Feel Exhausted After Every Video Call? Here's Why

This year's onslaught of video call invites went from fun to overwhelming in a flash.

Maybe it's because we're introverts, but these calls leave us feeling drained and burnt out even when we're talking to the people we love—let alone the calls that are academic or work obligations. We've come to dread every variety of video call without truly understanding why.

We had to find out, so we contacted Dr. Nava Silton, a developmental psychologist, author and associate professor of psychology at Marymount Manhattan College. She had a few important insights for us about why video call fatigue happens, what to do about it and how we can look at the situation differently to live more happily.

Sweety High: What exactly is video call fatigue, and why does it happen?

Nava Silton: Video call fatigue refers to the exhaustion individuals can feel from repeated video calls. Seeing yourself on a video call can often be more draining since you tend to be more self-aware, self-conscious and self-critical of your appearance, since you feel that everyone is staring at you, up close and personal.

It's also often hard and exhausting to try and decode other people's emotions or reactions on a video call, especially if there are multiple individuals in a session and you need to constantly scroll through the faces. There tends to be an overall lack of physical cues during video meetings, since there is often less body language. Finally, it's often emotionally draining when you know the meeting should be in person and it's not. It's also harder to decline meetings you may be too exhausted to attend, since a video meeting can virtually be conducted anywhere.


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SH: What advice do you have for anyone who's feeling overwhelmed by the onslaught of Zoom calls in their life?

NS: If you are feeling burnt out from school and work calls, but your family members and friends want you to Zoom in, I always recommend that you have a theme for your Zoom discussion, and someone to potentially "emcee" the discussion and a distinct time frame for the conversation. Otherwise, Zoom sessions can appear very disjointed and can feel interminable at times. For instance, you can have everyone share a rose (something positive) and a thorn (something negative) from their day or week. This will give everyone a chance to share and to hear from their loved ones or peers. A time limit will ensure that people don't chat ad nauseam when people are exhausted from the school or workday.


SH: How are some ways to cope with the draining effects of video calls?

NS: Regarding advice and self-care, you may want to switch off between video and audio calls. You should take breaks from screen time and ensure you're participating in other forms of social interaction or in other activities. You may also want to dedicate a specific space for your "home office" and a separate area for your "living space."


SH: How much of the stress of a pandemic and quarantining play into this fatigue?

NS: There is a certain amount of anxiety we all feel due to the uncertain and unknown nature of this virus. None of us know if we are fully protected, if our loved ones will become vulnerable, when we can relax our safety standards and finally, when the virus will be over. This uncertainty
can also impact our Zoom sessions, since we all may be wondering when our Zoom and virtual communication will end and our
normal face-to-face human interactions will resume. This uncertainty can be exhausting in itself.


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SH: What else should we keep in mind when it comes to video calls and the current situation?

NS: While video conferencing, Zoom sessions, Microsoft Teams and other forms of virtual communication can be challenging and exhausting, it can also allow us to reacquaint ourselves with old friends, with family members we don't typically get to connect with and with wonderful people and experts across the world. I have been able to invite world-class speakers to guest-lecture in my college courses by simply sending the speakers a Meeting ID and password.

Since we are in this situation for an unknown time frame, let's make the most of what this technology can do. Let's capitalize as much as we can on this technology and the extra time we have with our loved ones, away from this technology (during our non-screen-time hours). Let's make lemons into lemonade and get the most out of this challenging time. Finally, this is a wonderful time to teach yourself a new skill (such as how to play guitar or how to speak a new language), to pursue a project you have long put-off (like writing that novel) or to catch up on some wonderful reading. Let's make some delicious lemonade here and get a whole lot out of it at the same time.


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If you can relate, click HERE to find out why one of our writers turns down Zoom calls with too many invitees.