How staring at a screen all day is ruining your health

How staring at a screen all day is ruining your health
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It's practically impossible to get away from screens these days.

From your computer at work to your tablet for online shopping to your TV at home for binge-watching and to your mobile for, well, all of the above (and more)...our lives are ruled by screens.

Excessive use could take a toll on your health so here are five conditions to look out for and how to prevent them.

Eye strain

How it happens: We hate to be the bearer of bad news but the truth is that humans aren't built to stare at the specific type of blue light that comes out of computer screens. As a result of being exposed to this light for countless hours each day, we're slowly but surely hurting our eyes. Throw in the fact that there's also the glare and contrast from these screens and that all just adds up to more stress on our eyes. You'll know you've strained your eyes if they feel dry or irritated and you have other symptoms such as headaches and double vision. Staring at a screen for too long could also give you blurred vision.

How to prevent it: Give your eyes a break every 20 minutes or so. Stare at something in the distance for 20 to 30 seconds, then return to your screen. Also, try to stare only at one screen for most of the day so that your eyes don't have to keep adjusting between your laptop, phone and tablet screens. And, in your office, position your computer or laptop so that there's no extra glare from a window or overhead light, to reduce stress on your eyes.

Back, neck and shoulder pain

How it happens: It's all to do with your posture, really. And when you're sitting in a wrong position for long periods of time, it's going to affect you even more. For example, slouching could lead to chronic neck pain. Sitting for a long time also affects your blood circulation, which means that your body could get stiff after some time too.

How to prevent it: Stand up and walk around every 30 minutes. To ease further stress, stretch your arms and roll your shoulders too. Raising your knee also improves your circulation. Also, sit in a chair with good back support - or get an ergonomic chair if possible - and make sure your computer screen is at eye level or slightly lower.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

How it happens: The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway near your wrist and this condition happens when the nerve that runs from your forearm to your palm is under pressure. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a result of performing the same actions over and over, such as using your mouse or keyboard. Your wrist could swell and you'll feel a pins and needles kind of tingling in your fingers and palms.

How to prevent it: Don't neglect your wrists when you're taking a break and doing stretching exercises. Bend your wrists and move your fingers around often. Make a conscious effort not to use your mouse or keyboard consistently for long periods of time. And, when you slide your mouse, move your entire arm, not just your wrist; this puts less strain on your wrist.

Social anxiety

How it happens: Long periods of computer usage doesn't just affect your physical health, your mental health can be disturbed too. For example, social anxiety could set in, where you're somehow unable to communicate with others in situations that don't involve a screen. So, while you can jabber for hours on a chat app with practically anyone, you're awkward around people in person.

How to prevent it: Don't conduct all your social interactions online. Meet with your friends instead of just chatting online. Group chats might be a fun places to exchange news and gossip but it's not the same as being with friends in person. Even if you don't have the time to meet with them, call them and talk over the phone - it's a far more personal way to chat so don't lose this skill either.

Weight gain

How it happens: You're so engrossed in meeting your deadlines and making sure that your boss sees you hard at work at all times that you spend more time staring at your computer at work than you really need to. And, when you're home, you don't feel like doing much more than sitting on the couch and binge-watching the latest series on Netflix. Or, even worse, you have got into a habit of snacking on junk food at your desk to try breaking up the daily grind. Leading a sedentary lifestyle isn't good for your overall health and it'll also lead to you slowly but surely packing on the pounds.

How to prevent it: Make it a point not to park yourself at your desk for too long. Take a walk around the office (or further if you can) every 20-30 minutes so that you get a much-needed break in your routine and some exercise too. Just make sure this doesn't involve going to the pantry or the cafe next door for a snack. And even though binge-watching is something we all do (and need) on certain nights, try not to make a habit of it or at least fit in a workout beforehand.

This article was first published in Her World Online

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