5 Things To Help You Take A Break From Your Screen

Jacques du Rand 2021-03-22

Ever since lockdown in 2020, we have all spent way more time on our devices than usual.

A device was always in hand - whether it was more Facetime calls, Zoom calls, a spike in online & mobile gaming or even binge-watching the latest TV series - new patterns emerged. And they aren't necessarily healthy for us.

If you have noticed that you're more restless at night, that your eyes feel a bit more "fuzzy" than usual, have increased headaches, back pain or more tension in your shoulders, it could be that you're spending a little too much time looking at screens.

For those that work from home, it is very easy to spend more time than usual behind your laptop without even noticing it. Working from an office you have co-workers that might interrupt you for a coffee break, quick meeting or just to stay "hi". Whereas at home, those interruptions all take place on your laptop. A quick meeting = Zoom. Catching up with a friend/colleague = Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp. Tired = Netflix. All screens.

These days there's little to no break from our connection to technology.

Why Is Increased Screen Time Bad For You?

The extra time in front of the computer can cause eye strain, bad posture and muscle fatigue because you typically hold your body rigid for hours.

According to Esen Akpek, professor of ophthalmology at Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine and an expert in dry eye, not only does extensive gazing - such as that which occurs when reading on a computer screen - dry the eyes, it also starts a vicious cycle. "When your eyes become dry, that reduces reading speed, which further increases exposure time and worsens dryness," Akpek has said, "and this can ultimately lead to inflammation of the eye surface and a self-perpetuating chronic dry eye."

The consequences include eye irritation as well as difficulty focusing.

In order to balance out the increased screen time both on and off the clock, choose physical options over digital ones. (Example: paperback books vs digital, going for a run/walk outside etc.)

5 Things To Do That Force A Break From Screen Time

  1. Drink More Fluids - It might sound silly, but drinking more fluids will force you to take more bathroom breaks. It is probably the simplest and most effective way to get regular time away from your screen. It also gets you up and moving from that sitting position.
  2. Install Screen Time Apps - Yes this is a thing! "Time Out" apps have become quite popular since 2020. They are apps that you can download to your mobile device and computer. You set the time frame, like every 2 hours, and it will interrupt what you're doing every 2 hours for a set period of time (like 5 min, 10 min or as long as you want). There is no going around the app and it literally puts you in a "time-out" from your devices.

    There are a number of different kinds. Some will just black out your screen with a note that says "time for a break" and some are loaded with additional functions such as meditation, stretching or breathing tracks.

  3. Step Trackers - Most step tracking devices have a built-in notification for you to move "every hour" to meet your step criteria for the day. This is a great way to be reminded to move. Use this time not only to get in some steps, but also stretch your body.
  4. Take Lunch - It's all too easy to succumb to eating lunch in front of your computer, but instead, rather have lunch, or make lunch, away from your devices. And don't ‘catch-up' on social media while you're eating lunch. This ‘physical' moment will help refresh your brain (and body) and probably get your creative juices rolling again.
  5. Post Work Break - Don't go to another screen immediately after "work-hours". Force a break to help your mind and body "reset" between your work day and personal time. This is especially difficult to do when you work from home, as the lines are so blurred. Unblur them by forcing a break. Also try not to check up on work in the evening. If you have to, schedule ‘checking blocks' in advance so that you can rest your mind inbetween. "Checking blocks" can be a certain period of time, like 15 min every 2 hours or so.

Even though it sounds counter-intuitive, forcing breaks into your screen time will help elevate your mood, improve your sleep, posture and eyesight and the hours you spend in front of your screen will actually be optimised.

Even if you decide to do none of the above, consciously taking a break every 20 min will have you already feeling better.

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