When you spend too long staring at the computer screen, do you see stars (and stripes)? I know you have a lot of work to do, but that’s a big sign that it’s time to take a break from your computer.
We spend so much time every day sitting in front of our electronics- computers, TVs, tablets, phones- that we forget that our bodies weren’t actually designed to stare at these screens all day. In one of our previous blog posts, Top 3 Computer Body Issues, we discussed the toll sitting all day can have on your body including carpal tunnel, poor circulation to your feet and legs, and lower back aches. For this blog post, we are going to talk about the impact on your upper body, mainly your head and your eyes.
One of most common issues people have when they spend too much time with technology is something called eyestrain. Basically, it means your eyes are working too hard. Some common symptoms of eyestrain include:
- Headaches (especially migraines, and feeling pressure right behind your eyes).
- Seeing little dots jumping around either while you are looking at the screen, or when you look away from it.
- Tired eyes.
- Dry eyes.
- Difficulty focusing- words and images start to blur together.
If you have spent any significant amount of time in front of a computer, you are likely going to have experienced one or more of these symptoms.
What Causes Eyestrain?
Eyestrain can be brought on by a number of different situations, but they really all boil down to one thing- lighting. When your eyes have to work really hard to adjust to different types of lighting (sometimes all at once), it is going to cause eyestrain and make it difficult to work. Here are some example of common lighting situations that cause eyestrain:
- Flourescent lighting in the office.
- Your screen is too bright.
- The contrast of your screen is off.
- You are sitting too close to the monitor.
- Glare from the monitor.
How Can You Fix Eyestrain?
With some simple adjustments, you can help minimize the risk of eyestrain, and possibly even get rid of it all together. Try some of these simple solutions:
- Move the monitor back a couple of feet. Your mother wasn’t kidding when she said you could get sick sitting too close to the TV screen.
- Bring in a lamp from home for your office, don’t use the flourescent lights. If you ever walk into a room where computer engineers are working, you will find that a lot of the time, they like to work in the dark.
- Use window shades. I know we all want to remember that there is a world outside of the office, but the truth is that too many different forms of lighting is a key factor in eyestrain. Your eyes will automatically adjust to the different lighting, so if you have too many in your office, your eyes are working to adjust and re-adjust all the time.
- Adjust the brightness at night. Screens are made to work with during the day, so if you work at night, you might find that even on the lowest setting, the screen is too bright. However, there are programs available, like F.lux, which you can set up to automatically adjust the brightness and coloring of your screen based on the time of day.
- Blink. It may sound silly, but blinking will really help. When you focus in on something, you naturally blink less. Every now and then, just sit for a few moments with your eyes closed. This will help re-hydrate your eyes.
- Stand up to think. One of the most frustrating feelings is staring at a blank computer screen, with no idea how to proceed. If you have a big presentation or report to do, and you are suffering writer’s block, get up and walk around. It will get your blood moving and give your eyes a much-needed rest. It will also help you stave off headaches, which only add to writer’s block frustration.
- Adjust the contrast and brightness of your screens. Turning down the brightness and turning up the contrast can be a big help. If the screen is too bright, it’s hard on the eyes. And if there is not enough contrast, your eyes have trouble distinguishing between black and white, so they have to work harder to focus on words and images.The most important piece of advice when dealing with eyestrain though, is to stop spending so much time staring at a screen! Our eyes were made for natural lighting, not the hard, artificial lighting where we now spend the majority of our time.So, I have a challenge for you. This Fourth of July, take some independence from your devices. Try to spend more time outside or with family and friends than staring at a screen (any screen, including your phone). Give your body a break from the hardships you put it through every day, and celebrate.Happy Fourth of July!