There’s been a lot of discussion about Zoom anxiety recently, with one company even launching Zoom-free Fridays to help their employees deal with the stress.
This is something I’ve experienced too, as over the last year, my coaching business has mostly moved to Zoom. Whereas I used to coach the majority of clients via telephone, with the occasional Skype call thrown in, these days everybody wants Zoom.
At first I didn’t like doing coaching consulatations via Zoom. It had long been my habit to take notes whilst coaching clients by phone. These notes helped me sift through what a client was saying and get to the heart of what they really meant. But you can’t look away to take notes when you’re in a Zoom meeting. Well, you could, but it looks a bit impolite, as if your attention is not totally on the client.
Without the comfort blanket of my notes, and having to stare down a camera lens instead, could I still do it? It was a challenge, but I got there in the end.
And in the spirit of my book, Change Your Life in 5 Minutes a Day, I want to give you some easy, practical ways to feel calmer when you’re taking part in an online, on camera meeting. The world may be opening up, but I have a feeling that working from home and virtual meetings will be with us for the forseeable future. Let’s embrace them, not fear them.
Why is Zoom anxiety a thing?
Zoom anxiety is another form of social anxiety. It’s the social anxiety you can ‘enjoy’ without even leaving the house. As such it centres around fear of judgement and a fear of being criticised. It can manifest via increased heart rate or feeling generally unwell. So, it’s not fun. Not fun at all. But neither is it unsurmountable. The NHS has some good resources here.
Personally, I can see a lot of parellels in dealing with Zoom anxiety in my journey in dealing with driving anxiety. Whilst I have felt its effects, I’m not going to let it control my life, because a life controlled by fear isn’t one I want.
How to feel calmer when using Zoom
- Improve your Zoom set up
This was the first thing I did: I moved my desk around, rearranged the stuff behind me and bought a ring light to improve the light during meetings. I practiced a lot doing solo Zooms, until the practical end of it ceased to be daunting and became simply a tool of the trade.
- Focus on the benefits
You don’t have to leave the house; no wasted time commuting; you can talk to someone on the other side of the world as clearly as if they were in the same room; and you only need to look presentable from the waist up. This tech is enabling us to keep some semblance of life going even in the direst of circumstances. It could be worse.
- Use aromatherapy
Yes, even if you’re not an aromatherapy person, never under estimate the calming power of scent. Burn candles, use an oil diffuser or wear your favourite perfume. Nobody else on your Zoom need ever know how good you smell, but you’ll know, and that’s your superpower.
- Hand massage
One day when I was feeling stressed in the middle of a long Zoom call I grabbed the hand cream I keep on my desk and started using it, massaging it into each knuckle and finger in turn. It’s so calming! I’d forgotten all about that. Try it, you’ll see what I mean. And the other person has no idea you’re doing it because they can only see your head and shoulders, right?
- Deep breathing, before and during
Get yourself into a calm place before you start, even if it’s just breathing in for four and out for four. Like the hand massage, you could be doing this in the middle of a stressful meeting and nobody would ever know. Another secret superpower. If you really want to go down the breathing techniques route, our friend Adriene has got you covered:
- Use coloured post its to remind yourself what you wanted to say
If there’s a particular point that you wanted to make, jot down a few notes and keep them in front of you where you can refer to them. This is what my computer looked like just before I did a recent Zoom presentation. In the end I didn’t feel the need to refer to my post its at all, but the knowledge that they were there helped me feel calm and in control during the presentation.
- Acknowledge that it’s exhausting
Zoom calls are so draining because all of our senses are ‘go’ at once. So take plenty of breaks; get up and walk around, especially after a long call. Prioritise sleep. Have a lie down. Eat something nutritious. Take a decent multivitamin. Drink water. Avoid caffeine (if you have anxiety it’s not your friend.) Above all, treat yourself kindly.
- Think before you say yes to the next Zoom meeting
I know that with many work-related meetings we have less choice. But if you’re waiting for somebody to point out than an email or a phone call might work just as well as a Zoom, then know that sometimes that somebody has to be you. It’s OK to say no. Sometimes you need to say no, so your next yes will have greater impact.
Life after Zoom anxiety
These days I really enjoy my Zoom meetings, whether they’re with clients or friends. I feel like there’s a closer connection because we can see each other. It’s not an ideal situation, but all of life is compromised now so why would communication be any different?
I get a lot of confidence out of having the secret superpowers up my sleeve. I know that if I were to start to feel anxious, I could always breathe more deeply or get busy with the hand cream and it will make a positive difference very quickly. And then I can forget about it and just crack on with the meeting.
Somehow, I’ve learnt to love Zoom. What a wild year it has been.
Have you experienced Zoom anxiety? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments below
You may also enjoy: Three easy ways to feel more positive today