Video calls have become a rhythm in our lives these days. In some ways, these virtual hangouts and appointments are convenient. We get to stay in the comfort of our homes and connect with others in cozy clothes and ideal environments. Yet these calls have a dark side. Inviting this sort of socializing and work-productivity into our safe spaces brings about an inescapable encroachment into our personal lives. All that, plus the added stress of sensory overload from electronics!
With virtual appointments, therapy, work calls, and remote classrooms, we have to learn how to navigate new and complex social settings. The following tips are geared to set us up for success and also recover from these audio-visual stressors:
1) Stim. One of the great benefits of virtual calls is that no one can see beyond what’s on the screen. Go ahead a shake a foot, fidget with a stim toy, or squeeze a plushie! Do what needs to be done to regulate.
2) If possible, turn the camera off. Many people with autism check themselves on the self-facing camera. This may be caused by a desire to mask, or present ourselves “just right,” but this takes so much extra energy. By turning off the camera, we’re more likely to relax our face muscles and use more brain space for simply comprehending the content of the call.
3) Reduce screen time before and after a call. Face calls include just as much socializing as having a friend over for tea. By reducing the input we ingest before and after a call, we can curtail social and sensory overload. After all, DMs can be draining, too, and even moreso if a call is followed-up by an hour of TikTok.
4) Take preemptive anti-inflammatories. Headaches can be a big problem with all that blue light beaming straight into the eyes, so two Ibuprofen can work wonders for the pain, especially when taken beforehand. Other tips are to reduce screen lighting or wear glasses that filter blue light.
5) Use the chatbox. A frustration with face calls is that connection can falter at any given moment. If important information is glitched out, ask for clarification in the chatbox. The presenter or fellow attendees can provide the answers.