Intense eye aches used to invade my workday. I took breaks, but by that time, my eyes were so strained and fatigued that I couldn’t focus on anything. All I wanted to do was close my eyes and shut out the world. Nothing short of the complete darkness and comfort of a cold compress over my eyes eased my pain. And at that point, it usually took several hours to feel better. That’s not how I wanted to spend my workdays.
As it turns out, I have “computer vision syndrome” — eyestrain caused by staring at a computer screen for long periods. According to various studies, this syndrome is responsible for 50 to 90 percent of all eye trouble among people who work all day at a computer screen. Although I had already taken a key first step toward easing the symptoms of this syndrome by wearing glasses when I work on the computer to enlarge the text and reduce the glare, these horrific eye aches continued to invade my work space.
To avoid popping pain pills on a daily basis and risking addiction or building resistance to them, I pursued holistic options to help my eye problems.
First, I sought the advice of my acupuncturist, who recommended that I take frequent breaks from the computer, including at least one a day to drink chrysanthemum tea. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been using this flower, which is naturally beneficial for eyes, for centuries. The tea break is soothing and relaxing, to boot, which helps intersperse balance throughout a hectic work day.
I admit that I don’t take routine breaks to drink the tea, as advised, but when I sense the slightest signs of impending eyestrain — including dryness, blurred vision, eye irritation or headaches — I stop working, step away from the computer, and make myself a cup of chrysanthemum tea. Within the hour, I feel better and can get back to my regular work schedule.
Since my work requires sitting at a desk and using a computer for long stretches of time, I have taken steps to create an eye-friendly office. Here are some steps you can take to ease the strain on your eyes:
· Adjust the monitor: Position your monitor directly in front of you at about 20 to 28 inches from your eyes (generally speaking, as long as the monitor is an arm’s length distance away, you should be fine). Keep the top of your screen at eye level or below so that you look down slightly at your work.
· Reduce the glare: Bright lighting and too much glare can make it difficult to see objects on the screen, which strains the eyes. Place your monitor so that the brightest light sources are off to the side, at a right angle to your monitor. Consider turning off some or all of the overhead lights and use an adjustable desk lamp instead. Close blinds and shades and avoid placing your monitor directly in front of a window or white wall. Use a glare-reducing screen to minimize glare from overhead lighting. Adjust the contrast and brightness on the monitor to a level that’s comfortable for you and ensure the font is large enough to easily read.
· Clean the monitor: Wipe the dust from your computer screen regularly. Dust on the screen cuts down on contrast and may contribute to glare and reflection problems.
· Position your keyboard properly: Place your keyboard directly in front of your monitor. If you place it at an angle or to the side, your eyes have to focus at different distances from the screen, which tires the eyes unnecessarily.
· Keep reading materials close: Place reading and reference materials on a document holder beside the monitor. They should at the same level, angle and distance from your eyes as the monitor to prevent your eyes from constantly refocusing.
I also have adopted some eye exercises and meditation routines to help decrease my eye aches. Experts recommend taking the following steps:
· Exercise your eyes: Every 20 to 30 minutes, look away from the computer screen and focus on a distant object for five to 10 seconds. Or, look at a far away object for 10 to 15 seconds and then a nearby object for 10 to 15 seconds. Go back and forth between the two objects 10 times.
· Meditate: Rub your palms quickly together until they feel warm. Cup them over your eyes, feeling the heat emanating from your palms. Slow your breathing and sit quietly in this position for five to 10 minutes.
· Blink: Every 30 minutes, blink 10 times, closing your eyelids very slowly as if falling asleep. Blinking produces tears that can help moisten and lubricate your eyes, thereby preventing eye dryness and aches.
· Take breaks: Try to give yourself a five-minute rest from the computer screen every hour. Do other work, such as phone calls or filing, during this time. Try to stand up and move around at least once every hour or so.