It’s Not Just Zoom Fatigue: Ways to get through the next few months
A lot of trainers are fed up with Zoom, (well a lot of people generally but this is for Personal Trainers so I’m focussing on that element) it’s not what we wanted to do with our qualification and, as people are reaching the end of their reserves, it is becoming the symbol of everything that is wrong at the moment.
We don’t have the same autonomy that we are used to, as anyone who’s looked into Self Determination Theory knows, autonomy is pretty important to all humans. Our roles, status, sense of purpose, sense of belonging, feelings of competence and being appreciated are all impacted too. It’s no wonder we are running on reserves, relying on coping strategies and running out of steam!
The fatigue everyone is feeling comes from the situation we are in and in a lot of cases it’s not Zoom (or any video conferencing communication option) at all, it’s more a case of what it represents. Zoom is fabulous because it allows us to interact with friends, family and other professional services as well as our clients. Without it things would be even worse than they are now! But it doesn’t provide everything we are missing and it also reminds us of what we can’t do. We can’t see people and interact with them face to face and we are all missing that and all the circumstances where that occurs, whether it’s the pub, the gym, a lounge or a restaurant, pretty much anything social has been replaced by virtual options and we are missing the real life element.
We all want the situation to be different and, as we can’t change it in the way we want to, we are channelling the frustration into the tool rather than the situation.
So, what can we do?
There are multiple parts to this and of course it’s all interconnected so although I’m going to break it down into sections for the ease of writing there may be different elements of the different sections that resonate most with you or which combine to provide the best solutions. It’s also worth noting that even the best solutions might not be enough to have you skipping off down the road completely happy with the situation but, as we know from everything we tell clients to do, small, consistent changes can add up, so it’s still worth doing them!
1. Reframe how you think about things
Most of us tend to be a bit needy. We like to know we are doing a good job and that feeling gives us job satisfaction, makes us feel good and gives us energy to keep doing it. Right now a lot of the natural feedback loops aren’t there. We aren’t necessarily seeing the physical results we might be used to, we aren’t having the conversations with clients we are used to so we aren’t picking up on the extras that come with an in person conversation, our clients are tired and struggling too so not being as communicative about the positives they are getting from our service and in some cases the positives aren’t as positive (when everyone is feeling flat and fed up, then being the least rubbish part of their day is actually a massive plus, it just doesn’t feel like it).
With this in mind it is important to take time to reflect on the good you are doing, the help you are providing and the things your clients are appreciating about your service right now! For some, having a regular communication with someone outside of their household is huge, for others it’s about having an element of normality – they may not be in the gym but they are still exercising with you like they would do in normal times. Stress relief, having a reason to move, offsetting a little of the wine / chocolate / insert calorific item of choice, having 30-60 mins for them, are all really valid at the moment and there are loads more on an individual level.
If you are used to relying purely on physical results as a measure of success then now is the time to start looking at the other measures and their importance. Listen to clients and pick up on the things they mention, ask them what they like about training with you / using your service in the current circumstances. Get everyone focused on the positive and they, as well as you, will appreciate it a bit more.
2. Top up your reserves
As I have already mentioned most of us are running on reserves and part of the issue is that we aren’t topping those up. Whilst we are restricted in what we can do there are still options. When things feel tough it can be difficult to see what are options are or to make ourselves do them. It’s a lot easier to come up with a list of things that would help if we could do them but which aren’t a possibility right now! Instead of thinking about that challenge yourself to come up with a list of things you can do for fun. If you have a partner, kids or other housemates see about getting them involved too – if you are struggling with ideas for yourself see about creating a list for each other. You could even do this with a friend in a different household, pick someone who knows you well and get them to come up with a list of things for you while you do the same for them.
Think about the stuff you know makes you feel better. Music is a great option so put on a happy, energising playlist while you come up with your ideas. Consider physical activities, mental activities, traditional selfcare things like taking a bath or meditating, hobbies, challenge yourself to do everyday things differently e.g. cook something different, use an ingredient or recipe you haven’t used before or challenge yourself to replicate your favourite meal ever. Look at different ways to interact with people, if you’re bored of the weekly conversations you’ve been having with someone then think about how you can mix it up. What can you do to add laughter into your life? Who haven’t you spoken to in a while? What can you do to change things up a little?
When you are feeling better you will be in a much better position to handle everything so, prioritise things that you know top up your reserves and also see what you can do to reduce the things that drain them. That’s where some of the rest of the list can come in……
3. Review what you are providing
Check in with your clients about what they are appreciating right now. I know some personal trainers are feeling that their efforts are going unappreciated and in some cases this is because it’s the wrong things for right now. It’s going to be very dependent on your client base, what they have going on and how they are feeling right now. E.g. If they aren’t using your check ins then maybe it’s because right now they don’t really care about that, it doesn’t mean they never have or never will just it’s not right at this time or maybe it’s the things they are checking in about that aren’t right. It could be a simple case of changing check ins from calories to self care or it could mean you can just remove it for the time being or keep it there but don’t waste any mental energy worrying about it not being used.
If you know what the positives that clients are getting from your service are then you can see what is important and what isn’t. This might allow you to do a bit less – great customer service isn’t always about adding in more! Or, it might allow you to relax about people not using certain elements of the service. It could even give you some ideas of something new they may like and use more or some tweaks you can make.
