As our work becomes increasingly virtual, we’re spending hours in front of screens. With the increased screen time, comes a host of vision problems – dry eyes, blurriness, double vision, headaches, and eye strain. These are all symptoms of digital eye strain, and they’re exacerbated by poor habits like squinting, straining and staring.
When screens are integral to your life and work, they can’t simply be avoided. Thankfully, there is hope. The best solution is prevention, and this begins with healthy screen usage habits.
Here are a few simple ways to alleviate digital eyestrain and relax your eyes while using screens.
If you notice your eyes feeling drier than usual, try blinking more often.
Softly and gently close and reopen your eyelids. Do not squeeze tightly; the eyelids should barely touch. Looking at screens naturally slows our blink rate. We blink about half as often!
Blinking lubricates the eye surface, so remember to blink as frequently as possible.
Yawning is also a natural eye lubricant.
Take a big, slow deliberate yawn. Really allow your jaw muscles to stretch. This stimulates the tear ducts to cleanse the eye surface.
Yawning also relaxes muscles in the face and jaw, which can relax your eyes. It even helps with mental focus!
Similar to yawning, deep breathing lubricates and nourishes the eyes. It circulates blood, providing oxygen to keep the eyes healthy. Place one hand on your abdomen. Pull your stomach in as you exhale, and feel the stomach expand as you inhale. Allow the stomach to rise and fall with each breath.
Breathing can help balance your energy. If you’re anxious and need to relax, focus on lengthening your exhalations. If you’re feeling tired and need to boost your energy, emphasize your inhales. Note: it’s most beneficial to breath through your nose.
Look far away
Staring at screens strains our eyes by forcing them to focus closely for a long time. Looking away at a distance gives the eyes a chance to relax.
An easy way to remember this is the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
There are apps available for iPhone that can remind you to take breaks. ‘Eye Care 20 20 20’ is simple to use. ‘Take a Break Timer’ is more versatile; it allows you to customize your intervals.
Screens are often located at or below eye level. There are muscles around each eye that get tight when locked in one position for too long, just like the rest of our body. Looking up gives these muscles some relief.
Hold your thumb directly in front of you at eye level. Look at your thumb with both eyes. Keeping your head still, move your thumb up. Allow your gaze to follow your thumb. Your eyes should be looking up, while your nose is pointing straight ahead.
Hold this position for 10 seconds. Blink and breathe. Relax your face and jaw.
Use peripheral vision
Our peripheral vision includes everything we’re not looking at. Widening your peripheral awareness keeps the eyes – and the brain – relaxed. Staring at screens often leads to developing “tunnel vision,” when we block out our surroundings.
While looking at your screen, notice what’s around you. What do you see to the right and left? What’s above and below your screen?
Our peripheral vision is designed to recognize motion. Keep something that moves nearby to stimulate your peripheral awareness. Examples: plant leaves rustling, or a curtain blowing in the wind. Maybe a small decoration that swings or spins, like a pendulum, hanging mobile, or a music box.
Noticing motion in the corner of your eye will help relax the mind and the eyes. You can also elicit a sense of motion by softly shaking or nodding your head. Notice how this creates the illusion of your screen moving around.
Minimize blue light
Screens provide exposure to a full spectrum of light, which excites the optic nerve. Prolonged exposure impacts our circadian rhythm, sleep cycle, and energy.
Minimizing blue light exposure can help reduce fatigue. The ideal time to reduce blue light is during sunset and after dark.
Experiment with blue-blocking glasses and blue-blocking app for your phone/computer. Dark amber or yellow lenses after dark will help your eyes relax and cue your brain that it’s time to sleep. Clear-tinted blue blocking glasses are best for intermittent daytime use. Software like f.lux will automatically adjust your screen display based on time of day.
Alleviating digital eye strain begins with prevention, by recognizing and changing your screen usage habits. When you find yourself straining to see, try implementing these habits to give yourself some relief!
Want even more ways to relax your eyes while using your screens?
Don’t miss Part 1: Simple solutions for alleviating digital eyestrain
And find our Instagram Live Combatting Digital Eye Strain with Julie here.