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3 Easy Ways to Combat "Zoom Brain"

My friends lives in Brooklyn and like most of us, she’s working at home now, meeting regularly with bosses and teammates over Zoom. Yesterday, her hour-long meeting turned into an all-day meeting, and she was so exhausted when it was over that she sent an email to her boss, announcing she wouldn’t be doing video calls on Wednesday anymore, for mental health reasons.

I get it. As we all engage in what amounts to a worldwide experiment in video conferencing, psychologists and other experts are learning more about how our minds work on video. Turns out, our brains have to work harder and deal with more stress than normal when we’re talking on a screen, and we’re all feeling the effects: exhaustion, difficulty focusing, anxiety, and more.

As a self-avowed hippie, I’ve been searching for natural ways to help counter the adverse effects of “Zoom brain.” Here’s what I’ve learned!

Photo by Alesia Kazantceva

1. Nature, I Love You

It’s no secret nature is my happy place. Studies show that even just looking at a photograph of nature can reduce anxiety and depression, and there’s no reason nature can’t help with our Zoom calls.

Here are some ideas:

  • Take your Zoom call outside, if possible
  • Go outside in between calls for a quick sun salutation or few deep breaths
  • Bring a plant next to your desk, or buy a plant (you can order them online!) and keep it next to your computer
  • Keep a piece of driftwood or a crystal next to your computer to hold and play with while you’re on your call (they’re like nature’s stress balls)
  • Hang or frame a photo of a place in nature so you can view it during your call
  • Diffuse an essential oil blend that reminds you of the outdoors (this fun quiz helps you find your perfect scent match)

2. Protect Your Energy

Here’s your permission to turn off your camera. If your energy and mental health are suffering, try turning your camera off unless you’re speaking, or see if you can switch to audio-only calls altogether. Or, like my friend, maybe you can block off an entire day as a Zoom-free zone!

Regardless of whether or not you’re able to reduce your on-screen time, what you can do is protect your non-work hours carefully. When your couch is your office, it can feel like work (and Zoom calls) never end. Set regular office hours--and breaks!--to help protect your energy.

Some people are also creating spaces just for Zoom calls--maybe, for you, it’s a desk or chair by a window with a candle ready to light during a call. Having a beautiful spot to take a call helps you look forward to it--and it also helps you totally and completely leave Zoom behind when work is over.

Photo by Blaz Photo

3. Re-Energize Your Brain

Take short naps during the day! Read a book for ten minutes (an actual book, with paper pages). Keep your yoga mat out so you can do a few flows in between calls. Schedule extra time between calls. Drink your water. Keep healthy snacks nearby. Engage in sensory experiences like balancing on a balance board, playing with a fidget spinner, or doodling while you’re on a call.

Close out all the other tabs on your computer, and leave your phone in the other room so you can focus.

Give other participants the benefit of the doubt, and step away from a call when you need to! Nothing’s easier than saying BRB in the chat and moving away for a few seconds to clear your head. All these things help to add in the energy all those calls are leaching out.

Do you get “Zoom brain?” What are your favorite tips for dealing with it? Let us know in the comments below!

Sarah Guerrero
Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.

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