What to do if video calls make you uncomfortable

Videoconferencing calls are now a routine part of life, but that doesn't mean everyone enjoys them

Feelings of anxiety during videoconferencing have been on the rise during the pandemic, along with the number of video calls people take part in. Unsplash 
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Videoconferencing calls have become a routine part of life for many people. And while chatting with friends and family is, for the most part, a pleasant task, for some, having to do the same with colleagues or clients can trigger anxiety.

Whether the call is 10 minutes or an hour long, some people find themselves filled with dread as it approaches – and their unease continues to grow once it is underway. They may begin to experience physical symptoms such as sweating, blushing, or restlessness and fidgetiness, or they might mentally draw a blank when put on the spot.

Prateeksha Shetty, clinical psychologist at RAK Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah, explains what may be fuelling these feelings of discomfort.

“The fundamental idea beneath any anxiety response is that ‘I cannot deal with this’ or ‘this is too hard’,” she says. “Some people are more anxious than others, whereas others may have become increasingly anxious, owing to difficult jobs, unpredictable life events or trauma in their past.

“Fear of evaluation, or being put on the spot, can trigger anxiety in some individuals, whereas others may evaluate themselves to be incapable of meeting the demands of the event.”

Another reason for an increase in anxiety could be that these online interactions, coupled with the unfamiliar demands of working from home, can make people struggle to maintain a proper work-life balance. Some may feel as though they can't switch off, which further increases stress levels. Not being around co-workers can also have a negative effect.

Prateeksha Shetty is a clinical psychologist at RAK Hospital.

"Some people may believe that they cannot 'escape' or avoid tasks, or take time to be better prepared; this is enhanced when working from home, as you do not have the comfort of colleagues and work friends who can otherwise help regulate such struggles," she adds.

Here's how to work on it 

As video calls are likely to be regular fixture for some time to come, Shetty offers tips for those who struggle while on camera.

"Regardless of symptoms of anxiety, one can practise grounding or mindfulness exercises, where one tunes in to immediate surroundings by focusing on sensory stimuli to bring awareness," she says. "Grounding exercises serve as a reminder to be aware of distress, while not giving in to panic or negative emotions."

The fundamental idea beneath any anxiety response is that 'I cannot deal with this' or 'this is too hard'

These exercises serve as a coping strategy to help people focus on the immediate present, rather than worrying about something they can't control, such as focusing on something said in the past or worrying about saying the wrong thing in the future.

She adds: “One effective way to achieve this is by practising mindfulness meditation every day, for 20 to 40 minutes. Such practises enable one to develop a pause and gain awareness, without giving in to panic or anxiety. This usually helps someone with anxiety to regain control and enables them to deal with difficult feelings and situations in a healthier manner.”

Finally, Shetty also suggests preparing mentally for the task at hand, prior to taking that video call. For example, this could mean anything from making sure you are happy with your physical appearance to practicing what you will say or ask in the meeting. A lack of preparation will invariably lead to a more stressful interaction.