As a society, we are incredibly lucky to have the technology we do during this pandemic. It has given us the luxury of switching our work, education, business — pretty much our entire lives — online for the moment.
Even though we are stuck at home for the present and foreseeable future, there have been constant posts and articles about activities we can do digitally to occupy us. For adults and kids alike, there are many free options at our disposal to make quarantine bearable, if not fun. J.K. Rowling created a “Harry Potter At Home” website with activities, games and quizzes for kids and, let’s be honest, adults too.
NASA also created an “At Home” website with educational resources and podcasts for kids to engage with. Professional chefs are sharing live cooking videos on Instagram. The Internet Archive created The National Emergency Library, releasing millions of free books to the public. Unique classes from Ivy League schools are available for free online.
With this myriad of activities and workshops, we now have access to comes excessive eye strain since we are constantly looking at our computer, phone or television screens. While our brain might strengthen with the resources now free to us, our eyes will weaken due to constant screen time. It is important we practice good eye care now so our eyes do not suffer any long-term damage.
Since the start of remote learning, you might have begun to experience some headaches, blurry vision, dry or itchy eyes or possibly even double vision. These symptoms signal serious eye strain is occurring.
Good eye care starts with a good night’s rest. Many studies have shown that those who look at a screen before going to bed have a poorer night’s sleep than those who do not. This is because the backlight on computer or phone screens interferes with the body’s production of melatonin. If you had constant screen time all day, try to eliminate any more at night. If you must use your screen at night, try using a blue light filter on your devices, such as flux, to limit your screen’s effect on your sleep. Put your phone or laptop in another room if you have to so you can eliminate the temptation to go onto it before falling asleep.
Of course, the best remedy for decreasing eye strain involves limiting screen time, but if this is not a viable option you can alter how you use your devices. Keep your computer screen about an arm’s length away from your face, with the center of the screen slightly below eye level. Use spare books to prop your computer up if your work surface is not tall enough. In addition, keep your room well-lit and alter your screen’s brightness so it does not look brighter or darker than the room. Glare from windows can strain your eyes as well so try to move out of the light or close your blinds a little while you work. You might also want to try increasing the font size of the text you read so your eyes do not have to work harder with a small font.
Be sure to take regular screen breaks during the day. Every two hours get up and move around for 20 minutes to give your eyes a rest and to keep your body active. While you are working, look away from your screen every 20 minutes for about 20 seconds to give your eyes a slight rest. This doesn’t mean that you should look at your phone instead. Look at an object a good distance from you to let your eyes adjust to a different distance than your screen is to your face.
Try to blink frequently as well to retain a good level of moisture in your eyes. If you have glasses specifically for reading or computer work, use them! They will make a world of a difference. If you do not have glasses, try using eye drops periodically so your eyes do not dry out from decreased blinking during computer work. Go a step further by using a humidifier if you have one to maintain a good level of moisture in the air.
Beyond these tips, eye specialists recommend several simple eye exercises to refresh and alleviate eye strain.
One exercise involves eye-rolling. Keep your eyelids closed or opened as you roll your eyes around to the left, up to the sky, down to the right and then down to the ground. Repeat about 10 times clockwise and counter-clockwise to strengthen your eyes.
Another strengthening exercise involves writing out words with your eyes on a blank wall about eight feet away for intervals of 20 seconds. For eye relief, you can press your fingers gently on your closed eyelids, holding for a few seconds and repeat this 10 times. Another good form of relief involves palming; rub your hands together to get them warm before laying your palms over closed eyes. The warmth from your hands will help relax them.
Start practicing these recommendations now to keep your eyes feeling strong and rested.
Maria Marabito is a third-year English major with a minor in literatures and diverse cultures. MM883631@wcupa.edu