Reach Beyond Your Confinement: Mental Health in the Zoom-Rona Era

We have managed to normalise the most awful of things – staring into a sea of faces who are feeling us stare back. But there are steps we can take to improve your mental health in the Zoom-Rona Era.

From the BBC

“Most of our social roles happen in different places, but now the context has collapsed,” says Petriglieri. “Imagine if you go to a bar, and in the same bar you talk with your professors, meet your parents or date someone, isn’t it weird? That’s what we’re doing now… We are confined in our own space, in the context of a very anxiety-provoking crisis, and our only space for interaction is a computer window.”

And I feel it. Sitting in the same space for talking to the team, talking to the startups I work with, talking to my family and talking to my friends definitely has an impact. Squinting at my own tiny little icon on Zoom diverts my attention away from the conversation at hand. Worrying about ambient noise from people bustling around causes me anxiety. And the network causing weird video freezes and audio distortions in the middle of a presentation is an exercise in frustration.

Here are three simple remedies for this.

  1. Switch off the video. Yes, it’s permitted. Beyond the hilariousness of making our backgrounds somewhere we would rather be, we can simply just turn off the video. Turning it off enables us to relax our faces, to listen more and most importantly to stop analysing your own face. I’ve been messing with video calls on the Internet (and not just ISDN) since the mid-90s (which just makes me old, not an expert).
  2. Turn down the influencers. Seriously, these upbeat and chipper influencers were always just an act but now they’re turned up to 11 as they figure out ways to cope with their own confinement. Just turn them down a notch. Maybe turn off the video bit and listen rather than watch. Remember that their power comes from your attention and these attention-vultures are literally starving. Expect to see more and more “highlights” as they scramble to remain relevant.
  3. Change your setting. Don’t just add in a beach scene in your video call, but go and sit outside. As you’ve turned off your video, they won’t be able to tell anyway. The weather is good, so put on sunscreen. Put some ice in your glass for the duration of the meeting. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

This will last longer than you think

One of the mistakes in the Spanish Flu pandemic 100 years ago was lifting lockdown too soon. Permitting folks to go about their business maskless caused a surge in new cases and cost countless more lives. So, work on your patience. Work on improving your mental health in the Zoom-Rona Era.

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