It helps against fatigue during lockdown

It doesn’t just look like this for you: A working day that mainly consists of constant video conferences and many hours in the home office is exhausting, exhausting and sometimes uncomfortable. After that you feel more stupid than before. There are psychological reasons for this.

In fact, there are a number of factors that make the consistency of the shutdown routine on the one hand and the constant video conferencing on the other a real mental health problem. “Zoom Fatigue” is not just a tortured joke among colleagues – video conferencing exhaustion really does exist, there is even a scientific article on this keyword.

The causes of “zoom fatigue” are:

  • In moving images the size of a credit card, we humans cannot properly recognize what is naturally carried along in a normal conversation: non-verbal cues, facial expressions, small movements, posture. This creates a permanent unconscious effort trying to “read” the other person – unless you have already mentally cleared the conversation.

  • Constant staring at a screen strains the eyes, which was already known before Corona: the phenomenon of “digital eye strain”, i. H. Digital eye strain has been studied by ophthalmologists for years and is very common. The two biggest problems: dry eyes due to slow blink rate and problems with the depth of field and the distance to the screen. Typical symptoms: sore or tense eyes, headache, blurred vision, pain in the shoulder and neck muscles.

  • The two effects mentioned above are made worse when the screen (smartphone, tablet) is too small and the main position or distance from the screen is not appropriate.

  • Even small delays in the transmission of the spoken word that are barely noticeable can have serious repercussions: they even make the other person seem less sympathetic. A study made in Berlin in 2014 found that delaying the transmission by 1.2 seconds had serious consequences: “The same speaker was perceived as less friendly, less active, less happy, less self-effective, less ambitious and less disciplined.”

If you’re particularly annoyed with your coworkers at the moment, it may only have to do with the quality and size of your screen and the bandwidth of your internet connection.

The shutdown life itself also has an effect on our psyche, especially on our memory.

Our memory is associative, it connects things, content, experiences with each other and also with the crew. Extreme, decisive episodes are remembered in many details even after a long time. Almost anyone can tell when and where they heard about the September 11, 2001 attacks. In psychology, this is known as “Flash Bulb Memory”. But what was the day or week before the attacks? Usually this can hardly be retrieved from memory. Even two weeks of adventure vacations take up much more space in the episodic memory than the two weeks before in the office.

Conversely, four, eight or twelve weeks of standardized everyday work can be reduced to a single model day afterwards. Environmental stimuli hardly change, the events are similar to one another, there are fewer anchors to which specific memories can be linked. Daily work from home reinforces this effect: Those who spend the whole day in their apartment and move from the kitchen to the laptop and in the evening on the couch do not have the external stimuli to store memories in such a way that they can be easily accessed: the conversation with colleagues in the hallway, the meeting in the canteen, the conversation in this one conference room.

The more familiar the environment through which we move, the more processes run automatically “unconsciously”. Did I just put the milk back in the fridge or was it yesterday?

The sedentary lifestyle of everyday life exacerbates this problem: when we do not have to navigate, parts of our brain that are very important for memory formation are less stimulated. especially the hippocampus. Even the famous psychologist Edward Tolman formulated the idea in the 1940s that memories form a kind of “cognitive map”. In a sense, we move spatially through our memories. Clearly, when the part of the brain that does this has too little to do, problems arise.

In addition, the current situation triggers fear or even depression in many people. Others simply have concerns for understandable reasons, such as financial reasons. All of these have a negative impact on memory and reduce the quality of sleep. And those who sleep poorly are less likely to cement their memories.

Here are some simple tips to reduce zoom fatigue and memory impairment:

  • Go and talk: turn off the video, put on a headset, and go for a walk in a conference or conversation. This stimulates the hippocampus, especially if you take an unfamiliar route. You also get exercise, natural light, and fresh air. And it’s not for nothing that they try to read the faces of their colleagues. Of course, you need to agree in advance.

  • Get a portable stand so you don’t always look down at an angle during video conferencing. And you can ask your ophthalmologist or optician whether special computer glasses would be helpful.

  • If you have a TV or projector, try videoconferencing with a larger picture, maybe even from the sofa – an HDMI cable from your laptop should do this. Then you can read the faces of the people you talk to better and make less effort.

  • Switching to a speakerphone that many video conferencing systems offer can also help. If the person you are hearing fills in the picture, you will actually understand them better.

  • Under certain circumstances, it is even worthwhile to upgrade your internet bandwidth to your home – if only to be better received by your colleagues.

  • Make a conscious choice to add variety to everyday life. Just don’t eat in front of your laptop, don’t change rooms and do the weekend very differently from your daily work. Take a walk, exercise, garden, do DIY, make music, play video games or whatever: do something else. As often as possible.

  • Movement helps in general: it provides variety, ensures that other parts of the brain are used, keeps you physically fresher, helps against tension and contributes to a better quality of sleep – and thus indirectly to a better memory.

  • Learn autogenic training or a meditation process.

I just have to discourage one measure against zoom fatigue from my own bitter experience: Singing together via video chat is an ordeal. However, it helps a lot to make the problem of a barely perceptible latency directly tangible: synchronous singing with a delay of a few hundred milliseconds reliably ends in chaos and howling.

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