Zoom Anxiety – How to Get Over Social Anxiety Triggered by Video Calls

One of the biggest effects of the pandemic on the workplace is the move to Work From Home (WFH) for many people who’s work allows for it. A side effect of this, or perhaps an enabler of it, is the movement of meetings and daily communication to online video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams & Skype. For many of us, communicating through video conferencing tools is extremely nerve-wracking, perhaps even more so, than in-person meetings. We look at the phenomenon commonly called ‘zoom anxiety’, investigate why the problem exists and share several steps you can take to get rid of zoom anxiety before your next meeting or presentation.

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Video conference calls have become a part of our everyday lives.

Even though many of us are slowly getting back to the office, remote work continues to be a thing, and probably a trend that is here to stay.

And that means we will continue using apps like Zoom to communicate with our colleagues on a regular basis.

Outside of work, video conference calls can be a part of your social life as well. Whether it’s virtual hangout groups, weekly trivia, or simply catching up with friends and family in different parts of the country.

But regardless of how many times you’ve done these conference calls during the past year or so, you might have noticed that you get a bit jittery when the camera starts rolling.

Maybe your palms get sweaty, your throat gets dry, and your heart starts racing. If that sounds familiar, you might be experiencing Zoom anxiety, or conference call anxiety.

Here, we will discuss what Zoom anxiety is, how surprisingly common it is, and why you experience it. We’ll also provide a few simple tips to overcome the jitters and crush it on video conference calls even if you’re naturally an introvert.

Conference call anxiety Key Takeaways

Without completely spoiling the rest of this article, here are the most interesting & useful takeways about Conference call anxiety:

  • Zoom anxiety/conference call anxiety is the feeling of nervousness and anxiousness that people experience when participating in video conference calls. In one study, 64 percent of respondents in the 18-24 age group of 18-24 reported experiencing conference call anxiety. Zoom anxiety has become a very common phenomenon as a lot of us are still getting used to this new form of communication.
  • Your conference call anxiety is likely caused by a stress response to zoom meetings/calls. Your fear and worry about negative judgments, or something going wrong during the meeting, results in a stress response within your body and cause anxiety symptoms. Tips to overcome conference call anxiety include practicing beforehand, breathing exercises and several other techniques shared in this article.

What is Zoom anxiety?

Simply put, Zoom anxiety is the feeling of nervousness and anxiousness that some people experience when they are participating in a video conference call [1].

It can happen even if you’re on a call with people that you met with regularly before the pandemic in a physical office setting. That’s because there are several new factors in play when it comes to video calls, as we’ll discuss below.

And you’re definitely not alone if you experience conference call jitters.

According to a new survey, a whopping 64 percent of respondents in the age group of 18-24 reported experiencing Zoom anxiety [2].

64% of 18-24 year olds report previous experiences with Zoom anxiety

Another UK-based design agency found that over 70 percent of the 2000 home-based workers they surveyed, suffered from some sort of anxiety surrounding video conference calls [3].

So, Zoom anxiety seems to be a very common phenomenon as a lot of us are still getting used to this new form of communication, and the various uncertainties that come along with it.

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What are some symptoms of conference call anxiety?

The severity of symptoms can vary depending on some of the underlying causes of your Zoom anxiety, but in general, you might experience some of the following when you’re on a video conference call.

  • Racing heartbeats
  • Too much sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaky voice
  • Trembling hands
  • Fear and worry about being judged negatively

In some rare severe cases, people might even get to the point of a panic attack.

Why do you experience Zoom anxiety?

It might seem a bit strange that you experience anxiety when you’re sitting in the comfort of your home and talking to your colleagues through a conference app.

But a lot is happening on Zoom meetings, and much of it is quite subtle that could be contributing to your anxiety.

Let’s discuss some of the major factors when it comes to Zoom anxiety.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD)

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a type of anxiety that causes people to get nervous in various social situations [4].

Whether it’s a performance for an audience, an interview, a date, or a party, people with SAD tend to fear being negatively judged by others.

And if you suffer from social anxiety, you’re more likely to experience conference call anxiety.

Even though you’re sitting in your home office, it is still a virtual social gathering. And video conference calls are still a relatively unfamiliar way to communicate, which could kick your social anxiety into gear.

Unfamiliarity and uncertainty

Video conference calls are different in quite a few significant ways when compared to face-to-face meetings.

Human beings are social animals, and we feed off of each other’s energy and body language during communication.

Video conference calls take that element of feedback away. So, even though you might be on a call with people you know, it can feel unfamiliar, which may cause you to feel more nervous than usual.

