Eyestrain seems to be part and parcel of our modern lifestyle where we seem to be staring at screens more and more.

Making changes to your daily habits is the easiest way that you can make changes to relieve stress on your eyes. To find out where the stress is coming from, take a week or so and make a point of taking note how long you work on a computer, your smart phone, tablet, watch TV, etc. You might just be surprised at how much time you spend staring at a screen and how that may be impacting your eyes.

The good news is that just a few changes can make a world of difference to relieve eyestrain and relax your eyes.

Blink more often while working

When we work on the computer (or stare at any screen, really, we don’t blink as often as we normally would. This place extra strain on your eyes as they don’t get the moisture and momentary rest that they need.

Although it takes a while for it to become automatic, you have to “retrain” your brain to blink more often while you are doing an activity that involves you staring at a screen. Do this by making a point of blinking your eyes more often (rather than waiting for them to feel dry and tired). Soon it will become second nature to blink more often.

Take “eye breaks”, not just tea breaks

Besides blinking more, you should also make a point of looking away from your screen and focusing on things that are different distances from you. The 20-20-20 rule can be used, where every 20 minutes you look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

We completely agree that this is difficult to remember, so you can use a timer app on your phone or computer until it becomes second nature. There are quite a few timer apps available for different devices, and you can even make use of the Pomodoro technique to help you get into the swing of things.

The Pomodoro technique involves working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5 minute break. It’s important, though, that you then look away from your screen for those 5 minutes. Take a moment to stretch your legs, make a cup of tea or get a glass of water, or simply climb a flight of stairs to clear your mind before you sit down to work again.

Practice meditation and exercise

Meditation and exercise is a good way to rest your eyes as they are not focusing on one spot at one distance only and, while you are meditating, your eyes will be closed and your eyes will be able to rest in this way as well. Not to mention both of these are good for your health holistically as well!

Even just meditating for five or ten minutes can make a world of difference to your mood and your eyes.

Improve the air quality where you work

One reason for your eye strain could be the air quality where you spend most of your time — especially if that is coupled with working on a computer. A smoky atmosphere can adversely affect your eyes, as can very dry air. If you can, use a air purifier to clean the air and perhaps humidifier to get some moisture back into the air where you’re working. This will already help keep your eyes from drying out so quickly. If staying clear of smoke or a humidifier is not an option, artificial tears can help.

Improve the lighting where you work

Another way to relax your eyes and keep your eyes from straining, is by adjusting the lighting. Rather than using sharp light that can cause glare on a screen (or shine straight into your eyes), use muted light or lightbulbs that are not as bright. If you get too much natural light for part of the day, consider using blinds or curtains for an hour or two to keep you from having to squint in the bright light.

If you have a desk lamp, make sure that it’s a lamp that you can adjust to suit the natural light in the room and whether you’re working on a screen or with books. The same goes for bedside lamps if you love reading in bed.

You may also want to change your bedroom lightbulbs from cool white to warm white. This is already easier on your eyes — and even more so after a long day at work!

Adjust your screen and use a document holder

Your computer, tablet or phone screen need not be set on the brightest setting — in fact, it’s a lot easier on your eyes if it’s not. Play around with the brightness settings on these devices until you find a setting that you can feel doesn’t tire your eyes. You may even find out that you need to change the setting slightly throughout the day as the light changes.

If you work in a program like Word, Excel or the like for most of the day, try setting the page color to a light grey. This is easier on the eyes than “white pages” and is easy to change back before you need to send the document to someone else.

Limit screen time

One of the easiest ways to relax your eyes is to limit your screen time as much as possible. You can even see it as a mini digital detox! Instead of reaching for your phone or tablet as soon as you have a spare moment, spend your free time doing activities that you don’t need a screen for. This is important also when you’re watching TV, for instance. Instead of looking from one screen to another, look away from the screen(s) for a few moments.

Other ways of spending less time looking at screens, are by playing boardgames or building puzzles — or just playing along with the kids (and taking away their screens as well!). You can also make meal times a tech-free time when no one is allowed to look at phones or other screens.

Instead of reading only ebooks, you can also make a point of reading only paper books before bed (which will also make falling asleep easier as you don’t have light shining in your eyes just before bed). You can also start doing hobbies that don’t involve screens. For instance, playing video games is not quite the hobby you should go for in this instance. Rather go for crafts or sport. Have a look around your neighbourhood for hobby clubs that meet up and join them. You may just make a few new friends in the process!

Consider getting glasses specifically for reading or computer use

You can also consider getting eyewear that is specifically for activities like reading or computer use. If you are worried about your eyes and they bother you a lot, it’s best in any case to have them checked just to make sure that everything is okay. You may need reading glasses without realising and getting them can make your life so much better as tired eyes and headaches become a thing of the past!

If you do decide to go to the optometrist, make a list of the activities you do on a daily basis that could be affecting your eyes, as well as any underlying illnesses, medication or supplements you may be taking. These could also have an influence on your eyesight and eyestrain.