Written by Miracle Hawkins, Contributing Writer
Starting in March of 2020, the CDC began recommending that Americans practice “social distancing” to maintain safety in the community. Shortly after, these recommendations turned mandatory as Coronavirus cases spiked all around the world. As a result of this, many businesses and organizations had to find new ways to operate and keep everything up and running. We even had to find new ways to interact with our family and friends. Video conferencing and facetiming quickly turned into the solution for us to continue having school, business meetings, doctor visits, therapy sessions, religious services, and even family events. The world transitioned into a virtual space overnight. For some, this may have been a smooth and preferred transition. However, for others not so much.
Having to sit in front of a video camera is completely inevitable at this point. For many of us, this is where we spend most of our day in order to learn or complete our job tasks. Unfortunately, this new normal has left some people feeling more anxious and disconnected than ever before. This is especially true for those who were already dealing with social anxiety prior to the pandemic. Camera shyness is a complete understatement when discussing the anxiety that many people have been experiencing with this new “virtual norm.”
Anxiety surrounding virtual communication may be contributed to the following:
- You are someone who is already dealing with social anxiety and have difficulty with engaging in social interactions (i.e. having a conversation, meeting someone new, being observed, or performing in front of others)
- You fear being judged by others on the video call based on your appearance, the way you speak, or the way your background is set up
- You fear your body language or tone may be perceived incorrectly
- You fear silence during the video call
- You fear losing connection during the video call
- You fear that you are not “tech-savvy” enough and won’t be able to navigate through the video call (i.e. joining the call, turning your camera on and off, muting your camera, ending the call, etc.)
- You are overwhelmed with how many people are on the video call and are unsure when or when not to speak
These are just a few of the reasons you may be experiencing anxiety during your online lectures, business meetings, and bible studies. What to do?
- First, identify what causes your anxiety specifically. During video calls, make a conscious effort to notice when you begin to become the most anxious. This will allow you to determine which strategies will work best.
- If you are someone who already struggles with social anxiety, process your anxiety with a therapist who will assist you with developing coping strategies (i.e. deep breathing and counting).
- Consider what would be helpful in terms of managing your appearance and ensure that you are pleased with your camera set up before the video call.
- Be present. Refrain from focusing on yourself and how you are being perceived. Focus on the facilitator, your doctor, classmates, or coworkers who are also responsible for participating in the call.
- Ensure that your internet connection is stable, and your computer is charged ahead of time.
- Beforehand, write down talking points or questions that you want to address during the video call.
- Make sure that you understand how to navigate the video conferencing system if it is new to you. Ask for help if not. This too might be a practice for you, and that’s okay.
- During the call, remember to relax your body as best you can. It may also be helpful to observe and follow the facilitator’s lead.
- Write positive affirmations or reminders to breathe and place them around you to help manage feelings of anxiety and frustration.
- Remember that you are capable, and you are not alone.