Managing zoom fatigue

Zoom has been and continues to be a useful for many people with regards to work, learning and social connection.  However, with increased time spent on remote learning and remote work, more students are likely to experience tiredness, worry and burnout from excessive zoom use, a syndrome called zoom fatigue (1)

This post discusses strategies to minimize or reduce zoom fatigue.

What is zoom fatigue?

One definition of zoom fatigue might be , which refers to increased tiredness as a result of virtual meetings.

What are some ways to prevent or reduce zoom fatigue?

According to Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) (2,3):

  1. Consider taking zoom out of full screen mode, as excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense (2,3). 
  2. Using external keyboard allows for an increase in the personal space bubble between oneself and the grid (2,3).
  3. Hide self view, as seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time can be fatiguing.
  4. Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility. an external camera farther away from the screen will allow you to pace and doodle in virtual meetings just like we do in real ones. And of course, turning one’s video off periodically during meetings is a good ground rule to set for groups, just to give oneself a brief nonverbal rest (2,3).
  5. Since the cognitive load is much higher in video chats, consider taking a brief break from having to be nonverbally active, but also turning your body away from the screen (2,3).

Additional strategies noted in the Harvard Business Review (4):

  • Avoid multitasking.  Consider  closing any tabs or programs that might distract you, put your phone away, and stay present (3).
  • Take mini breaks during longer calls by minimizing the video, moving it to behind your open applications, or just looking away from your computer now and then (4).
  • When possible, instead of a video conference, consider if an alternate method is appropriate (phone call, Slack or email, etc) (3).

Other strategies:

  • If possible schedule non video call activities between zoom calls to give yourself a break from the screen while remaining productive.
  • If cleared by your physician, consider brief bouts of stretching or exercise, even if its just a few minutes between zoom calls.
  • Some students may benefit from reducing screen brightness to decrease eye strain.
  • To balance the period of increased screen time, consider doing leisure activities that do not involve screens, such as going on a walk, working outside, playing a sport, etc.

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To learn more about zoom fatigue, see references below.

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Wolf CR. Virtual platforms are helpful tools but can add to our stress. Psychology Today. May 14, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-desk-the-mental-health-lawyer/202005/virtual-platforms-are-helpful-tools-can-add-our-stress
  2. https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/  Accessed 4/14/21.
  3. Bailenson, J. N. (2021). Nonverbal Overload: A Theoretical Argument for the Causes of Zoom Fatigue. Technology, Mind, and Behavior2(1). https://doi.org/10.1037/tmb0000030
  4. https://hbr.org/2020/04/how-to-combat-zoom-fatigue.  Accessed 4/14/21.
  5. A Neuropsychological Exploration of Zoom Fatigue (psychiatrictimes.com)

 

Strategies to improve attention

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.”
Brian Tracy, author Focal Point.

With increased time spent on remote and hybrid work/school environments many people are increasingly experiencing more difficulties with attention/focus.

In the book Answers to Distraction, Dr Edward Hallowell and Dr John Ratey discuss several strategies to improve focus.  Some of them include the following, with my comments in “[italics]”:

