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As a freelancer, you likely spend most of your time staring at a computer screen. Unfortunately, too much screen time can lead to something called digital eye strain.
Also known as computer vision syndrome, digital eye strain can cause blurry vision, redness, and dryness, among many other symptoms. If left unchecked, digital eye strain can also cause frequent discomfort, and it may even negatively impact your productivity.
The best way to avoid digital eye strain is to spend less time in front of a computer, but that’s not a viable option for freelancers who work online. If work obligations keep you from limiting your screen time, practicing good eye care habits can keep you feeling good while working as a freelancer.
Keep reading and learn how to protect your eyes from digital eye strain as a freelancer.
How Freelancers Can Avoid Digital Eye Strain
Follow the 20-20-20 rule
Staring at a computer screen for hours at a time can cause eye strain, headaches, and even neck pain. To avoid discomfort, experts recommend following the 20-20-20 rule. According to this rule, you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. You can also get up and walk around your room to relieve fatigue.
If you tend to lose track of time when working, set an alarm on your computer or phone so you remember to take a break.
Did you know that we blink less often when we’re reading, watching, or playing on a digital screen? During these non-blinking phases, tears coating the surface of the eye evaporate quickly, resulting in dryness and discomfort.
To minimize your risk of developing dry eye when working on your computer, blink 10 times slowly as if falling asleep, i.e., very slowly. Do this exercise every 20 minutes to help refresh your eyes.
Exercise your eyes
Another way you can relieve digital eye strain when doing freelance work is by exercising your eyes. The easiest way to do this is by rolling them, as this helps release tension in your eye muscles. Try rolling your eyes three to five times every hour to relieve digital eye strain.
You can follow up each set of eyerolls with the focus change exercise to further relieve digital eye strain. Start by holding one finger a few inches away from one eye. Focus your gaze on that finger, then slowly move it away from your face. Look at an object farther away, then focus on your finger again. Bring your finger back closer to your eye, then look at an object farther away. Repeat this exercise three to five times every hour.
Maintain good posture
Good posture is important when it comes to proper eye care. When you sit down in front of your computer, try to keep your feet flat on the floor and your wrists slightly elevated, rather than resting on your keyboard. Your computer monitor should also be positioned such that it’s slightly below eye level. This is because looking down is easier on the eyes than looking straight ahead or upwards.
You should also try to sit up straight when working on your computer. Slouching can create tension in your back and shoulders, which can restrict blood flow to your eyes and, in turn, cause vision problems.
Adjust your computer’s display settings
Make your computer more eye-friendly by adjusting the following display settings:
Brightness – Your screen’s brightness should match that of your environment. Otherwise, your eye muscles would have to work harder to focus.
Font size – Your font size should be big enough that you don’t have to squint to read what’s on your screen.
Contrast – Black text on a white background provides optimal readability. In contrast, white text on a black background causes eye strain, so stick to dark-on-light combinations.
Adjust your room’s lighting
Proper room lighting also matters immensely when it comes to preventing digital eye strain. If your room is too bright or too dim, you risk straining your eyes to see what’s on your screen. To adjust room lighting, try closing or opening your curtains, shades, or blinds.
Use artificial tears
Dry eyes are a common complaint from people who primarily work on computers, such as freelancers. If you suffer from dry eyes, over-the-counter artificial tears can provide quick relief from digital eye strain. Also known as lubricating eye drops, artificial tears help rewet your eyes to relieve discomfort. Generally speaking, artificial tears are safe to apply as often as you need to.
Use proper eyewear
Even if you have no history of sight-threatening eye conditions, your vision can change with age. If you find yourself frequently straining to see what’s on your screen, consult an eye care professional to determine if you need to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses that are specifically designed to meet the unique visual demands of computer use. Using eyewear that fits your needs could help you do your work as a freelancer more efficiently.
Eat eye-friendly foods
Certain nutrients found in specific foods are essential for keeping your eyes healthy and your vision clear. These nutrients include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, and lutein. Omega-3 fatty acids are mainly found in fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, while vitamin A can be found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and other orange foods. Lutein, on the other hand, is present in many green leafy vegetables, such as kale, parsley, and spinach. Try to incorporate these eye-friendly foods into your daily diet to help keep your eyes healthy.
Don’t forget to drink water, too. As your body loses water throughout the day, so do your tear ducts. This can make you prone to dry eyes, red eyes, and other digital eye strain symptoms. To stay hydrated, aim for six to eight glasses of water each day to replace normal water loss.
Get your eyes checked regularly
Underlying eye conditions can make you more susceptible to digital eye strain. Therefore, it’s important to get your eyes checked regularly by a medical professional. If you already wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, make sure to get an eye exam every year.
Even if you have healthy eyes and no vision problems, it’s important to get your eyes checked every year or two. Doing so will help you keep a lookout for potential eye issues before they become bigger problems.
Spending less time on your computer is the best way to avoid digital eye strain. But if you work remotely as a freelancer, that may not be a viable option for you. The good news is there are many ways you can avoid digital eye strain, such as taking breaks, maintaining good posture, and using proper eyewear. Follow these eye care tips and you can relieve and even prevent digital eye strain while working for yourself as a freelancer.
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Cover image by Claudio_Scott
Divina Sobrepeña is a content writer at Lens.com. She specializes in consumer product-based writing, but she also likes to cover health and wellness topics. When she isn't busy writing, she likes to read manga, watch TV shows, and play with her dogs.