On an average day, work and socializing can tire you. When work and social events all happen through video calls, you're likely to get even more exhausted, and here's why.
Our brains are adapted to respond to personal experiences. Video often seems a reasonable representation of that, but video is very different for our brains from the three-dimensional world. Dealing with that difference can make you extremely tired.
If you find yourself exhausted after every video chat or conference, it's not you alone ̵
The Science of Video Call Fatigue
Human communication has been formed over many years of evolution. We have adapted to use not only speech, but also facial expressions and body language to send signals to others. We also adapted to read the same signals from other people.
However, these skills are designed for personal use. Video calls flatten nuanced, three-dimensional signals and shrink them to fit on a screen. To get and give the same amount of visual information, our brains suddenly have to work much harder.
For many people, understanding nonverbal cues during a personal conversation feels natural. It is something we develop gradually as we grow up, not a skill we learn in school. You probably don't have to think consciously about reading someone's body language.
However, video calls erase that convenience. You need to look at every little face on the screen very carefully to find unspoken directions. If the video is delayed or grainy, this is even more difficult. You also listen more carefully to hear words that may not come through clearly.
The more people that are on the screen, the more you are thrown off the screen. Your brain is not designed to understand so many different facial expressions at once. In addition, with more people and less visual cues, it can be more difficult to figure out when to jump into the conversation. You may even be concerned with how your own face looks on the screen.
In short, video calling stimulates your brain in a way that it cannot handle. It is tempting to think that seeing people on video will make communication clearer and easier. But it's actually more difficult for your brain than a simple phone call. Therefore, you may feel like you need a nap at the end of each video chat.
Of course, it is just enough to live during a pandemic. Even if you have a lot of experience with video calling, the main cause of the stress and anxiety is enough to exhaust most people.
Making video chats less tiring
All of this doesn't mean video calls are inherently bad. Almost all of them have enabled us to continue working and connecting with loved ones during the pandemic, which is nothing short of revolutionary. However, this does not take away the challenge they give our brain.
Since your life can now involve far more video chats than ever, here are some ways to make it less stressful.
Decline Some Social Invitations
If you try to recreate your pre-pandemic social life in video form, you are likely to get exhausted. A video hangout will often tire you, while a personal hangout will usually leave you feeling refreshed. With that in mind, consider declining a few more social invites than usual.
In addition to the common ways video calls tire your brain, there is also the fact that sitting in front of a screen sometimes just feels like work. If you need a break, tell your friends or family you can't come this time and log out. Spend that time in a three-dimensional activity, such as taking a walk or reading a book.
By reducing the number of social video calls you participate in, you will find that you have more energy for those you commit to. If you can, you may even want to reduce the number of work-related video calls. In this way, those you do participate in get your full attention.
Take breaks more often
If you can't cut back on video calls, make sure to take a short break between calls. This gives your brain time to recharge. Breaks can be especially important between work and private calls, giving you time to switch from work to relaxation mode.
Turn your screen to the side
Some experts suggest positioning your screen so that it is on one side, instead of facing straight ahead. This can remind your brain that you are not in the same room with all these faces you see at the same time.
Try Different Locations
Moving into different rooms in your house may also make video calling easier. For example, you can designate one area for work conversations and another for personal chats. This divides your day in a way that feels more like your normal routine.
If you don't like how you look at the camera, try areas with different lighting. Chatting in a brighter or darker room or moving light sources can help you feel more confident about your on-screen appearance.
While there is no way to make video calls feel as natural as a face-to-face conversation, following these tips may make them a little less tiring. However, if you're still struggling, don't hesitate to raise your concerns with your boss or friends. If you discuss this, you might all be able to find a solution that works for everyone.