  1. Establish a structure, and routine. [Consider incorporating breaks, and a variety of tasks periodically throughout the work period].
  2. Make use of frequent lists [To do, and NOT to do lists can be helpful].
  3. Color code your physical environment, files, text, schedules etc. this can help make things more memorable.
  4. Rituals [Or routines around work/studying can be helpful for some people].
  5. Reminders [Using calendars, sticky notes, timers etc].
  6. Develop a filing system [This can help minimize clutter in your work space, as clutter can be distracting].
  7. When possible, only handle it once (OHIO), this can be helpful with small tasks because an ever expanding to do list can increase guilt, anxiety, resentment in some people.
  8. Build in some buffer time for projects and obligations to account for the unexpected.
  9. Embrace challenges. [If the work you are doing is not interesting enough, identify an activity, task, or project of your own choosing to spend some time on each day. This pre planned time can help reduce excessive social media usage, web browsing, email/message checking etc].
  10. Make deadlines. [In some instances, make them ahead of external deadlines, in other instances create them, this can help focus. I often suggest to students to ask themselves, “what is one thing (outside of daily routine/obligations) that you choose to do today that will help you  feel accomplished?”].
  11. Break down large tasks into smaller ones WITH deadlines attached to them.  Larger tasks can feel overwhelming, which can lead to anxiety  and procrastination. [For a student struggling to work on a paper due next week, a smaller goal of writing a paragraph each morning may be more doable].
  12. Prioritize rather than procrastinate. [When you get the feeling that you have a lot to do, identify the most important activity you need to do today or most pressing deadline, can help you channel your focus].
  13. Identify the physical environment, and conditions where you do your work best. [For some this may be a noisy café, or while listening to background music, for others, it may be a decluttered, quiet, space with little background noise].
  14. Identify tasks or activities that you are good at doing, and those you enjoy. [This could help you identify roles in team projects, type of job you choose, types of classes to take, selecting an appropriate major, etc].
  15. Take breaks. [Taking frequent breaks during the day to look at your schedule, and re-organize for the next time block can be helpful.  One such strategy is the POMODORO technique].
  16. Having a notepad [or a note taking app readily available whenever possible] taking notes on a fleeting thought or idea that comes to mind can help clear the mind to improve focus.
  17. Taking notes when reading can help improve focus but also reduce the “cascade of “other” thoughts”.

Other strategies to improve attention/focus:

Additional resources:

  • Answers to distraction Dr Edward Hallowell and Dr John Ratey
  • Focal point, by Brian Tracy
  • The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey
  • Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt
  • Taking charge of adult adhd by Dr Russell Barkley

Campus resources:

  • Consider improving study skills through the OSU Dennis Learning center.
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Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

 

Proper use of Light therapy for seasonal affective disorder

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression is depressive symptoms or mood instability that occurs on a seasonal basis, most commonly during winter months.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, weight gain, increased appetite, oversleeping (1).

Treatment includes medications, counseling, lifestyle habits, and counseling.

What are some lifestyle habits that can help with Seasonal affective disorder?

  • Sleep hygiene
  • Aerobic exercise upto 1 hour, 2-3 times per week (2)
  • Daily walks outside upto an hour (3).
  • Light therapy (1).

With technological advances, many light boxes are now available at a more affordable cost.  It is recommended that you discuss with your health care professional to see if light therapy is right for you.

For proper use of light therapy, The Mayo clinic advises the following (4):

  • It’s best to talk with your health care provider about choosing and using a light therapy box.
  • If you’re experiencing both SAD and bipolar disorder, the advisability and timing of using a light box should be carefully reviewed with your doctor.
  • Increasing exposure too fast or using the light box for too long each time may induce manic symptoms if you have bipolar disorder.
  • If you have past or current eye problems such as glaucoma, cataracts or eye damage from diabetes, get advice from your eye doctor before starting light therapy.
  • Generally, the light box should:
    • Provide an exposure to 10,000 lux of light
    • Emit as little UV light as possible
  • Typical recommendations include using the light box:
  • Regarding timing, use within the first hour of waking up:
    • For about 20 to 30 minutes
    • At a distance of about 16 to 24 inches (41 to 61 centimeters) from the face
    • With eyes open, but not looking directly at the light

Additional information can be found here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/in-depth/seasonal-affective-disorder-treatment/ART-20048298?p=1

Additional thoughts:

  • Daily use is most likely to produce benefit.
  • Some may need to use it daily for a few weeks before having a noticeable benefit.
  • Some people may benefit from using light therapy starting out at 30 minutes and working your way up to 1 hour per day.
  • More information on seasonal affective disorder click here.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References

  1. https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2019/01/29/study-light-therapy-for-s-a-d-may-also-help-with-sleep-alertness/
  1. Partonen T, Leppämäki S, Hurme J, Lönnqvist J. Randomized trial of physical exercise alone or combined with bright light on mood and health-related quality of life. Psychol Med 1998; 28:1359.
  2. Wirz-Justice A, Graw P, Kräuchi K, et al. ‘Natural’ light treatment of seasonal affective disorder. J Affect Disord 1996; 37:109.
  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/in-depth/seasonal-affective-disorder-treatment/ART-20048298?p=1