Virtual fatigue, what it is and how to combat it

Posted at 5:16 PM, May 10, 2020

TUCSON, Ariz. — During this pandemic a majority of us can relate to spending so much time on our devices, and it’s developing one of those newer phrases coming out of this pandemic: virtual fatigue.

"All of us are spending so much time now on media for work, for socializing, to get news. And it's exhausting for some people,” said Dr. Lee Ryan, Psychology professor and Psychology department head at Arizona.

Something Ryan is very familiar with at this time.

On some days I will literally be on Zoom for 6 or 7 hours, and by the end of the day my eyes are tired. I'm tired of talking and I'm tired of seeing people’s faces. You couldn't imagine that that could ever be the case when we started this. But I think it takes a lot out of you.

She said, being on a virtual platform actually takes more cognitive work.

"You are tracking multiple things that are going on on the screen. It’s actually a little bit harder to hear and then there are all the issues of who talks now, who gets frozen for a few seconds,” said Ryan.

Dr. Ryan said it’s also the amount of time we are spending sitting in one place looking at the same screen. So she suggests:

  • Limit your access to the news you're consuming. Ryan said it's good to keep up, but there's no need to consume hours of news.
  • Know your limits and unplug.
  • Do something for yourself, whether that's scheduling in quiet time or going for a walk.

"But whatever works for you. I think you need to make sure you build it into your schedule in a day so that you can just try to control even a little bit of the stressors we're all experiencing,” said Ryan.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or worse... Dr. Ryan also says to please reach out to your health care professionals for help.

And if your circumstance is worse than that, call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.