The key thing is not to beat yourself up or to blame clients for not using things but to treat it as an opportunity to experiment with different things if you want to. Stick to small things that don’t take loads of resources but have a play with different options or don’t be afraid to remove unused elements right now to free up some of your mental space.
4. Look at ways to change things up
It’s not just a case of what you are providing but when and how you are providing it. Could you change your timetable around a bit and free up some time off for yourself? Could you partner with another trainer so that you can both do less? Could you outsource any elements or maybe have a short break?
Maybe there’s 1 or 2 clients you could see outside on a 1:1 basis or you could do a rota of different clients over the course of a month (if you’re in a country / area where that’s allowed). Of course, if you’re doing outdoor and are sick of that, you’ll need to look at a different alternative, maybe consider a week of virtual group sessions to mix things up and give all your clients a chance to interact with each other.
If you are freeing up more time or taking a break then it is important to make sure you have a plan for what you are going to use the time for. Extra time sat feeling fed up and thinking about everything that is wrong won’t help at all.
5. Aim to focus on the positive and what you can do
When we focus on what we can’t do, and the negative of the situation, it shuts us down. By looking at what is possible we tend to open up and are more creative. This helps us find solutions and also improves our reserves for interacting with people who might normally drain us. Give yourself permission to feel down, fed up or any negative emotions when you need to, it’s not a case of ignoring them, just aim not to stay in them too long. There are always options and there is support and help out there if you need it. If you are finding yourself stuck with your own thoughts a lot at the moment then find activities that take you out of your head, things that occupy you physically and mentally and distract you or options like writing things down or chatting them through with someone so you get to fact check and get a better perspective on things.
Come up with a list of the positives, a list of the things you are grateful for, the good people in your life and the things you love doing that you can still do. This is a great exercise to do and can also help as something to refer to when you are feeling a bit fed up.
Let others know that you appreciate them, it can be easy when we are in a negative space to forget to tell others that we are thankful for what they do for us. Consider this on a personal level with friends and family but also with people you don’t know well. Maybe it’s someone you see when you are out for a walk or at the shop, maybe it’s someone you are interacting with on a more formal basis (think about what makes you feel good when your clients do it, are you doing that to others that you work with?) or a one off interaction that leaves you smiling. It doesn’t need grand gestures but aiming to be a positive part to someone else’s day can be a great thing to focus on and tends to make us feel better too.
6. Talk to others
Something else that can massively help but sometimes needs a bit of effort to make yourself do it, is to reach out to other people. The conversations I’ve been facilitating for members of LTB have been great for reminding people that they aren’t going through this alone. That what they are experiencing is normal and ok and that it’s “not just them”. They’ve also given people a chance to chat to others who like similar things, face similar challenges, experience similar wins and have different solutions to offer. If that’s not for you, that’s completely fine but do make sure you have someone, or several someones, who you can talk to when you need to. It might be a different person for each mood / need, that’s fine but make yourself take that step of making contact.
Ask for help if you need it or just touch base with someone for a random chat about nothing in particular and a few laughs.
I know a lot of people are avoiding contacting others because they know they are struggling too and don’t want to add to it but in a lot of cases the fact that we are struggling doesn’t mean we can’t / don’t want to help others. If in doubt then ask the other person, make it ok for them to say “sorry, not now” if they need to and don’t take it personally but also don’t avoid making the request.
On the flip side, if you have the mental and emotional capacity, then check in with the people in your life and make sure they aren’t avoiding asking you for help because they don’t want to burden you.
See what you can do to open up conversations with people who you haven’t had contact with recently, increase your pool of human interactions and enjoy the different input it brings to your life.
7. Give yourself a break
Being positive and focussing on what you can do doesn’t mean you can’t say no or aren’t allowed to remove or reduce things (in collaboration with your clients).
Give yourself time off, have clear boundaries about when you are working and when you aren’t. Allow things to be different right now – just because you are normally on the go from 6am to 9pm doesn’t mean you have to be now, if your current work diary is 9-12 then that’s great! Look outside of work for other activities rather than looking at a computer screen telling yourself you should be working!
If you need time off then take it. If you are feeling that you just want to stop training people completely then consider having a week or two off. Where possible provide clients with something they can use while you are unavailable, make sure you have a plan of what you are going to do in your time off and enjoy it! If it’s a certain thing that’s bugging you then you might be able to have a break from that thing instead.
Give yourself space. Make sure you have some time and space that’s just for you (I know that’s easier said than done in some households) and that you also have time where you interact with other people in a non work setting (again, I know that’s easier said than done for some).
Don’t mix up how things are now with how they will be forever. Gyms / being able to train in people’s houses etc will reopen and when they do there will still be people wanting personal trainers to help them in person. You will be able to get back to doing what you love, it’s just not there yet.
Like everyone, I really wish I could wave a magic wand and for this to be over. I know things are tough, I know reserves are low and I know we are all sick and tired of not being able to do what we want to do.
It will end, things will get better, there will be more daylight and better weather coming (for those of us in the northern hemisphere), we will be able to get out and about a bit more, gyms will reopen and we’ll be able to see our clients in person again, home schooling will end, we will be able to see more people and interact more.
It will all happen, so right now it’s a case of finding what works for you to see this through. Hopefully some of the suggestions above will help. We’ve got this!