Tuesday, November 17th, 2020...2:22 pm

The Zoom Sweats

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By: Georgia Maxwell, Gradlife Ambassador

a laptop open to zoom with two hands each wearing a sweatband resting on the keyboard

I’ve always been pretty comfortable with talking in class, but something about zoom really freaks me out. Maybe it’s the deafening silence around me, or the fact I can see myself speak, but whatever the reason I find myself becoming extremely nervous when I turn off the mute button. Once I do, I ramble on for way too long and I say the word “interesting” at least three times. But worst part of all, I get the Zoom sweats.

The Zoom sweats might evoke the concept of “meat sweats” but I assure you they’re much different. First of all, there is a direct correlation between how much I sweat and whether or not my camera is on. If the camera’s off, they’re usually not too bad, or if I’m really lucky, they don’t happen at all. If the camera’s on, however, my Zoom sweats are bad. And I mean really bad.

The Zoom sweats are always accompanied with my heart pounding and my face turning red. And sometimes, when I’m more awkward than usual, I actually feel like I’m having a heart attack. So what’s going on?

Zoom anxiety is completely normal

If you’re experiencing the Zoom sweats, or something similar, you’re not alone. Whether or not you experience social anxiety (which is very common) online meetings like Zoom can trigger an anxious response because they include a performative aspect that in-person interactions usually lack1—hence my point about seeing yourself as you talk. As well, the Zoom Blog (yes, they have a blog) notes that having to manage technology on top of talking to people is a stressful combo to juggle.2

screenshot of smiling people on zoom

So what can you do?

On their website, Zoom provides what is (possibly) a life-changing solution: look at your camera while you talk. Although you might think that it’s better to look at the people on your screen, if you look at your camera you appear as though you are staring at eye-level, and then you also have the added benefit of not having to watch yourself talk.2

Another thing that I find really helpful—especially when it’s your turn to talk in class—is to jot down a few quick words ahead of time about what you’re going to say. That way you can turn off that mute button with confidence because you know you’re prepared, and then you have a safety net in case you do freeze (which happens to everyone!)

open notebook that reads "What I'm going to say: 1. Reference thesis 2. Pose question"

And finally, one thing I have noticed from my own anxiety-induced Zoom chats is that communication is a two-way street. Communicating isn’t just talking—it’s also, of course, listening—and one thing I find super helpful, whether I’m in class or at a social event, is having people nod along (or laugh when I say something funny… yes it does happen). I find that this physical form of active listening signals to me not only that my internet hasn’t cut out, but that what I’m saying makes sense. Since I value the support, I am always sure to do the same when others are speaking. And even if someone is staring at their camera, their peripheral vision will pick up the movement—and it will be much appreciated, I promise you.

  1. https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/social-anxiety-video-calls-zoom-facetime-lockdown/379204
  2. https://blog.zoom.us/arent-zooming-yet-fear-cope/

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