“Work from home” they said, “It will be fine” they said. I don’t know about you but there couldn’t be anything further from the truth for me. I don’t have my normal desk set up, I’m missing bits of equipment that I normally use, I have had to cram all the bits I do have onto a tiny desk and I am in PAIN! If you are working from home and having to keep going through the COVID-19 crisis I salute you. I know how hard it is to keep a routine going, to be disciplined, to “go” to work at a certain time. We are all over the place figuratively, and stuck in one place literally. Let’s not forget our children either, many of them are in front of screens a lot more at the moment and they might be suffering as well.
This column today is for you if you have eye strain or neck pain, two of the lesser known by products of the lockdown. First off I spoke to Martin Blake from Specsavers in Santa Ponsa. The shop is closed currently but Martin is available for any kind of eye emergency and also if you need to reorder contact lenses. You can get in touch with him on 625 2180 44 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Really Vicki”, Martin told me on the phone, “ You already knew that you had to be aware of how much strain you could be putting yourself under if you are working for hours at a computer screen. But now in addition, we are face-timing family and friends more, a lot of us have seen our use of social media increase so there is an excessive use of smart devices, or we are overdosing on TV, and people like you who are homeworkers might have back-to-back tele and video conferencing all day”. So, it’s bound to happen then, I ask. ‘Your eyes are not designed to be fixated on a single object for a long period of time so can often become strained when we focus on screens, especially if they are a smaller laptop, tablet or smart device screens."
"While eye strain is uncomfortable, it is not usually serious, and tends to alleviate once you rest your eyes. Symptoms to look out for include eye discomfort, headaches, sore, tired, burning or itchy eyes, difficulty focusing, watery eyes, dry eyes, blurred or double vision, and increased sensitivity to light.’
Add in the other issue, that of my constant neck pain and you can imagine how much fun I am to have around the house at the moment. I spoke to Osteopath Dr Joe Arrindell about it. “Due to your posture at your desk, the forward rounding of the shoulder creates a tension on the back side of the body. If you are in the same position for hours on end you are going to experience pain and discomfort.” Joe is available for online consultations on something called “TeleHealth”, which has been helpful for some of his clients who are unable to travel to see him. Joe and his colleague Amanda are able to work, following all of the hygiene precautions, so if you are in need you can contact him on +34 635 87 06 06 or on his website www.carefourhealth.com
“Don't forget to breathe,” Joe reminds me,” While working sometimes we are so concentrated on our work that we hold our breath! So breathe deep in through the nose, out through the mouth, nothing in the chest and all in the tummy. To feel this, put your hand five fingers width below the belly button, and place two fingers of any hand on that spot, and that is where you should feel the movement taking place, so breathing, your fingers come up and breathing out your fingers go down. Okay?” Okay boss, I will try to remember. “Set an ALARM” he suggests with what I can hear is a smile in his voice. Actually, yes that is a good idea. A kitchen timer, or an alarm on your dreaded Smartphone set for every 30 minutes to remind you to move. At least do that I think to myself.
And finally, there is the question of an ergonomic workspace. A what? Yes, sitting on your sofa with a laptop on your lap with your head tilted down looking at a screen is not good for you. I am not doing that so much, but I am not in an ideal position either. You may not be able to get to IKEA to get a stand up desk, which I would normally use in my office, but I could put some blocks of wood under the little table I am using to make it a more comfortable height or raise up the monitor of my computer to eye level to prevent looking down as much and putting constant strain on the back of my body. If you are becoming fatigued or realise that your productivity is taking a dip then take a step back and check out where you are working from. How can you practically change things to help yourself?
HOME WORKING TIPS
Rest your eyes - Follow the 20:6:20 rule. Use a timer and look up from your screen every 20 minutes and look at something 6 metres away for at least 20 seconds. Looking into the distance helps relax the focusing muscles of your eyes, which in turn reduces eye fatigue. Do some mobility movements as recommended by Dr Joe:
- Bring the hands as far back as possible behind the body and feel a stretch in the upper chest and upper arm region, hold this for a minimum of 30 sec, repeat four times.
- Bring the hands as far up above the head as possible, place one hand in the other to create a pyramid, after also bring the hands as far back as possible. Rotate to the left, bring the right hand to the left side of the chair, from there move the left arm behind and follow the movement with your eyes, you should feel the complete left stretching. Repeat to the other side. Also hold this for a minimum of 30 seconds, and repeat four times in both directions.
- Stand up, use the kitchen counter for a higher level of table, place both hands on the kitchen table and start walking backwards, keep the hands on the table you should feel a stretch in the upper body going through to the lower body. Hold this for a minimum of 30 sec, repeat four times.
Reduce glare - Reflections on your computer screen can cause glare and lead to eye strain. Try reducing this by attaching an anti-glare screen to your monitor, or covering windows to avoid external light shining onto the screen.
Go green - Incorporating the colour green into our home working environment is good for our eyes, brain and wellbeing. Colour expert, author and influencer, Martha Roberts, says: ‘Green has the reputation for being a colour of balance and tranquillity and because it sits in the centre of the colour spectrum it’s the easiest colour for us to see because our eyes don’t need to adjust to it, meaning it has relaxing, soothing and restorative properties.’
Eat well - Look for foods that are rich in eye-health boosting nutrients.
- Spinach and kale, for example, are rich in Lutein, which is essential to functioning eyes.
- Oily fish such as salmon, is packed full of Omega3, which is great for overall health including the eyes.
- Kiwi gives a burst of A, B and C vitamins, which help maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eyes.
- Eggs have antioxidant properties which can reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
- Meanwhile, peppers contain zeaxanthin, which helps to absorb potentially damaging types of light.
Hydrate - It’s also good general health advice to keep your water bottle topped up, particularly when you are stuck indoors, as good hydration can help avoid dry eyes and keep your body feeling good.
Reduce repetitive movement – You need to make an effort to reduce repetitive movement, as this is one of the main causes of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), as well as other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). If you are repeating the exact motion again and again it is going to result in stress, and this is eventually going to lead to injury.
Change tasks regularly. Alter your position, go from an upright sitting position to either reclined sitting or standing.
Don’t overlook the environment setting – Make sure there is as much natural light as possible. Not only this, but you need to ensure there is a variety of light sources, rather than focusing on one overhead light.
SYMPTOMS TO WATCH OUT FOR
While most eye conditions are minor, if you experience any of the following it’s important to get in touch with your local optometrist.
- Redness, pain or discomfort
- Blurred vision
- Flashes of light
- An increase in the number of visible floaters
- Sudden loss of vision