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An unforeseen reality sets in

I look out the window and I realize that I haven’t been outside all day even though I’m spending more time at home due to quarantining during COVID-19 (oh the irony). It’s going into the 5th straight hour of Zoom calls and my eyes are starting to burn and I can’t seem to find a position in the chair to ease my body. The current day to day of my last quarter of medical school is quite the contrast to what I had envisioned: my numerous in-person clinical shifts at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health (BCNH) on Stone Way have transitioned to virtual interview rooms, while my last few classes have moved to the online platform. As I complete my back to back four-hour shifts, I’m realizing that constant video calls throughout the day are draining more energy out of me than I would have ever imagined.

Zoom fatigue is real

Zoom fatigue is a real, palpable thing and everyone in our community is feeling the effects of it. As we adjust to a new and different way to process information and communicate, it’s a reminder of how humans are social creatures. I don’t mean in the way of social connection through numerous Zoom hangouts but in the way of sincere physical human to human connection that’s often difficult to achieve through a camera. As my last few weeks are approaching before graduation, my goal is to find ways to achieve connection (either to myself or with others) throughout this social distancing phase. Here’s a few ways I’ve tried incorporating this goal into my days:

Taking action:

  1. No Zoom Allowed – Choose a setting in my home or time periods during my day where it’s Zoom free
  2. Set the Environment – Practice a 5 minute grounding session prior to starting calls for the day: this can either be placing my feet on the floor and taking a few deep paced breaths, sitting outside with a cup of tea (with no electronics) or do a few quick stretches
  3. Rest the Eyes – I don’t know about you but my eyes burn after a few hours of looking at the screen. Set reminders every 30 min to look away from the screen to relieve the gaze and blue light blocking glasses are 100% worth it
  4. Cut Out the Multitasking – it’s a lot of stay focused for extended periods of time and it doesn’t make it easier on the brain when there’s a million tabs open on the browser and Instagram is being constantly checked on the phone. By decreasing the amount of things my brain has to multi-task, it eases the amount of energy my brain has to allocate to focus on things
  5. Checking In – spend a few moments to actually connect with others in the Zoom call before you get talking about the serious things. Having those few minutes to catch up about the weekend and catching up will help to reconnect friendships
  6. Transition Periods – as the weather gets nicer (and even if it’s raining), go outside and get some fresh air in between meetings. Drink some water and stretch it out. Incorporating these moments after each meeting will help to create buffers and allow your mind to disconnect and decompress
  7. Practice Compassion – gauge energy levels and recognize that it’s okay to not be able to put all the energy into something. Acknowledge that some days are better than others and give yourself full permission to take an early day to sit outside and lay in the grass
Kathy Severson, naturopathic medicine, community Liason

Article written by Kathy Severson, Community Liaison, ND Candidate, 2020

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