Thoughts from Quarantine Week #4: Self-Care for Your Eyes

It has been one month since society came to a screeching halt, and our lives were altered. How are you doing with all of this? I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are staying well. I was chatting on the phone with my mom earlier this week, and she was reading about eye health. It is not a shock that people are glued to their screens now more than ever, so this is particularly important and timely to discuss. 

Researchers have linked increased screen time to many health complications over the years, including brain functionality, insomnia, chronic headaches, eyesight issues such as eyestrain, obesity, stress, anxiety, and depression. During this time, we must be extra mindful of our screen time and make sure we are taking breaks and taking time to unplug away from all of our devices. Just because you are working from home or just home, does not mean you have to be at your computer, phone, TV or other screens 24/7. When it comes to your eyes, screens can cause problems to even those with otherwise healthy eyes. 

The good news is we can follow some quick & easy tips from the Mayo Clinic to keep those eyes healthy and strong…

Proper Lighting 

  • When reading printed materials or doing close work, try to position the light source behind you and direct the light onto your page or task. 
  • Check the lighting and reduce glare. Bright lighting and too much glare can strain your eyes and make it difficult to see objects on your monitor. The worst problems are generally from sources above or behind you, including fluorescent lighting and sunlight. Consider turning off some or all of the overhead lights.
  • If you need light for writing or reading, use an adjustable desk lamp. Close blinds or shades, and avoid placing your monitor directly in front of a window or white wall. Place an anti-glare cover over the screen.
  • If you’re reading at a desk, use a shaded light positioned in front of you. The shade will keep light from shining directly into your eyes.

Screen Time Breaks  

  • Limit screen time. This is especially important for children who may not make the connection between extended viewing, eyestrain, and the need to rest their eyes regularly.
  • Take eye breaks. Throughout the day, give your eyes a break by looking away from your monitor. Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. 

Computer Tips 

  • Computer use is a common cause of eyestrain. If you work at a desk and use a computer, these self-care steps can help take some of the strain off your eyes.
  • Blink often to refresh your eyes. Many people blink less than usual when working at a computer, which can contribute to dry eyes. Blinking produces tears that moisten and refresh your eyes. Try to make it a habit to blink more often when looking at a monitor.
  • Adjust your monitor. Position your monitor directly in front of you about an arm’s length away so that the top of the screen is at or just below eye level. It helps to have a chair you can adjust too.
  • Use a document holder. If you need to refer to print material while you work on your computer, place it on a document holder. Some holders are designed to be placed between the keyboard and monitor; others are placed to the side. Find one that works for you. The goal is to reduce how much your eyes need to readjust and how often you turn your neck and head.
  • Adjust your screen settings. Enlarge the type for easier reading. And adjust the contrast and brightness to a level that’s comfortable for you.

Proper Eyewear

  • Choose the right eyewear for you. If you need glasses or contacts and work at a computer, consider investing in glasses or contact lenses designed specifically for computer work. Ask your optometrist about lens coatings and tints that might help too.

Air Quality & Eye Drops

  • Improve the air quality of your space. Some changes that may help prevent dry eyes include using a humidifier, adjusting the thermostat to reduce blowing air, and avoiding smoke. If you smoke, consider quitting. Moving your chair to a different area may help reduce the amount of dry moving air on your eyes and face.
  • Use artificial tears. Over-the-counter artificial tears can help prevent and relieve dry eyes. Use them even when your eyes feel fine to keep them well-lubricated and prevent a recurrence of symptoms. Your doctor can suggest which eyedrops might be best for you. Lubricating drops that don’t contain preservatives can be used as often as you need. If the drops you’re using contain preservatives, don’t use them more than four times a day. Avoid eyedrops with a redness remover, as these may worsen dry eye symptoms.

Additionally, I like to keep up with highlights from the week, so here goes: 

Virtual Dissertation Defense: I got to attend a virtual Ph.D. Dissertation Defense of one of my cohort classmates. Congrats, Seth! Another member of Cohort ’16 from Lesley University’s Educational Leadership Program joined the Doctoral club. Three down, five to go! 

Easter Delivery to my mom from Serenity Sage

Surprise Easter Gifts: Traditionally, my husband and I would host an Easter dinner for our families. Since that was not an option this year, I knew my mother was disappointed. So I planned to send her some self-care goodies on Easter. My focus was to support small businesses, and I had been eyeing Serenity Sage in Melrose for awhile. I reached out to the owner and asked her to put together a little basket of homemade smudge sticks, bath melts, and an essential oil stone for my mom. She was more than happy to oblige and delivered it on Easter Sunday. I also had her deliver some goodies to me. 

Unbeknownst to me, my mom had planned to do the same. You know, what they say, like mother, like daughter. My husband and I were surprised by a beautiful little bonsai tree. We love plants and flowers, so this was a welcomed addition to our current array of plants.

Virtual Dance Classes: I kept up with virtual workouts this week, and I have to say, I really like them. I took another class with Kelli, but my adult tap dance class is also now on Zoom. It was so great to see my tap dance fiends from Beat Connx. If anyone is looking for a dance studio in the Saugus, MA area, you should check them out for kids and adults. 

Getting Outside: The sun was shining this week at times, and I took advantage of these moments by getting outside. I had lunch on our back porch, listened to my audiobook, and worked on my art. 

Comment below and tell me how you are doing and what you have been up to!

Stay well,

Dr. MC

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