Feeling urgh after a long day of WFH?

By Mel Sim

Experts call it screen exhaustion. Here’s what it is and what to do.

If you – like everyone else – feel absolutely knackered at the end of the day with a touch of light-headedness and tired eyes, you could be suffering from a case of screen exhaustion. It’s no wonder why too: You’re constantly in front of your work computer, staring at your phone during meals or your downtime, watching that new doco on Netflix till late at night, and some of us (well, actually most of us) are still staring at our phones even when we’ve turned off the lights to go to bed! And now that we are in lockdown again, our screens are the only way to connect us to what’s happening out there!

Screen exhaustion is exactly as described – when you feel exhausted looking at too many screens, or even just one screen. Which right now is your work laptop when you’re working from home with Zoom meetings one after another and constant emails coming in now that your colleagues are not just a desk away.

So what does screen exhaustion – or Computer Vision Syndrome as it is also known as – feel like? Physically, you start seeing double vision or have trouble focusing on something. Your eyes twitch and itch, and can even be bloodshot. Your neck is sore and stiff, especially if you are constantly scrolling through your phone. And if you’re sitting in from of the laptop for long hours at ago? Yups, that all painful sensation down your spine. Oh don’t forget, there’s also the severe headache you suffer from, where all you want to do is just lie down and close your eyes. Mentally? You feel tired, groggy, unmotivated and aimless as you try to go through the rest of your long and tiring day.

What is actually happening to us when we spend too much time staring at a screen? According to WebMD, your eyes move in a repetitive motion trying to adjust and readjust to what you’re seeing in the screen. This in turn damages your eyes, which can cause all of the above.

Unfortunately, there’s really no way to get away from screens; it’s everywhere. But what we can do is learn how to use these screens effectively to avoid screen exhaustion. Here are some ideas how:

#1 Try the 20-20-20 Rule
It’s simple: For every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, you take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away. This will give your brain and eyes a little bit of rest. So set your alarm for every 20 minutes. When it rings, get up and take a 20-second walk around the room. Maybe get a drink to rehydrate and look out the window while sipping your water.

#2 Do eye yoga
You read that right – eye yoga. Look to the left, hold the position. Look to the right, hold that position. Do the same looking up and looking down. Repeat four times and close your eyes and relax in between. Namaste… your eyes will thank you for this.

#3 Dim the lights
May seem to be contradictory as you are inclined to strain your eyes more in a dark room but eye strain can also be caused by excessive sunlight or extremely bright lighting. So partially close the curtains wherever you’ve set up your work office. If the light is the problem, avoid sitting directly underneath it. You may want to opt for natural lighting instead of big, overhead fluorescent lights.

#4 Be mindful of your sitting position
If you are constantly in front of your laptop (who isn’t), you need to be aware of your sitting position. Many of us position our screens to close to our faces. They should actually be at least 40cm away from you, slightly below horizontal eye level, and tilted at a 10 to 20 degree angle. Getting an ergonomic chair will also give you more comfort and support. With all the lockdowns we’re going through and WFHs, maybe it’s time to invest in a good chair?

#5 Reduce screen time!
This is perhaps the easiest solution – cut down the hours you spend in front of your screens, especially your phone. While it’s not possible to do with your laptop if you’re WFH, you can make a conscious effort to limit your screen time on your gadgets. Set a timer to indicate when it’s time to put the phone down. Instead of watching TV, why not read or bake a cake? Shopping for online deals before you sleep? How about you log off instead and get a really good night’s rest?

Photo by Oğuzhan Akdoğan on Unsplash

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