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Whether you’re going to class or catching up with friends, video chatting has become part of everyone’s daily routine. However, after many months of working, networking, playing games, and even taking exams over Zoom, many voice the same complaint: an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as Zoom fatigue. Read Spectrum’s tips to find out more about what it is and develop better screen habits during the day.

What is Zoom fatigue?

Zoom fatigue has been used to label the feelings of exhaustion, tiredness, and distractedness during or after video calls.

This phenomenon is due to the lack of non-verbal cues on video calls that the brain normally receives during in-person interactions. Brian Wind, co-chair of the American Psychology Association, explains that since the brain is not picking up on any social cues, extra energy is needed to focus on the person talking and what they are saying. This focus builds up stress, which is why we feel exhausted after video calls.

If we apply this to classes, the brain usually focuses on the professors' hand gestures as they are lecturing as well as the whiteboard or PowerPoint presentation they are using. However, through Zoom, this social interaction is also lost, making the brain focus extra attention on the professor’s voice. This process explains why you might feel so tired or have a hard time focusing on your class.

What can I do?

Get ready for the day

Instead of waking up five minutes before classes start and turning off your camera so that you can stay in bed, try to wake up at least 20 minutes before classes begin to change out of your sweatpants into something more presentable.

It might sound ridiculous to get ready and change just to sit at your desk in the same room you woke up in, but doing so can make you much more attentive during class and even set the flow for the rest of your day.

Go easy on your eyes

On top of classes, we stare at a computer screen for hours on end doing homework, go to club meetings, and talk to friends. All our devices emit blue light wavelengths just like the sun. However, we take in this blue light at very close proximity when we’re on our devices, which strains your eyes.

Try to incorporate device-free breaks into your day where you put away your phone and computer to go outside, read a book, or even just review any handwritten notes. You can also use eye drops to hydrate your eyes since looking at a screen decreases the number of times you blink, making your eyes dry out.

Finally, you should try and get a good pair of blue light protection glasses, which help decrease the intense exposure to the blue light you experience every day.

Don’t open that tab

We’ve all fooled ourselves into thinking we can actually work on something else while listening in on a Zoom class; in reality, your class isn’t a podcast. Switching between listening to your professor and whatever assignment you’re working on on the side are tasks that should require your full attention. Switching between them is not as efficient as you would expect. So when you log into your Zoom class, make sure it’s the only application open on your computer.

Don’t forget about your phone either. Before your class starts, try to put it in another room or somewhere you can’t easily reach from your workstation.

Change up your environment

Getting up and working in the same spot every single day can make you dread going to class before it even starts. However, waking up and going to a different spot every day can break your routine and bring some type of excitement to your day, even if that means moving from your desk to your couch. Try going to a local coffee shop if COVID-19 restrictions in your area allow you to. Alternatively, find a space with lots of natural light in your home and make it your work stop for the day.

If you’re on campus, make the best out of the situation and find a seat in Butler during midterm season by booking it beforehand, or try out Riverside Park while the weather is still nice. There are so many different places you can go to that might just make you look forward to classes a little more.

Practice self-care every day

With midterms already here for some and just around the corner for others, students are probably going to be spending more time than usual on their computers studying (or at least trying to). Remember to take time for yourself. Whether you decide to meditate, read a book, take a walk, or aimlessly stare out the window, appreciate the moments you have away from your screen and use them to reflect on your physical and mental health and recharge for the rest of the day.

Staff writer Lina Bennani Karim can be found trying to decrease her 8 hour screen time average by asking for any and all book recommendations you might have. She can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

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