It’s been more than a year since Metro Manila went into lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And for the first few weeks—or months, even—introverts like me were probably rejoicing. No more having to think of excuses to decline an invitation to go out. No more awkwardly standing on the side of the room checking your phone for nonexistent updates while a party goes on around you. Some would even joke that their normal lifestyle was already a lockdown or quarantine in itself—what with the self-isolation and little to no interaction with the outside world.
But even with a pandemic raging on around us, life does go on and along with it, inescapable social interaction. There’s still work to be done and friendships to be maintained even in the COVID world. Except now, they’ve materialized in the form of Zoom meetings. Or Google Meet. Or Microsoft Team calls—what have you.
After more than a year of these seemingly never ending video calls with loved ones, colleagues, and strangers alike, what exactly does a tired introvert do? How do you cope with it?
Personally, I’ve had to deal with almost-daily Zoom calls for my online classes at 6 in the morning for my New York-based graduate classes. I also have weekly 12 or 2 a.m. meetings for an international internship. That doesn’t include all the catch-up video calls and Facetime calls with friends and family. Or the occasional professional interview for a job.
It doesn’t escape me that even in my case, I’m still coming off lightly. Some people have to deal with hours-long meetings for work every day. But whatever your situation is, it’s safe to say that these online video calls have created a whole new world of anxiousness for introverts altogether.
I’ve found that I’ve been doing (or at least, have been trying to do) a few things to keep myself sane from Zoom fatigue.
1. Learn to say no.
Just like real-life, in-person events, there are some Zoom calls that just...don’t need to happen. And just like invites to those events, you can say no to some Zoom calls, too. If, for example, a colleague suggests going on a Zoom call for something that could obviously be discussed over email or Slack, then suggest tackling it over those channels instead—in a nice way, of course. It’s easier said than done, but it’s easier done than being in another pointless meeting.
The same goes for e-numan invites, especially if you have different groups of friends inviting you. As much as you love feeling like you’re all back in your college days, sometimes you just want to keep to yourself after a long week. Of course, video calls might also be your loved ones’ way to unwind so you can’t take it against them. But you can catch up with them on your own terms, like replying to their Instagram Stories or chatting them up on Messenger when you’re not as tired.
2. But also accept that there are Zoom calls that you just have to get through.
At the same time, there are some meetings you really have to have whether there’s a pandemic or not. Like that important alignment meeting with a client or a one-on-one with your boss. In my case, I’ve had to do nerve-wracking class presentations and important interviews via video call.
I’ve come to realize that these are things I would’ve had to deal with even if we weren’t in a pandemic—they were always going to happen in one way or another. Instead of fighting against it, you can just channel your energy into preparing for them. Again, it’s easier said than done, but think of it this way: you’ve survived every Zoom call so far.
3. Have something to look forward to after a big Zoom call.
One concrete thing I’ve found myself doing is rewarding myself after an important call. Before a final presentation, I’d preorder a favorite meal or dessert and schedule to have it delivered after I present. Sometimes, I would add to cart a few (okay, maybe more than a few) things while I’m working on a project. That way, it’ll be shipped by the end of the week. After all, deliveries are like a gift from your past, hardworking self to your present self—and your present, tired self deserves it.
Your reward doesn’t always have to involve spending money. It could be an extra episode of the show you’re watching, spending time with your family, or a full 8 hours of sleep. Sometimes, I would also schedule a workout after an important call because the sooner the call is over with, the sooner I get to do what I want. Plan out your day in a way that you’ll do what you’re looking forward to the most at the end of it so you can stay motivated.
4. Do something alone. And offline.
At this point, you’ve heard about people doing a digital detox for a week or a month. You’ve probably thought that you need one too but you might not be able to stay away from Instagram for that long. But you don’t have to go to extremes. It could be as small as taking half a day off of social media and gradually increasing it to what you’re comfortable with.
With your offline hours, you can invest your time in doing something by yourself. It could be as simple as taking your pets out for a walk, driving around, reading a book, or cooking a good meal. As an introvert, constant interaction with others can be draining. So you can recharge your energy by spending some quality time with yourself.
It’s not that us introverts don’t want to interact with other people. Like everyone else, we can also feel lonely. It’s just that we have a higher threshold for being alone, but a lower one for constant interaction.
At this point, we’re all exhausted from Zoom but it gives us all the more reason to take a step back. And hopefully, it won’t be long until we can go back to leaving an actual party before everyone else does.