We’re all being encouraged, especially today with the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, to talk more, ‘speak our truths’ and generally seize more opportunities for connectivity.
What’s to be done, then, when this one thing that is meant to help us feel better - TALKING - actually leaves us feeling frazzled, and more mentally drained than if we’d perhaps used the time to sit alone with our own thoughts?
This experience is what many people are finding off the back of the current ‘zooming’ trend.
Granted, video chat is still certainly ‘better than nothing’ for bridging the social gaps created during lockdown. However, there is something about chatting through a screen that many users find particularly draining - and perhaps in conflict with its intended purpose, which is to lighten the mental load.
Virtual conversations require much more focus than face-to-face chats, and we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like tone, pitch, body language and facial expressions. This makes screen to screen conversations a significant drain on our mental energy reserves.
Being together in mind, but not in body, also creates a dissonance, the conflicting feelings from which can add to the exhaustion, especially when you mix in the stress of freezing screens, disjointed discourse and the anxiety of being watched, and watching ourselves.
These theories all go some way towards explaining why virtual calls might not always prove the useful tool we perhaps think they are, when it comes to managing mental health.
Sometimes, making the right decision for ‘mind kindness’ might mean vetoing the prescribed video call quota, and instead investing in the one thing that we’re led to believe contravenes mental well-being - SOLITUDE.
Solitude, for many, can prove more restorative than talking, particularly when the only means of conversing is Facetime or Zoom.
What the choice comes down to, is not a decision between ‘being social’ or being ‘antisocial.’ It is not a question of being ‘honest’ over ‘bottling things up’.
Some days, there is simply no better sounding board to your thoughts and troubles, than your own inner voice, which makes the #talkmore message maybe less about verbalising, and more about choosing your audience.