The Covid pandemic transformed the role of technology in our daily lives. From how we study to how we work to how we access healthcare, doing things virtually has become the norm. Zoom, and video conferencing in general, plays a huge part in this. Whether we like it or not, this way of connecting with others is here to stay. Zoom has undoubtedly made life easier in lots of ways, but it’s also created a new set of challenges.
If you thought in-person meetings were anxiety inducing enough, virtual meetings have spawned their own brand-new source of anxiety – Zoom anxiety.
Zoom anxiety is closely linked to Zoom fatigue – the strong feeling of exhaustion that often follows video conference calls and other virtual meetings. If these interactions make you feel both tired and anxious, you may experience physical anxiety symptoms or panic as well as fatigue.
The physical symptoms of Zoom anxiety can include:
– shortness of breath
– increased heart rate
– nausea and/or stomach pain
Zoom anxiety can also make you feel:
– nervous and uneasy during meetings
– afraid to speak up
– frustrated or left out of the loop
– forgetful, like you’re experiencing stage fright
– stressed or less productive leading up to the meeting
My Zoom Experience
Prior to the pandemic, I’d always seen a few clients online who found it difficult to meet face-to-face. However, I had my reservations, and I certainly didn’t feel comfortable in front of the camera. Lockdown forced my hand, and two years later, I’m now happily operating a hybrid clinic of online and face-to-face therapy. I’ve also delivered numerous online training sessions and workshops via Zoom. I’ve built a whole new skillset and learned a lot along the way.
How to Improve Your Zoom Confidence
As I’ve said, video conferencing isn’t going anywhere. If you want to improve your Zoom confidence and feel more comfortable showing up online, here are some quick, easy tips…
Prepare Your Surroundings
Put up a do not disturb sign, silence your notifications, and create an environment that makes you feel comfortable. You don’t need a huge space – one small zoom-ready corner of your home will do. Keep it minimal, uncluttered and neutral. Creating a professional environment is a bit like putting on your work clothes. It helps you feel ready.
Talking of clothes, try to resist the temptation to show up in your PJs! Clothes matter for mindset, so I recommend getting fully ready for the call. Dressing well can help us project an air of confidence. Not only does this play a part in convincing others of our ability, but it can also help us convince ourselves. In other words, ‘fake it ‘till you make it’!
Before logging on, focus on calming your body to calm your mind. Think about a time when you have felt at your best, your calmest and most confident. Allow these feelings to wash over you and spend a few minutes doing some soothing rhythm breathing. If you find your mind is easily distracted, try counting the breaths.
In my experience, computers always seem to know when an important Zoom meeting is about to take place and they will pick this exact moment for a full system update! Be ahead of the game, set up and join the call early so you are not starting from a flustered position.
Posture, Position and Settings
Posture is important to how we feel. Sitting in a strong upright position with your feet grounded and shoulders back will not only look more confident, it will help you feel more confident too.
The same goes for good lighting. Sitting with a window behind you can be blinding for the person you are talking to. If they are uncomfortable, you’ll notice, and feelings of anxiety may increase. Instead, make sure you have a good light in front of you, and if possible, a light to each side. If you will be Zooming regularly, it could be time to invest in some soft box lighting.
Sitting about an arm’s length from the screen is a comfortable distance for video. Make sure you head is central. You develop trust by establishing strong eye-contact with your audience, so practice looking straight into the camera rather than glancing at your own image on the screen.
If you experience high levels of self-consciousness in virtual meetings, consider changing up some settings. Rather than opting for a view of both yourself and those you’re talking with, you might select a view that minimizes your own screen, making your reflection less visible to you. In Zoom, there’s also an option to ‘Hide Self View’. This makes for a more real-life interaction since you don’t usually see yourself when you communicate.
When we’re nervous, our focus of attention can turn inwards. We may begin to overthink about ourselves and how we are coming across, increasing anxiety. To combat this, keep your attention on the others on the call. Focus outward, not inward.
How Can CBT Help?
The central principle of CBT is that our thoughts impact how we think, how we feel and what we do. Because our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and behaviours are all interconnected in this way, they can sometimes trap us in a vicious cycle. CBT helps break this cycle, allowing us to deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way.
Developing more helpful thinking patterns can transform anxiety into confidence. The first step is to become more aware of how your mind works. What thoughts are you having before, during or after a video call? Becoming more aware of these thoughts creates the opportunity to challenge them if they’re unhelpful and replace them with more helpful thoughts. You can also use your increased awareness to identify the key things you’re struggling with while using Zoom. You can then set some goals based on where you want to be and start taking small steps towards achieving them.
If you’re a fellow therapist, I’ve put together a guide to delivering CBT digitally online.