Video chat is a great tool for keeping in touch with people far away, attending work meetings from the comfort of your home or even meeting new people. For some people, though, it can be stressful and induce high levels of anxiety.
There are plenty of reasons for anxiety caused by video chat and the symptoms can be uncomfortable and distressing. Having an idea of what causes or triggers those anxious feelings can help you address them and learn to cope.
Video chat anxiety symptoms and causes
Video chat anxiety is the feeling of worry and nervousness that many people experience before and during a video meeting. This can happen regarding a video chat session with coworkers, family, friends, strangers, and anybody else.
Research shows that video chat anxiety is very common. One study involving college students found that 80% experienced anxiety and difficulty focusing on virtual classes. There is reason to believe that the same phenomenon is found in other populations.
For some people, video chat does not relate to a diagnosable anxiety disorder, but in other times it could correlate with social anxiety or another anxiety condition. Either way, symptoms include rapid heart rate, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and tension. It also involves nervousness, fear, worry, frustration, poor concentration, and higher levels of stress that can cause distractions.
Some research suggests that using video chat can be more overloading and stimulatory because of more eye contact, multiple faces in a small area, and stage fright. Nonverbal cues may also contribute to the sense of fatigue and worry.
During a video chat, some people have anxiety because they can see their own faces on the screen. This can cause self-consciousness and worry about facial expressions or appearance. It can also make it hard to relax because of fear that movement will move your face away from the visible screen.
Seeing everyone’s face looking back at you can induce anxiety as well. Even though an in-person meeting can have just as many people, their faces will not be in such a small area looking directly toward you like they are in video chats.
Coping with video chat anxiety
There are some things that you can easily do that may help to reduce the anxiety that you feel when approaching a video chat session. Some minimize the potential causes of the nervousness and other strategies help to calm the anxious feelings themselves.
One thing that may help is to remove the image of your own face. When we see our faces, we can become distracted or self-conscience. Change the settings to make that self-image smaller or get rid of it completely and you may notice that you are less focused on how others are perceiving you and how you see yourself.
An extension of this is to go audio-only and turn off the video feed so that you do not see everyone’s face looking back at you. This will be more like a phone call, which a lot of people find induces their anxiety much less than a video chat. You can also change the settings to only show one person at a time when they are speaking that can reduce stimuli and ease worries and fears.
Another tip is to keep a drink nearby so that you can distract yourself by taking a sip when you begin to feel like your anxiety is rapidly increasing. You can also keep a notebook to write notes on or even just to doodle on while still paying attention to the chat.
When dealing with anxiety, knowing how to reduce it can also help. While it may be hard to use mindfulness techniques or deep breathing strategies in the middle of a meeting, you may feel better if you plan ahead and use mindfulness mediation before the meeting begins. Try to close your eyes and focus on your breathing while observing the thoughts going through your head. If you find yourself following a train of thought, ground yourself again by refocusing on the inhales and exhales.
Preparation can also help because anxiety is often about uncertainty. Writing down points you want to make, questions you want to ask, and other organized thoughts can help you feel more comfortable because you will know what to do during the video chat.
If you find that you are less anxious when video chatting with friends or family, then you can also use that as experience that may gradually make you more comfortable with video chatting in work meetings or with strangers, clients, and others.
However, if you still feel nervous or worrisome when on a video chat with your loved ones, then you may want to incorporate things that you enjoy or take your mind off the fact that you are in a meeting. When you are with loved ones in person, there are probably things you do that you do not do in a video chat, but that doesn’t mean you cannot still do them. It is still possible to share a drink or play a game on a video chat just like you would if you were together geographically.
Video chat has become one of the more popular communication methods over the last couple of years and it is unavoidable for many people, despite the fact that video chat anxiety is very common so it can be helpful to learn how to use settings to your advantage and to learn how to cope with anxious feelings when they arise.