health and can help reduce overall fatigue. Developing a consistent sleep routine can increase concentration and productivity, which helps improve your performance in the virtual classroom.