The New Science Of “Micro Self-Care”

The New Science Of “Micro Self-Care”

via Thrive Global by Bryan Robinson

For many people, burnout from virtual fatigue has been a built-in feature of the pandemic. A new study from Superhuman found “email fatigue” to be the cause of rising dissatisfaction with remote work.More than one-third of employees said email and message overload may lead them to quit their jobs. The survey found half of remote workers (50%) spent their own money on tools to help manage their productivity, and another 17% plan to do so in the future. Plus, new Stanford research reveals how the shift from in-person meetings to virtual ones has taken its toll, particularly among women. Overall, one in seven women (13.8%) compared with one in 20 men (5.5%) reported feeling “very” to “extremely” fatigued after Zoom calls. Researchers found what contributed most to the feeling of exhaustion among women was an increase in what social psychologists describe as “self-focused attention” triggered by the self-view in video conferencing.

Micro Self-Care

If you’ve spent back-to-back hours in virtual meetings you know exactly what that’s like. But we don’t have to drive ourselves in the ground to be effective in our jobs. In fact, science shows the opposite is true. When we take time out to rest and relax, we’re more engaged and productive—even more effective at our work tasks. But that’s a hard sell to people under the gun with career demands and deadlines. One of the most common refrains is, “I can’t afford to take 20 or 30 minutes to meditate or exercise when I could use that time to meet a deadline.”

It’s counterintuitive but that excuse no longer holds water because we have simple solutions to de-stress, prevent burnout and keep our careers afloat. Self-care—such as rest, relaxation or meditation—has morphed into micro self-care. A new study from Microsoft’s Human Factors Lab shows virtual fatigue is definitely real, but we can counteract it by taking short breaks during the day to prevent stress from becoming cumulative, according to Arianna Huffington, CEO and founder of Thrive Global.

This latest research is a testament to how much we can achieve without wear and tear when we learn to pause, rest and reset, Huffington said. Microsoft researchers monitored the brain activity of study participants and found that virtual fatigue begins to set in roughly 30 minutes into a meeting. Taking breaks between meetings, they discovered, stops cumulative stress from building up, giving our brains a chance to “reset.” In back-to-back meetings for two hours, subjects’ brains showed a steady increase of beta waves, which are connected to stress. But when participants took a break between meetings, the beta activity decreased. Even more fascinating, the beta waves remained low even when followed by four additional consecutive virtual meetings. Researchers also found that back-to-back virtual meetings weaken our focus and engagement, but when participants took breaks to reset, engagement held steady. Lastly, the study showed that transitions between virtual meetings, when done with no breaks, can cause significant stress. But when participants took even short breaks in between, beta waves dropped and didn’t spike as much at the beginning of the next meeting. As the report sums it up: “The antidote to meeting fatigue is simple: taking short breaks.”

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