Why You’re Exhausted After Video Chats—And How to Feel Better

"I can't wait to get off of this call so I can go take a nap!"
"I can't wait to get off of this call so I can go take a nap!"
Marcus Aurelius, Pexels

If you feel drained after a group video chat, you’re not alone. As most of our face-to-face conversations these days have been reduced to Zoom calls, more and more people are finding themselves inexplicably exhausted from all the virtual communication. Why is that?

According to the BBC, part of it has to do with the non-verbal cues that are easily lost in video chats—like body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions that don’t translate clearly over video. Since we’re working extra-hard to decode these cues, even subconsciously, it’s more difficult to settle into a comfortable dynamic.

“Our minds are together when our bodies feel we're not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” Gianpiero Petriglieri, an INSEAD associate professor who studies sustainable learning and workplace development, told the BBC.

Delays, echoes, screen freezes, and other technological issues can magnify that dissonance. But even a perfect connection can’t alleviate the feeling that we’re being watched much more closely than in a regular meeting, especially considering that we can see our own faces in the corner of the screen.

“When you're on a video conference, you know everybody's looking at you; you are on stage, so there comes the social pressure and feeling like you need to perform,” Marissa Shuffler, a Clemson University associate professor of industrial-organizational psychology, told the BBC. “Being performative is nerve-wracking and more stressful.”

Another contributor is the one-dimensional nature of the setting itself. What’s usually a balanced mixture of brightly lit offices, cozy couches in friends’ living rooms, favorite restaurants, and other venues has temporarily collapsed into a single screen. As Petriglieri explained, it’s a little like going on a date, having a meeting with your manager, and spending time with your parents all in the same bar. And since we’re accustomed to using video conference platforms like Zoom for work, even social video chats can end up seeming like meetings.

However, our collective Zoom exhaustion isn’t solely a result of the video-chatting process itself; it’s also likely related to how we’re feeling about life during the coronavirus pandemic in general—if you’re a little restless or more anxious than usual, for example, video calls might be serving as a tacit reminder that your life has been disrupted.

So what can we do to feel better? When it comes to video-chatting fatigue, Petriglieri and Shuffler both recommend only using Zoom for work when it’s necessary. Instead, employees should collaborate in other ways, like using shared files. When managers do decide that a video call is needed, they should make it clear that it’s OK for employees to keep their cameras disabled during the call, and they should also spend a few minutes catching up before getting to the meeting agenda.

“It’s a way to reconnect us with the world, and to maintain trust and reduce fatigue and concern,” Shuffler told BBC.

Petriglieri suggested moving your screen off to the side, rather than looking at it head-on, which could help create a little distance. And whenever possible, try not to schedule Zoom calls back-to-back; leave at least enough time for a little exercise, some stretches, or a trip to the kitchen for a drink.

For more ways to reduce stress and anxiety during the pandemic, here are eight tips from an expert.

[h/t BBC]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Florence’s Plague-Era Wine Windows Are Back in Business

A wine window in Florence's Via Santo Spirito.
A wine window in Florence's Via Santo Spirito.

Many bars and restaurants have started selling takeout cocktails and other alcoholic beverages to stay in business—and keep customers safe—during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, 17th-century Florentines are surely applauding from their front-row seats in the afterlife.

As Insider reports, a number of buildings in Florence had been constructed with small “wine windows,” or buchette del vino, through which vendors sold wine directly to less affluent customers. When the city suffered an outbreak of plague in the 1630s, business owners recognized the value of these windows as a way to serve people without spreading germs. They even exchanged money on a metal tray that was sanitized with vinegar.

Wine not?sailko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Things eventually went back to normal, and the windows slowly fell out of fashion altogether as commerce laws evolved. This year, however, they’ve made a comeback. According to Food & Wine, there are currently at least four in operation around Florence. Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi is using its window to deliver wine and cocktails, for example, and the Vivoli ice cream shop, a go-to dessert spot since 1929, is handing out sweet scoops and coffee through its formerly dormant aperture.

Apart from the recent resurgence of interest, the wine windows often go unnoticed by tourists drawn to the grandeur of attractions like the Uffizi Gallery and the Florence Cathedral. So in 2015, locals Matteo Faglia, Diletta Corsini, and Mary Christine Forrest established the Wine Window Association to generate some buzz. In addition to researching the history of the windows, they also keep a running list of all the ones they know of. Florence has roughly 150, and there are another 100 or so in other parts of Tuscany.

They’re hoping to affix a plaque near each window to promote their stories and discourage people from defacing them. And if you want to support their work, you can even become a member of the organization for €25 (about $29).

[h/t Insider]