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You're not alone | Researchers identify reasons for 'Zoom fatigue' and ways to help

Stanford researchers explained why video conferencing can cause exhaustion in some people, as well as offered some quick fixes.

ATLANTA — Stanford University recently released a study identifying the psychological impacts of video conferencing on our lives, and some strategies to avoid taxes on our energy levels.

The study identified four main causes of the so-called "Zoom fatigue."

"What we found out is that people who have frequent videoconferences and long videoconferences suffer more from 'Zoom fatigue,' and people with this high level of Zoom fatigue tend to have a more negative attitude toward Zoom," explained Dr. Géraldine Fauville.

Fauville is the lead researcher in the study. She worked with Professor Jeremy Bailenson, the director of the Sanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, to identify the effects of using video conferencing platforms for an extended amount of time. 

Fauville said one cause of stress is the unnatural and constant amount of eye contact.

"Social anxiety of public speaking is something very common," Fauville described, "So when you’re on a Zoom call, you feel like you are the center of attention, and it’s very tiring for the brain.”

Paired with the staring, Zoom also has us very close to one another’s face.

"That’s very triggering for the brain because, in real life, you have this kind of closeness with other people that will either lead to mating or to conflict, so it’s an intense experience," Fauville added.

Researches suggested decreasing the size of the videoconference window to make participants look smaller, or even try using an external keyboard to create more personal space.

Constantly seeing yourself on video calls can also be exhausting. Studies show we become more critical of ourselves when looking at our reflection.

RELATED: Anxiety screening recommended as part of routine check-ups in women and girls 13 years or older

An easy fix for this situation is to right-click on your photo, and select “hide self-view.”

Lack of mobility is another stressor.

"Moving is actually an important part of creativity and learning and performances," Fauville said.

With Zoom, we are essentially stuck in a box. Immobility is unnatural and keeps us from a lot of nonverbal communication that happens when we’re in person.

"A solution to that would be to turn the camera off when you can, so you don’t have to worry and try to understand the behavior of the person. You have the voice, and that’s what you can focus on," Fauville suggested. 

Fauville said she uses a standing desk, and told 11Alive this also helps her move around more during Zoom meetings.

As a part of this study, Stanford researchers developed the “ZEF scale,” or the Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue scale. It's a 15-question survey that helps people get a sense of how much they are suffering from Zoom fatigue.

Researchers on Zoom fatigue are now exploring the effects of social- versus work-use of video conferencing, as well as differences in how these platforms impact gender.

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