Remember when everyone was scrambling to find and learn software for online meetings? And then everyone was glad to “see” each other and laughing at cats on the keyboard and kids in the background? And now? Now it is the same meeting. The same cat. The kids again. And everyday is groundhog day.
We have virtual meetings, virtual school, virtual work-outs, virtual family visits, virtual happy hours. We are all experiencing “virtual fatigue.”
Scientists say we are entering a third phase of our pandemic lives. The first phase was fear coupled with acceptance that we had to find a way to work and live under these circumstances. That was when we had to be patient with the technically-challenged (Can you all see me? Could everyone please mute?). We struggled a bit as we watched concerts and sporting events cancel. We wanted to be careful and not contract the virus, but we wanted to be able to interact with other people. March lasted something like 53 days.
Phase two came when we realized life had changed and we didn’t want to become one of the ever-growing statistics. We stocked up on food, participated in take-out Tuesday for a change and to support our favorite local restaurants, and donated to help others in worse circumstances than ours. We got used to seeing our tv shows coming from celebrities’ homes, and even thought it funny. We celebrated Easter Sunday, albeit with social distancing, and got back into knowing which day of the week it was.
But now…now we are tired of hearing “In this difficult time, we are all in this together” “social distancing” “You are not alone” and “How is everyone doing?” Even those of us who always worked remotely and our offices have always been our devices are going through this. We are, once again, losing track of time. Tomorrow’s meeting looks and sounds just like today’s and yesterday’s. We want virtual school to be out. We know things can’t get back to what was, and many are again fearful that the pandemic isn’t under control.
Dr. Lee Ryan, Professor of Psychology at the University of Arizona, says there is a physiological reason for our exhaustion. She says our attention is divided among several images during a virtual meeting, and the constant mental agility needed to keep up with who is talking, unmuting, waiting for the lag tires out our brains. She adds that sitting in one place for periods of time fatigues our bodies.
So what to do? There is no golden ticket here. But here are a few ideas that may help:
- Break up your day. Go outside, take a walk, work on a craft, put away laundry! Just do something that is not work-related and is not in front of a device.
- Get creative. Whatever that is for you, it will help shut off your work side, and may even give you a little enjoyment. Find a recipe you like and cook something different. Pull out picture and make a scrapbook. Make a video with your kids. Just use that “other” side of your brain.
- Change up your normal meetings. Swap out your morning meetings for an afternoon time.
- Give yourself a “news break.” Even a self-admitted news junkie like me needs to tune it out to maintain sanity. All you need are the headlines, and it if is really important, you will hear about it.
- During your work time, do something out of the normal grind. Do deep research on a product category. Clean up you account list and fire accounts that you have been clinging to but are now really never going to work with you.
- Find something to look forward to. I know, my vacation got cancelled too. Maybe it is a trip to your favorite restaurant when it is safe. Maybe it is a road trip to your old hometown. Whatever it is, plan it and look forward to it. Maybe it is a 2021 vacation.
This phase will pass. Take care of yourself as we adapt in this new frontier.