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20 Ways to Combat Zoom Fatigue for a Successful Semester

By
Samantha Rose
Samantha Rose covers financial literacy for the educational arm of OppLoans. Her work focuses on providing hands-on resources for high school and college-age students in addition to their parents and educators.
Updated on March 18, 2021
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Tired of video calls? You’re not the only one.

Forget class fatigue. Have you heard of Zoom fatigue? 

This new phenomenon is appropriately named for the videoconferencing app sweeping the nation. Feeling exhausted after a video call? Check. Annoyed? Check. Defeated? Check. 

You’ve got it. 

Constantly gazing into the computer camera makes students appear energized and engaged, but it’s actually backfiring, leaving students drained. Try these 20 tips to jump to the head of your class — virtually. 

No. 1: Hide the self-view

Are you tired of seeing your own face on Zoom? Hide it. 

Turn on your camera and do a quick check for lighting, then navigate to settings and hide your self-view. If you need technical help there are instruction videos online. Viewing ourselves on screen can lead to feeling like we’re always “on.” 

This trick allows others to still see you, but you won’t see yourself. It’s also a good option for people who feel self-conscious on video.

No. 2: Use the active speaker mode

Try Zoom’s active speaker mode on your next video call. 

This feature enlarges the image of the current speaker, allowing for a few benefits. First, it’s easier to detect expressions and gestures. Second, you’re able to focus on one person at a time. 

Overall, this feature helps video calls replicate in-person interactions, so you’re not straining in a gallery full of participants.

No. 3: Stare at the camera

Direct eye contact has the power to alter our behavior. It can make us appear friendly, attentive, and confident. 

That’s why great eye contact — like all positive body language — can command a room.

Even if you can’t make direct eye contact over Zoom, you can simulate it. Stare at the camera, not at the screen. Viewers will start believing you are having an in-person conversation with this eye contact trick.

No. 4: Reduce onscreen stimuli

Onscreen distractions can zap your attention. 

When we attend a virtual call, we focus on everything that’s on the screen. And that’s not always people’s faces. Distracting background stimuli, like room color or plants, and noise from roommates or pets can pull our attention. 

To combat this, ask everyone to use a virtual background or to turn off their video and sound when not speaking.

No. 5: Create cues

Online classes make it difficult to find a healthy balance between school and home life. To create a distinction, try creating cues. 

For instance, a physical cue might be a dedicated space at home. Once you’re done with class, walk away from your work area. Other cues might look like:

  • Moving from one room or space to another
  • Listening to a specific playlist for school work
  • Using separate water bottles during school versus at home 
  • Turning on different lights after classes, like ambient lighting.

No. 6: Turn off the camera

Just because you’re on a video call doesn’t mean you have to be on video. 

First, refer to your class guidelines. Some professors require students to have their cameras on. And others may not appreciate seeing students’ faces instead of a blank screen. But if you have the option, give yourself permission to turn off your camera when you need a break. 

Another option is to talk to your professors about implementing a new policy: Students only have to turn on their cameras while speaking.

No. 7: Learn to say, “No”

Say “no” to video calls that aren’t worth your time. 

Yes, you have to attend class, but additional video calls aren’t always mandatory. It’s hard to turn down extra study sessions or virtual mixers. Thanks, FOMO. But if they aren’t a valuable use of your time, then give yourself a break. 

Value your limits and start saying, “No.” 

No. 8: Opt out of virtual socializing

A long day of back-to-back online courses can be exhausting. Normally, you’d turn down an event invite after a hard day. But the fact that it’s virtual makes it seem different — almost necessary. 

Don’t feel pressured to accept every virtual social event to make up for a lack of in-person interaction. Honor the times when you’d rather log off and regroup. 

Don’t worry — there’s always a next time.

No. 9: Create an agenda

Is there anything worse than a derailed video call? The agenda is ignored in favor of tangents and small talk. By the end of the meeting, nothing is accomplished. 

Insist that your video calls have a clear purpose. If the organizer can’t form an agenda, then it probably isn’t worth your time.

