We spend our lives in front of screens. Between working, FaceTiming with friends, getting stuck into Netflix marathons and of course, endless smartphone scrolling: our research shows that the average adult spends about 34 years of their lives staring at digital devices. This is obviously amplified with the lifestyle changes brought by social distancing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. To say that this takes a toll on your eye health is an understatement: eye strain (or computer vision syndrome), the culprit behind tired eyes, double vision and headaches can really affect our day to day lives. But don’t worry, we’re not about to ask you to lock your phone away and cover up your computer screen just yet.
Looking after your eye care and wellbeing is more important than ever, so our opticians have put together a series of eye exercises to soothe tired eyes, strengthen eye muscles, improve circulation and generally keep symptoms of eye strain at bay. All you need to do is take a break from screens and put your favourite playlist or podcast on - think of it as a quick way of recharging.
A little bit of housekeeping before we get started: these are not exercises to correct vision problems such as myopia or astigmatism. Be wary of someone who promises you that, because the only way to correct these eye conditions is with contact lenses or eyewear. If you’re looking for ways to energise tired eyes, soothe digital eye strain, improve circulation around the eyes and above all, relax: you’ve come to the right place.
Exercises to relax your eyes
1. Blink away
When we’re looking at screens, our blinking is incomplete and less frequent: this could lead to dry eyes. Avoid computer eye strain by blinking consciously, keeping your eyes closed for half a second before reopening. Repeating about 20 times will help the eye rebuild its natural hydration - and you’ll quickly notice your eyes feeling a lot fresher.
2. Get rolling
Sit up, with your back straight and, without moving your head, look to the right. From there, move your gaze slowly toward the ceiling, then left and down. Repeat 10 sets of these eye burpees clockwise and counterclockwise. This exercise particularly helps with eye fatigue.
3. Keep it focused
Stand in front of a closed window, facing outside. Stick a post-it note on the glass in front of you and for 1 minute, switch between focusing on that and something outside - it can be anything: a streetlight, garden chair or just the lawn mower. This exercise helps improve your focus, exercise your eye muscles and soothe eye discomfort caused by computer use.
4. Get palming
Place the palms of your hands slightly cupped over the eyes, without applying pressure. Let your fingertips overlap, resting on the forehead and try to not let any light through and breathe deeply for a minute. This exercise is known as ‘palming’ in the yoga world and it’s not just good for the eyes, but the mind too - so feel free to do it for an extended period.
5. Peripheral vision workout
We recommend using a screen for this one, but you can use a picture frame, too. Place a screen in front of you, like a tablet or computer (you can turn down the blue light, to make it softer on your eyes). Without taking your eyes off it, try to locate and touch all the objects around you (a glass of water, a candle, a magazine). Then, interact with the screen without losing sight of objects in your peripheral vision.
6. DIY eye massage
Of course, a good-old gentle massage is a really effective way of relaxing your eyes after long periods of screen time. Put on some relaxing sounds (like A Soft Murmur, or the ambient sound app of your choice), dim all bright lights and close your eyes. Gently press your fingertips on the closed upper eyelids and make circular movements for several seconds. Repeat this exercise 5 times or more. This massage is best experienced without wearing your contacts.
As you can see, these eye exercises are super easy and can be a great help to relax tired eyes. Don't forget keeping your eye drops or artificial tears handy, as they can truly work wonders on your eyes, by providing instant relief. If discomfort continues and increases over time, speak to your optician about booking an eye test.