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Digital eye strain: 8 tips to protect yourself

Our way of life is becoming more digital every day. While this offers numerous benefits, we often forget that our bodies and minds are not designed to gawk at screens regularly and for so long. 

Most of us spend between 2 and 11 hours in front of a screen. This could lead to increased eye strain, which can be the cause of many other secondary symptoms.

We all know that feeling when our eyes press, become dry or burn, preventing us from focusing on our work and staying relaxed

In this article, we will introduce you to the topic of eye strain, point out the symptoms and give you some simple tips on how you can protect and relieve your eyes in the future.

“Screen eyes”: how to recognize symptoms 

We are constantly glued to smartphones or laptops screen that we don’t even realize how much our eyes are actually suffering. 

Eyes have muscles that can tire after a while and then start to give off alarm signals, clearly indicating that your eyes deserve a break. The most common signs are:  

  • Dry, red, or watery eyes 
  • Blurred vision or blurring of letters 
  • Flickering or twitching eyes 
  • Headaches and migraines 
  • Neck and back pain

Our visual organ needs regular breaks to relax: The risk of overstraining could occur by reflecting on the symptoms mentioned above. Here are some prevention tips:

Tip 1: Adjust your display correctly 

You can adjust the settings of any monitor nowadays to make it easier on your eyes. This may feel unusual at first, but your eyes will quickly get used to it and thank you: 

  • Set the refresh rate of CRT monitors as high as possible or – best of all – replace the monitor directly. 
  • Ensure good screen sharpness so that fonts do not “fray”.  
  • Avoid garish color settings. 
  • Ensure a high contrast to be able to see sharply.  
  • The brightness should always adapt to the environment i.e. not too dark a screen in a bright room and not too bright a screen in a dark room. 
  • Avoid blue and “cold” light, activate the blue light filter, or wear appropriate “blue light glasses”. 
  • Activate “night mode” (“night shift”) on your laptop – this works for both Windows and Mac.

Tip 2: Build regular screen breaks into your daily routine  

It’s easy to get bogged down at the screen when we’re doing a task that totally absorbs us in. We may not get up or remove our eyes from the laptop for hours, which is actually an absolute no-go. 

Generally, it is recommended that we take a screen break for at least 5 to 10 minutes every hour. This is a good opportunity for taking a walk around the office or home office, stretch, take a bathroom break, or snack on something healthy – the main thing is to get your eyes away from the screen. 

If it doesn’t feel right at first, you can set a timer every 50 minutes to remind you of your breaks. Whenever the timer rings, it’s time to take a break: Eyes away from the screen!  

Just try it out for a week, you will see the results in the condition of your eyes. 

3rd tip: Give your eyes exercises in between. 

Here’s the simple 20-20-20 exercise: Every 20 minutes, remove your gaze from the computer by focusing on something about 6 meters away from you for about 20 seconds. 

If possible, focus on something related to nature – that is, the tree you see through the window, the garden, or a beautiful nature painting on the wall. At best, don’t look at anything busy or flickering.  

Alternatively, you can stand up for 20 seconds every 20 minutes and walk 20 steps through your office or apartment.  

Tip 4: Relax your facial muscles every now and then. 

If you consider your body after 3 hours of permanently hanging on the screen, you can often feel that your jaw is tense, your forehead is furrowed, and your shoulders are tightened. The body moves into a tense posture unconsciously. 

Listen to your body: Where are there blockages right now? What feels totally tense? Where are you “stuck”? And what areas of the body feel light? Moving your facial muscles can also help release blockages. 

You can do this by yawning (which, by the way, moistens your eyes at the same time), shifting your jaw to the right and left, or imagining that you are biting into an extremely sour lemon, contorting your face as you do so, and then relaxing again. Squinting your eyes tightly and then jerking them open can also be totally healing (feel free to do a few repetitions of this and see what it does to you). 

5th tip: Your posture also does something to your eyes 

Our posture and the way we look at the monitor are important for our eyes too. How should you sit? The center of your monitor and your eyes should be in line. Even better would be if the top of the monitor is just below your eyes. So if you’re sitting up straight, your gaze should be just above the monitor.  

All in all, your monitor should be about 70 to 90 centimeters away from your eyes, depending on its size.  

Tip 6: Don’t forget to blink 

Did you know that people who work at a computer screen blink 3 times less than they normally do when they are not sitting at the screen? 

Studies even agree that blinking is only partially performed during screen work so that the eye is not closed properly at all and thus not sufficiently moistened. 

Make sure that you blink properly and thus moisten your eyes sufficiently so that no tears need to be produced, which in turn can lead to red eyes. 

You can try the following exercise: Try blinking really slowly 10 times during your small regular screen break. This can look like you’re slowly falling into a deep sleep, closing your eyes in slow motion. Do this consciously for a few days and then compare how your eyes feel.  

Tip 7: How dry is your environment?  

In the office, it can happen that we sit right next to a copier or printer that blows warm air. Or, in winter, the heating is set to full blast and the air in the home office becomes very dry. 

In this case, it helps to ventilate regularly to prevent dry eyes. During your small 5- to 10-minute break every hour, you can always open the window and let in the fresh air. 

Tip 8: Try to avoid reflections 

Backlighting, reflections, and mirroring make it harder to see things on your screen and keep distracting your eyes, an extra strain on the eyes that should be avoided. 

Browse your environment for reflections, shadows, and other illumination sources and see how you can relieve your eyes even more by switching off lights or changing the position to avoid direct lighting on the screen. 

So, how will you take care of your eyes in the future? 

We hope that this article has inspired you to take better care of your eyes and to pay more attention to them in the future, especially during stressful moments. After all, strained eyes can be the start of many other uncomfortable symptoms. 

In our Humanoo app, you’ll find plenty of ideas to give yourself a break during your little breaks, whether at home, in the office, or elsewhere on the job, and always find your way back to your body – for example, with short exercises on rhythmic breathing, concentration sessions, or relaxation methods. 

It is quite a bit of work to change your habits once. So if you are used to staring at the screen for 4 hours or more at a stretch, be patient with yourself, handling changes step by step instead of pressuring and overstraining yourself even more with new habits. 

Your Humanoo Team

Written by HUMANOO Experts Team

Originally published on 18. October 2021

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