Zoom Fatigue: Tips on Dealing With ‘Brain-Drain’ Side Effect

Call it “Zoom fatigue” or “Zoom exhaustion” — a side effect of the seemingly endless virtual calls and meetings on your laptop or other digital devices. It wasn’t that long ago before the COVID-19 pandemic, that meetings took place in person, requiring full attention and social manners — but with few distractions.

Now, virtual meetings can create “brain drain”from trying to focus on multiple-person screens and attendants speaking overeach other and distractions from others in your home, including well-meaningpets and kids.

“Video calls can overwhelm the psyche from severalangles at once,” explains MichaelMcDermott, M.D., neurosurgeon and chief medical executive of Miami Neuroscience Institute,part of Baptist Health South Florida. “As humans, we heavily rely onnon-verbal cues (hand gestures or head nodding) when we communicate to derivemeaning. On a screen, we’re missing much of that information.”

The lack of personal contact forces your brain to workovertime to fill in the gaps by focusing on the few, unclear non-verbal cues wecan see on a screen, or on words alone, to derive meaning.

“Your brain accounts for 20 percent of your total bodyenergy consumption. So, it can be very taxing on someone when it’s onoverdrive,” Dr. McDermott adds.

Despite the challenges of so many video conferencingsessions, it’s too early to tell if this new normal is actually causingnegative neurological or psychological conditions — or at least there hasn’tbeen any substantial clinical studies as yet.

Videoconferencing was born out of necessity — and lookslike it’s here to stay.  As people becomemore reliant on it, it is possible that more people experience ‘brain drain’ orother neuropsychological effects. It is also possible that people become moreaccustomed to and learn to adjust.

“It will require more research to determine if any chronicneurological conditions can be caused specifically by this video-conferencingphenomenon,” said Dr. McDermott.

It’s not all bad news — videoconferencing has allowed mostpeople to stay connected during this difficult time. And there are steps youcan take to prevent getting overwhelmed by the digital brain drain of Zoommeetings.

Here are tips to alleviate some of the affects:

  • Make more phone calls. This allows you to focuson one thing, the voice.
  • Turn off your camera if you can to ease the Zoomexhaustion.
  • Try walking and talking at the same time, ifpossible. This reduces stress and improves focus.
  • Take breaks during long videoconferencingsessions, and look away from the screen.

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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