Tired of video calls? You’re not alone. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have been relying on video calls for social time. But that means “Zoom fatigue” is setting in.

According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), people can feel uncomfortable and tired from engaging in a “constant gaze” through video calling. For example, perhaps you’re uncomfortable with someone staring right at your face for a length of time. Or, maybe you have days where you simply don’t feel like putting on a smile for the camera. 

The good news is there are alternatives to video that still allow you to connect with family, friends and colleagues. While some require technology, others can be done in real life, as long as you stick firmly to safety guidelines and stay within your social bubble.

Here are a few ways to stay in touch amid a pandemic winter – without dealing with Zoom fatigue.

1. Talk on the phone instead of video chat or text

You may prefer texting over talking on the phone, but phone calls have advantages. To start, there’s no video fatigue. Plus, you don’t have to worry about good lighting, the right background or whether you look tired.

You also don’t have to sit for hours. You can chat while you go for a walk, water your plants or sit outside.

Phone calls are also ideal for work meetings because not every call needs to be a video. When you arrange a meeting, suggest that the two of you do it via phone. If you have headphones, pop them in and go for a walk.

2. Start a listening party

Many of us saw our friends’ top 10 favourite songs and artists on Spotify this month. But did you know you can host a listening party on the platform, too? If you’re a Spotify Premium member, all you need to do is share a link to your favourite podcast or music list and invite your friends to join the party.

3. Meet friends outside — safely

It’s cold outside, but that doesn’t have to stop you from heading out.

Many cities have opened up public outdoor recreational spaces like skating rinks. If you don’t skate, perhaps head to the nearest park to walk and talk with a friend. Be sure to dress warmly, mask up and stay more than two metres apart.

Remember to follow the government’s recommendations for maintaining social distancing during small gatherings. You’ll also want to check with your provincial or territorial government to see if small gatherings are allowed in your area during this time.

4. Use non-video technology

Haven’t seen the latest hit show on streaming yet? Why not organize a watching party? Teleparty (formerly Netflix party) is a free Chrome extension that lets you and your friends watch the same show at the same time. This allows you to engage with something entertaining while bonding with friends and family. Amazon Canada just released a similar option so you can group binge-watch some stellar new shows or look back on some of your old favourites.

5. Throw a virtual game night

There are a ton of online games available, allowing you to either set up a virtual game night or create an ongoing game with a few friends. Words with Friends is a great option, but you can also try something new or play an old favourite like Uno or Monopoly.

6. Go for a run or use a running app during your workout

You can go for a run with a friend. But what if want some company but don’t have a fitness buddy? Then you can download an app that lets your family or friends cheer you on virtually. There are a variety of running apps available, but a popular one is from Nike. It tracks your distance, creates challenges and lets your friends encourage you as you rack up kilometres. It’s not the same as running with a friend, but knowing your friends are cheering you on in real time is heartwarming.

Winters can be long, and the pandemic can make those cold days feel extra isolating. That doesn’t mean you have to be alone. With a few changes to your daily routine and access to technology, you can look out for your mental and emotional wellbeing by staying safely connected with loved ones.

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