Nfld. & Labrador

Feeling extra tired after a day of video chatting? A St. John's psychologist says you're not alone

"Zoom fatigue" is a growing phenomenon over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and could lead to other issues like anxiety. Dr. Janine Hubbard says.

'Zoom fatigue' can lead to other issues like anxiety, Dr. Janine Hubbard says

Psychologist Janine Hubbard says 'Zoom fatigue' is a real phenomenon and is affecting people as they spend more time on the videoconferencing platform. File photo. (Meghan McCabe/CBC)

If you're feeling particularly tired after a long day of video chatting through the COVID-19 pandemic, a St. John's psychologist says you aren't alone.

Dr. Janine Hubbard said the issue of "Zoom fatigue," named after the videoconferencing platform that many use during the pandemic, is a real issue many people are feeling right now.

"It's actually a thing, and it doesn't apply to just Zoom," Hubbard told CBC Newfoundland Morning. "It applies to all of the platforms that we're using at the moment."

Hubbard said she decided to look into Zoom fatigue after her own personal experiences of exhaustion following a day of video meetings.

"I noticed it even [in] the first week or two when I was starting to do all these meetings, and I couldn't figure out why I was just so drained at the end of it," she said.

"Because I'm like, 'These are meetings I have all the time, these are people I like.… Why am I feeling so exhausted?' And clearly, I wasn't alone in this phenomenon."

Though research into Zoom fatigue is still in the early stages, Hubbard said the exhaustion people are experiencing can be attributed to what she calls "a different kind of focus and attention."

"We do not normally stare directly with intense eye contact into our colleagues, or even our loved ones, for an hour at a time," she said.

"We're also not used to being on camera, and we are so focused at looking at ourselves, no matter how much we try to resist it."

Zoom has skyrocketed in popularity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing people to connect with friends and loved ones in times of physical distancing. (Nathan Frandino/Reuters)

"You keep looking at yourself and you feel like you're performing on stage, and it makes you hyper-aware of all of your reactions," Hubbard added.

"You're worried, 'Oh, are people going to think I'm disinterested if I'm looking away for a moment?' It's presenting some really unique challenges for us."

Hubbard said there are other factors that can also account for an added sense of fatigue, such as distractions or trying to multitask while in a meeting.

She said other symptoms that can come from Zoom fatigue, as the sense of added awareness, can cause anxiety in some people.

"'Are people judging my home environment or my decor? What am I wearing?' [We're thinking about this] in ways we never worry about when we're just going into the office," she said.

"[The] degree of intense socialization, that degree of intense scrutiny or feeling the need to have that kind of contact with others, can actually make us really anxious."

Giving yourself a break is key

As the world tries to adjust to the new normal around Zoom calls and other unorthodox meetings, Hubbard said it's important to establish a form of  "Zoom etiquette," and work your days around not being on a video chat all day long.

"I think it's more that we need to set some new normal in terms of how we handle these routines," she said.

"Giving yourself a break from the video, so perhaps if someone is presenting, making it OK for team members to say, 'I'm going to mute the video and I'm going to listen to the audio only,' and that not be taken as a sign of disrespect or disinterest. It's just that it's actually easier to concentrate that way."

Hubbard said phone calls can also serve as a great alternative to chatting without being in front of the camera. If you do have to be on video chats for long periods of time, she stresses the importance of taking a break and breaking things up as the day goes on.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from CBC Newfoundland Morning