Zoom makes people anxious for multiple reasons, as it often takes a gargantuan effort to press the unmute button or leave the camera on. Mental health experts have found even a name for the strange phenomenon – Zoom anxiety. So, what is Zoom anxiety, and why does it affect (some of) us so much?
What Is Zoom Anxiety?
Just like Zoom fatigue, the tiredness people experience after being on Zoom or other video conferencing apps all day long, Zoom anxiety is a relatively new term. But despite its name, the condition is not limited to the Zoom service. It equally affects users of Skype, Google Hangouts, MS teams, FaceTime, and more.
Zoom anxiety is the existential dread of attending a Zoom meeting because your hairdo might not be perfect, the unmute button might be on, the cat might show up in the background, you might say something silly, or people might get judgmental.
Many other things can fuel Zoom anxiety including:
· Not having access to body language cues
· Having tech issues
· Untidy background
· Being talked over
· Being misunderstood
· Checking out at a critical time of the meeting
· Not being able to make natural eye contact
· Experiencing social anxiety.
Who Is at the Highest Risk?
High levels of stress and anxiety tied to government-mandated restrictions and isolation are often tied to Zoom anxiety. Researchers have found that long-term stress can up the risk of major mental health issues like depression and anxiety. So, depressed and anxiety-prone people are highly likely to experience Zoom anxiety.
Also, people that are unfamiliar with modern technologies and might experience technical issues are prone to Zoom anxiety. Introverts are another high-risk group, but extroverts are not spared either, especially if they already have social anxiety.
Self-conscious people and overthinkers, even when not socially anxious, have a high risk of experiencing Zoom anxiety due to the many negative thoughts about what it might go wrong.
Overcoming Zoom Anxiety: 5 Tips
There are several steps you could take to tackle Zoom anxiety and make it less crippling:
1. Setting boundaries
If you feel uncomfortable having the camera on, let your instructor know about it and make sure that you are on the same page. Learners/ attendees need only the audio feature in 99% of cases. It would feel like an invasion of privacy or rudeness if the host or trainer goes against your wish.
2. Taking a break when you need it
If you feel exhausted, give yourself permission to take a break. Attending online meetings can lead to fatigue because it is very hard to stay engaged, in the same position, for hours on end. If you don’t take a break when you need it, you will feel more tired and frustrated.
So, turn off the camera and get a drink/ snack, go to the bathroom, or just stretch. Just don’t get your eyes glued onto a mobile device or try to switch to another project, as personal internet use and multitasking are usually major productivity killers.
3. Taking advantage of breakout rooms
If you feel anxious about attending a Zoom meeting with 30+ other people you barely know, ask the host to use the so-called breakout rooms, a feature most video conferencing apps share. And when in a breakout room, make sure that you are with the people that cause you the least amount of stress. Breakout rooms are a handy feature to manage large groups and to keep Zoom anxiety in check.
If your trainer or boss is overdoing it with Zoom meetings, tell them how you feel or ask to opt-out when there are too many meetings in a day. Zoom fatigue is real, as many trainers can confirm, which will lead to lower productivity, increased costs, and a higher risk of burnout.
5. Dress accordingly
A useful trick to keep Zoom anxiety in check is dressing as you would for a work-from-office day. This will lower your fear of the app accidentally unmuting itself or turning the camera on. Also, your brain will have an easier time switching to the work mode, which will make you feel better and more productive than your pajamas would.