No. 10: Reduce eye strain

Staring at a screen all day isn’t good for your vision. It can cause eye strain, headaches, and migraines. A popular option to combat this is blue light filtering glasses, which come in prescription and nonprescription lenses. 

There are several other ways to reduce digital eye strain, including:

  • Taking frequent screen breaks
  • Increasing the text size
  • Minimizing screen glare with antiglare covers
  • Dimming the screen brightness at night.

No. 11: Switch to another format

Cut down on video meetings by switching to a different communication method. 

Have you ever thought that meeting could have been an email? It turns out not every meeting needs to happen — and it doesn’t have to be over video. In fact, email, text, messenger apps, and phone calls are still valid formats. 

Working on a group project? Answer quick questions over email or text. Use Zoom only for meetings where it makes sense, like practicing a presentation. 

No. 12: Avoid defaulting to video 

It’s time to normalize not defaulting to video calls. Just because everyone else is defaulting to video, doesn’t mean you need to do it too. 

For example, if you’re partnered up with a stranger in class, stick to email and phone calls. It can feel awkward and invasive to schedule a one-on-one video with someone you don’t know.

No. 13: Establish video-free time

It’s important to schedule video-free time to reduce Zoom fatigue. 

Find blocks of time around your classes. Pencil it into your calendar and set phone alarms if you need the reminder. 

During this time, don’t use your video call feature  — not for class or personal use. Instead, try working. Read, write a paper, or work on a project. Designate a mix of activities to keep yourself from burning out.

No. 14: Designate a video-free day

If you’re lucky enough to have a schedule with at least one day of no classes or meetings, use it to your benefit by designating a video-free day. Otherwise, spend one day of your weekend video-free. 

Take it a step further, designate a screen-free day. That means no computer, no TV, and no phone. 

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with constant technology usage. Stepping away helps to destress. Read a book. Go on a hike. Whatever you choose to do on your video-free day is up to you.

No. 15: Cut the small talk

Chances are your video calls start the same way every time. How was your weekend? Same old. How are you? Hanging in there.

Not only are these questions repetitive and boring, but they put pressure on students to talk about how they’re dealing with current events. And not everyone wants that reminder while at school. Prioritize real conversations over small talk.

Next time try a light-hearted icebreaker instead, such as:

  • If you had to recommend one class to a peer, what would it be and why?
  • What are you most excited about once you return to campus?
  • If you could spend spring break anywhere in the world, where would it be?

No. 16: Make meetings shorter

Not every meeting needs to be an hour. It’s just the default. In fact, two 30-minute meetings might be more effective. 

Think about the purpose of the meeting. Do you feel productive at the end? If you breeze through the agenda with time to spare, then consider cutting it short and reevaluating its length going forward. 

No. 17: Avoid multitasking

The workload associated with online courses and Zoom meetings can take a toll. Then add in all the stress from the 24-hour news cycle. To say that students have a lot going on is an understatement. 

So don’t make it harder on yourself by multitasking during class hours. Minimize tabs, close social apps, and mute chat platforms. Focus on one task at a time. Your brain won’t have to work as hard to process information if multiple programs aren’t running in the background.

No. 18: Schedule breaks

Take advantage of breaks, even if it’s only 10 minutes between classes. Stand up, stretch, and grab a coffee. It’s important to reset by looking at something other than a screen. Back-to-back classes leave little room for a break, but if you can, schedule your remaining meetings with 30-minute break intervals.

No. 19: Put on real clothes

It’s true what they say — dress for success. 

Putting on real clothes to attend Zoom school can help you feel awake and ready to tackle the day. Differentiating between your school clothes and your sweatpants will help you switch between “on” and “off” mode. It’s conditioning 101. 

No. 20: Focus on the positive

You join a video call to be greeted with the latest bad news. Instant mood killer. Not to mention the tone is set for the duration of the call. 

Try not to discuss negative news, unless it’s part of the agenda. And in that case, save it for later instead of bringing it up at the start. 

Bottom line

Feeling tired, annoyed, and drained after a video call? You have Zoom fatigue. Increase your video stamina with a few simple tricks. 

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