How to keep your eyes healthy during isolation
Across the world, to slow the tide of coronavirus cases, people are making lifestyle changes they never imagined. 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 periods spent indoors can affect many different aspects of physical health — in particular, the health of our vision.
Making your vision comfortable 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 vision. Since eyes to work harder to focus on near objects and relax when looking at distant objects, increasing time on digital devices can be tiring, particularly when you’re limited to close quarters.
Avoid the symptoms of digital eye strain by applying the 20-20-20 rule.
For every 20 consecutive minutes you’re using a digital screen, look at an object around 20m away for at least 20 seconds. This allows the eye's focusing to relax and refreshes your visual comfort.
The 20-20-20 rule is good for adults and children, who are now spending more time at home watching videos, playing games, 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.
Even small breaks can make a big difference.
Consider extended focus glasses and blue light filtering
Extended focus glasses are the modern equivalent to reading glasses and are beneficial for anyone over 40 yrs old who spends considerable time looking at digital screens. Unlike reading glasses, extended focus lenses cover all of the tasks you do within arm’s reach, from books to your large desktop screen.
Some styles of these lenses even allow you to glance up to see the TV or across your office without having to take them off. To ensure your optometrist selects the right extended focus lenses for you all they need to know are: your main working distance e.g. from your nose to your computer screen; the different tasks around you that you need to see clearly and your prescription. These glasses can be enhanced by the addition of a blue light filter.
Blue-light filters increase contrast for digital screens, research about their effectiveness is split but the work of Professor Arnold Wilkins from Essex University points to their usefulness.
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There are several phone and computer settings (and free apps) that produce a similar effect to that of blue light filter.
Add eye-friendly foods to your diet
It was difficult to find certain products in supermarkets at the start of the current pandemic, however, now everything is accessible again. There are foods that can be beneficial to your eye health when added to your regular diet — in addition to your overall physical well-being.
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 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 fears of the virus and staying at home, but this forced downtime also is an opportunity to focus on creating new, healthy habits — for your vision 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 shared period of isolation and working from home can be a rare opportunity for self-improvement. Take advantage of your time at home to pick up practices that can have a positive effect beyond isolation and long into the future.