Here are some ways that Zoom calls might cause you to feel anxious.

  • You don’t like how you look on video.
  • You’re not sure whether you should speak or remain silent, or when is the right time to speak.
  • You might be worried about technical issues that might affect your participation in the meeting.
  • You might feel that you’re unnoticed, unheard, or lost in a sea of faces in a video call.
  • You may feel insecure about your background.
  • You might worry about your family members or roommates making noise in the background when you’re speaking.
  • You’re worried about being perceived as ill-prepared or a poor presenter.

Stress response

Your fear and worry about negative judgment, or something going wrong during the meeting, results in a stress response within your body.

Even though you’re not in actual danger during a conference call, your body still reacts similarly as it would if you had to run away or fight to save your life [5]. And when your body responds to stressful situations, it releases several hormones to help you “fight or flee” to “survive”.

One of these hormones is adrenaline, which causes your blood pressure to rise, and your heart rate to spike. It results in the physical symptoms of Zoom anxiety, like shaky hands, sweating, dry mouth, etc.

Tips to get over Zoom anxiety

The good news is that you can, in fact, take steps to keep your conference call anxiety under control and crush Zoom meetings even if you suffer from social anxiety.

Here are some things that you can try before your next online meeting.

Document your anxiety triggers/symptoms

Acknowledge that you experience anxiety, and accept it without judging yourself. Instead, think of it as a puzzle that you need to solve.

Adopting this approach will allow you to look at your anxiety more objectively.

On your next meeting, keep a notepad ready. Try to jot down some specifics, like what exactly is your biggest worry when it comes to Zoom calls. Are there certain events during the meeting that tend to trigger your symptoms?

Tracking your symptoms will allow you to identify the root causes of your anxiety so you can address them and eventually overcome the jitters.

Practice “in the arena”

Man in the arena poem by Theodore Roosevelt
First part of the ‘Man in the Arena’ speech by Theodore Roosevelt

If you’re nervous about how you sound and look during Zoom calls, then one way to overcome any insecurities is to practice with your friends and family.

The top athletes and performers in the world like to practice in their respective arenas before a big game or event. It helps them get familiar with the environment, and when the time comes, they’re ready to rock.

You can use the same principles for “performing” at your best during conference calls.

Set a time with someone you’re comfortable with to chat over Zoom. Both of you will get some practice, and you can provide each other with feedback if there are any areas of improvement.

Breathing exercises

One of the quickest ways to stop a stress response in its tracks is to take repeated deep long breaths into your belly.

When you breathe deep into your belly, you deactivate the “fight-or-flight” mode (or the survival mode), and your body shifts back into more of a relaxed state [6].

Next time you feel the jitters coming along before a meeting, don’t try to force it to stop. Instead, start taking long and deep breaths in and out until you feel yourself calming down and your heart rate returning back to normal.

Log in early for a mic check

A simple thing that might go a long way is to log in a few minutes early and do a basic check. Make sure the lighting is right, and there is nothing weird in your background.

Check the audio, video, wifi, etc. to prevent any unnecessary interruptions once the meeting starts.

Get your favorite cup of tea or coffee ready, and you’re good to go when the call starts.

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Speak up

When the meeting starts, attack your anxiety head-on and speak up at the first opportunity. It could be something as simple as being the first person to say hello to everyone and asking how they’re doing.

Getting the speaking out of the way, and a little bit of banter and small talk can do wonders for calming the nerves. Not just for you, but probably for others on the call as well.

At the end of the day, remember that everyone else on the call is also a person, and given the Zoom anxiety statistics, there’s a good chance that they might be going through something similar to you!

Use a calm performance supplement

For added support, you can use a supplement like PerformZen that promotes calmness under pressure.

PerformZen boosts GABA levels in your brain, which is a neurotransmitter that has been shown to reduce mental chatter and help achieve a state of relaxed alertness [7].

So can you manage conference call anxiety?

If you get a bit nervous during Zoom calls, you’re not alone. Our lives have changed in many ways during the past year and a half, and many of us are still getting used to the new normal.

And video conference calls are just one aspect of this new normal.

The good news is that sooner or later, we will all adapt to these new ways to communicate, and conference call anxiety will most likely become a thing of the past.

But in the meantime, if you need some help overcoming Zoom anxiety, try some of the tips mentioned in this article before your next conference call.

Agnit is a performance expert and the lead writer for PerformZen. As an avid health and fitness enthusiast, he is passionate about helping people take control of their health to live happier, more productive lives. Someday, he plans to listen to his own advice and drink less coffee.

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