Why zoom is exhausting you

zoom meeting, coffee cup and vase of flowers

It’s not because of missing social cues. Well, it is, but only because we’re working from a misunderstanding of the mind, trying to fill in missing cues believed necessary for survival. The more this is seen, the more we get present to the cues that are already available right here and now.

I was chatting to some parents the other weekend who were telling me how exhausted they are from being on zoom. Their jobs currently involve spending the vast majority of the day on there and it reminded me of an article I’d read about Zoom being tiring because we’re missing the additional cues of the environment and body language. The article says:

we use all of this to build a context and make assumptions — often unconsciously — about personalities, positions, social status and hierarchy.

So yes — no wonder these parents, and maybe you too, are tired — their conceptual, rule-concerned mind is working overtime trying to fill in the gaps that it would normally have answers to. It believes answers = I know what’s going on = I’m certain and in control = I’m safe. Phew!

But they’re not actually answers. As the quote says — they’re assumptions.

So there is a whole bunch of unnecessary, assumption-based mental activity happening, draining energy and limiting brilliance.

We could never entirely operate without a conceptual mind; it allows us to differentiate between people and things and to use words — these things are all very useful. But this mind is being mis-used and over-used from the simple misunderstanding that we believe its accumulated rules to be truths, when all it’s doing is assuming they’re relevant to the situation.

This conceptual mind is like a hard drive. All it does is regurgitate what’s already been inputted previously, and it does that without even knowing what’s actually happening in the outside world. It’s been long known (like 1852 long!*) that the brain carries out a bunch of processes before giving us a representation of what is out there, and which has been confirmed by neuroscience** showing the huge amounts of activity within the brain, compared to the limited activity entering via the senses, to construct the ‘thing’ we’re looking at, feeling, hearing or tasting.

So the brain takes the small amount of sensory information that comes in and — in it’s dark, filing-cabinet-filled brain-room — it goes through previous experiences and plays a really clumsy game of snap by matching this current experience to old rules. Maybe adding in some future-terror-inducing assumptions for good measure, based on previous examples that were vaguely like this.

And we’re living our lives by this.

It’s not such a big deal when we’re just not seeing a red chair as it really is, but becomes more of a challenge when we’re making assumptions about ourselves and others and not seeing either of us as we really are. We’ve not realised that this mental activity that we imagine is keeping us safe, is actually just keeping us limited, distracted and disconnected.

The conceptual mind takes us out of the present moment, layering on its assumptions of how things are and then also adding in its assumptions of how it thinks they should be: their status, my status, did they look at me funny, why did they say that like that, do they think I’m rubbish, nobody’s asked me to contribute yet, they shouldn’t be jabbering on for so long, what’s going to happen if…


One of the primary shifts that takes place when we start to realise how experience is really created is increased energy and productivity because we drop a whole bunch of this conceptual-mind assumption-making. The futility of paying attention to the random-rule-generator mind is seen for what it is.

We don’t have to force it. We don’t have to practice it. The more it’s just seen that we’re trying to clumsily and exhaustingly run our lives from an out-of-date hard drive which has no bearing on what’s in front of us, it just stops making sense to do it.

And then we naturally reconnect to what’s happening right here, and we regain full access to the global super-fast wifi of innate brilliance — perfectly responsive and resourceful for this moment now — which is the only moment we’ve actually ever got.

So start getting curious about where your experience is really coming from. Is it really coming from Zoom? Or is it coming from a mind trying to play snap when half its usual cards are missing?

With love, Helen

*From Making up the mind — how the brain creates our mental world by Chris Frith — In 1852 Helmholtz measured perception time and showed a 100 msec delay between a touch on their body and pushing a button when they felt it. The hypothesis was that brain processes were inferring what was going on.

**From Anil Seth’s research showing how the brain constructs our reality

I work with people who want a quieter mind and a more fulfilling life. They’re smart, passionate people who are curious about there being a better way. They’ve worked hard to get to here and yet something’s still missing: ‘is this it?’. In our work we explore and reconnect you to innate brilliance so you rediscover the real happiness, real security and real balance that you are. Find out more here.

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