Most people around the world had never faced something like the pandemic before in their lives, and the changes it brought to lifestyles were as varied as they were abrupt. From wearing masks to social distancing, everyone had to change their ways of doing things overnight.
One such change was doing work remotely, with interpersonal communications happening over video-chat apps or programs, such as Zoom. While it’s obviously convenient to communicate visually with people from your kitchen table, there can also be a lot of anxiety that goes with it. Fortunately, there are also ways of dealing with Zoom calls that make you anxious.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety isn’t always something you can self-diagnose, but there are common symptoms you should be aware of so you can watch out for them:
- Potential panic attacks
- Urgent desire to urinate
- Hot flushes
- Nervous shaking of your hands
- Tension in your muscles
Coping Mechanisms for Zoom Anxiety
The following are nine specific techniques you can use to cope with or at least minimize and manage your Zoom anxiety:
- Positive Self-Talk: Repeat affirmations or mantras. You don’t have to be a mystical guru or chant in Sanskrit to do this. Just remind yourself that the people like you, you know what you’re talking about, and you can do this.
- Identify the Specific Source of Your Anxiety: Lots of things can go wrong with video calls, be it technical difficulties, a hard time interpreting others, back-to-back sessions that interrupt your workflow, and the possibility of pets or people stepping into the room suddenly. If you can figure out which of these worries you the most, then you can take specific steps to address it.
- Jot Down Ideas in Advance:You can’t anticipate every part of every conversation. However, you can have some idea what information might be asked of you, and you probably have a great idea of questions that you might ask others. Write down some quick talking points for both giving and requesting information. Doing so in advance means you’ll be able to speak clearly and quickly when the time comes.
- Get Offscreen Sometimes: If you’re in a group meeting, it’s usually acceptable to kill your camera at times for a moment or two so long as you’re still listening. If you have a headset on, then you can also possibly step away from your screen for a moment or two to get a snack or just look out a window. Just make sure you mute the mic if you go to the restroom.
- Rehearse Your Talking Points: If you wrote down things earlier about what might come up, rehearse some of them. Choose three questions you might ask or three likely answers you might have to give. You don’t have to memorize them like it’s a speech, but just going over them a few times can make it easier to speak strongly when your moment comes.
- Dress Your Part: One great thing about Zoom calls is being able to participate in them from home. However, what you wear around the house might not always be a great choice for your meetings. Many online meetings allow a very casual dress code for remote work, but you might feel more in sync with the task at hand if you dress as you would for it outside of your home. What would you wear to work? To school? Put that on.
- Post Some Notes: You might be nervous about how your camera will let others see you and anything behind you. What they can’t see is what’s immediately around your camera and screen. Get some sticky notes for important things, write down bullet points using a dark marker, and post them around your screen. You can glance at them quickly without anyone really noticing your eyes moving around too much from your screen.
- Let Your Eyes Take Breaks: In a face-to-face conversation, it’s considered polite in many Western societies to maintain eye contact with the person that you’re conversing with. In a Zoom session, that might mean you wind up staring at your screen for long periods of time. This might feel polite, paying attention to whoever is speaking, but it can also hurt your eyes and ramp up your anxiety. Remember to blink and move your eyes a bit, just as you do when talking to someone offline.
- Use a Background: Do you feel like Zoom meetings let people have unwanted glimpses into your home? Get a digital background to apply to your meeting so they only see you. You might have some pixelated aura around the edges of your body, but you won’t have to worry if someone is making faces or bunny ears behind you or you forgot to fold the laundry.
Social anxiety is a chronic and sometimes debilitating fear of social situations. Those afflicted can fear social encounters and their repercussions before, during, and after being involved with other people.
Zoom sessions are convenient but also carry some expectations of performance. Use these nine techniques for dealing with Zoom anxiety.