Shutdowns and government recommendations have drastically changed the way most of us are living our lives. Working from home, homeschooling your children, and trying to stay connected to loved ones has led to a drastic increase in screen time for many people.
Increases of 30% sound drastic until you hear that some users have increased their screen time by 185% during quarantine!
Whether you’re working, checking social media, or watching the news, you’re likely to have your eyes looking a screen for several hours each day.
Staring at a computer or phone screen for too long can cause:
- Blurry vision
- Trouble focusing at a distance
- Dry eyes
Of course, lowering screen time can help with these problems but that isn’t always an option.
To protect your eyes from necessary screens:
- Make sure your glasses or contacts prescription is up to date.
- If your eye strain won’t go away, talk to your doctor about computer glasses.
- Move the screen so your eyes are level with the top of the monitor. That lets you look slightly down at the screen.
- Try to avoid glare from windows and lights. Use an anti-glare screen if needed.
- If your eyes are dry, blink more.
One of the most important tips is to give your eyes a break! Rest your eyes every 20 minutes. Look 20 feet away for 20 seconds and get up at least every 2 hours to take a 15-minute break.
Loafing on the couch probably makes you want to munch on chips or other junk food, but eating a well-balanced diet also supports your eye health. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E may help your eyes to withstand the extra strain put on them during this time. To ensure you’re getting enough of these helpful nutrients fill your plate with these foods:
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collards
- Salmon, tuna, and other oily fish
- Eggs, nuts, beans, and other non-meat protein sources
- Oranges and other citrus fruits or juices
- Oysters and pork
Staring at a screen for hours can cause stiffness, soreness, or aching pain in the neck, upper back/shoulder, arms/hands, or head. This is mostly due to the posture many people are in while using a laptop, phone, or tablet.
Postures that led to pain included those that cause the tablet user to “slump” over and gaze downward:
- Sitting without back support
- Sitting with the device in the lap
- Sitting in a chair with the tablet placed on a flat desk surface
Women were 2.059 times more likely to experience musculoskeletal symptoms during tablet use than men, but the downward angle of your neck when using these devices can be harmful to anyone. Flexing the neck forward for long periods of time can put pressure on the spine which causes neck and shoulder muscle strain and pain.
If you use a laptop or desktop computer:
- Choose a chair with good lumbar support, if that’s not available try placing a pillow against the small of your back.
- Position the top of your monitor just below eye level
- Sit up straight with your head level, not bend forward
- Keep your shoulders relaxed and elbows close to your body
- Keep hands, wrists, forearms, and thighs parallel to the floor
If you use a tablet:
- Prop up your device to minimize the downward angle of your neck
As with your eyes, taking breaks is another great way to ensure less strain on your neck. Just shifting your weight or standing up every 15 minutes can be very helpful.
Mental Health Care
Lastly, increased screen time can have a negative effect on your mental health. Numerous studies have found that 5+ hours of screen time each day can lead to anxiety and depression. While working from home will likely require at least 8 hours of screen time per day there are steps you can take to avoid that effecting your mental well-being.
Being aware of how much media you’re consuming is essential in order to establish a healthy balance. It’s so easy to scroll and scroll for hours but if you keep track of that time then you can counteract those scrolling hours with an equal amount of time outside or participating in physical activities. Exercise and meditation may be great options to help clear your mind from the news and memes that circle your mind during screen time.
Screen Time in the Long Run
In these uncertain times many of us are experiencing a “new normal” but even after we make it through this pandemic and return to work it will be equally as important to be mindful of screen time and the effects it has on your body.