How to keep your eyes healthy during isolation
Across the world, people are making lifestyle changes they never imagined to slow the tide of coronavirus cases. A few months ago, concepts like social distancing, isolation and lockdowns would have seemed too strange to be true.
As we temporarily adapt to the situation around us, we should keep in mind our mental and physical well-being. Long-term periods indoors can affect many different aspects of physical health — in particular, the health of our eyes.
Improving eye health during isolation is simple with practices like frequent screen breaks, utilizing different glasses and adding certain healthy foods to your diet.
Incorporating and maintaining these habits can ensure eye comfort in the present and long into the future.
Take screen time breaks
Long periods indoors can be difficult for your eyes. Since eyes tend to work harder to focus on near objects and relax when looking at distant objects, increasing screen time can be tiring, particularly when you’re limited to close quarters.
Too much screen time can cause digital eye strain, also called computer vision syndrome. Temporary symptoms can range from nagging to painful: Blurry vision, headaches and dry eyes are all common signs.
Avoid the symptoms of digital eye strain by utilizing the 20-20-20 rule.
For every 20 consecutive minutes you’re using a digital screen, look at an object around 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This allows the eye muscles to relax and refreshes your visual comfort.
The 20-20-20 rule can even help children, who are more prone to digital eye strain now that they are home watching videos, playing games and FaceTiming friends, and, of course, attending classes online.
Our lives are increasingly digital — even when we are home-bound, but even a slight reduction in screen time can benefit people of any age.
Adding longer breaks to frequent 20-second breaks can be mentally and visually comforting. Instead of switching from computer to phone to television, try reading a book or playing a board game for five or 10 minutes.
Even small breaks can make a big difference.
Consider blue light or computer glasses
Blue-light-blocking glasses, or computer glasses, may be beneficial for anyone who spends considerable time looking at digital screens. These glasses block the part of the visible light spectrum responsible for most eye discomfort: high-energy visible (HEV) light.
True blue-light-blocking glasses don’t allow HEV light to pass through their lenses. This results in increased visual comfort and less potentially damaging rays entering your eyes. Since the HEV light from screens mimics sunlight, our brains can interpret it as a sign that we should be awake.
This is the primary reason why experts recommend limiting screen time at night, and why wearing blue-light-blocking glasses before going to bed can have a positive effect on your sleep cycle.
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There are several phone and computer settings (and free apps) that produce a similar effect to that of computer glasses. These will not affect the light from outside your device, but you could still experience positive results.
Add eye-friendly foods to your diet
It can be difficult to find certain products in supermarkets during the current pandemic. However, incorporating even one or two of these foods into your regular diet can be beneficial to your eye health — in addition to your overall physical well-being.
Relying heavily on canned, packaged and heavily processed foods can be tempting due to the convenience of a long shelf life.
While a limited amount of these foods is alright under most circumstances, the human body is not made to solely function on them for lengthy periods of time. Mixing in some of the following healthy and whole foods could benefit your eyes, body and mental health:
- Foods with high levels of vitamin E: Almonds, hazelnuts, whole-grain cereal and spinach.
- Foods high in other antioxidants: Artichokes, blueberries and dark chocolate with high cacao/cocoa content.
- Foods with high levels of omega-3s, EPA and DHA in particular: Fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and tuna. Flax seeds can be substituted as a vegetarian option, although they lack EPA and DHA.
Eye health to last a lifetime
Feelings of anxiety and uncertainty are very normal when confronting virus fears and staying at home, but this forced downtime also is an opportunity to focus on creating new, healthy habits — for your eyes and the rest of your body.
Staying mindful of digital screen time, making small changes to your diet and trying new things can add new aspects of well-being to your life. This current shared period of isolation can be a rare opportunity for self-betterment.
Take advantage of your time at home to pick up practices that can have a positive effect beyond isolation and long into the future.