Now, more than ever, people are finding themselves stuck at home with the possibility of sitting at a desk or staring at a computer all day. About 4.7 million people in the U.S. alone were already working from home before the COVID-19 pandemic started. Now, remote working has become the norm for millions more.
If you’re in school - including university - you might also be spending more time in front of a computer than usual. Even if you’re just tired of ‘social distancing’ and you’re trying to feel more connected, you might find yourself staring at a screen more often than not these days.
Unfortunately, sitting in front of a computer all day isn’t necessarily good for your health. It can cause problems with both your physical and mental health if you don’t take some precautionary steps to take care of yourself.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of those steps and how you can protect your mind and body if you’re spending more time on the computer than you’re used to.
Pay Attention to Your Posture
If you’re sitting in front of the computer for long periods of time, you might have a tendency to slouch, look down at your screen, lean back too far, etc. If you’re going to be in one spot for a while, it’s important to pay attention to your posture.
One of the best things you can do is to make sure your computer is at eye level so you don’t have to strain your neck to look down. An ergonomic chair can also help you to sit upright and avoid injuring your back.
How can you tell if you don’t have the correct/healthy posture while you’re working or using the computer? You’ll feel it. Your back and neck might start to ache or feel stiff, you may have a hard time sleeping at night because you’re uncomfortable, and you might actually be in pain when you wake up each morning with stiff muscles.
Correcting your posture when you’re sitting for hours at a time can help to alleviate that pain and reduce your risk of negative long-term effects.
Get Up and Get Moving
Another way to keep your body healthy when you’re in front of a computer all day is to take frequent breaks. Not only is it good for your mental health, but it will give you the opportunity to stretch, get your blood flowing, and relax.
If you have the time, try to get outside for a break at least once during the day. There are many health benefits to simply being out in nature, including:
- It boosts your energy and fights fatigue
- It can reduce stress
- It can mitigate pain
- You will boost your immune system
- It can trigger creativity/inspiration
Even if you can’t get outside each day, be sure not to pass on the breaks. Make sure you stand up, walk around, and stretch as much as possible. Try to avoid using other electronic devices, like your phone, while you’re on your break. Instead, talk to someone in your home, read a book for a few minutes, or play with a pet. Anything that will keep you distracted from your computer will help you to get the most out of every break you take.
If you have a hard time reminding yourself to get up and move, you might want to invest in a standing desk. Not only will it force you to move throughout the day but you will have much better posture.
Blink More Often
You probably don’t think about how often you blink in any given moment. But, if you’re starting to notice things like headaches or eye pain after a long day in front of the computer, it could be because your eyes are drying out. Staring at a screen can actually cause you to blink three times less than you normally would. So, make a conscious effort to blink more, and your eyes will be more comfortable.
Additionally, make sure you aren’t sitting too close to the screen. If you do, you might cause eye strain which can lead to some pain and discomfort.
If you wear glasses, it might be time to consider a new brand. Some glasses are specifically designed for people who spend a lot of time in front of a computer. The lenses help to block out the “blue light” that emanates from screens, causing less strain on your eyes. Talk to your doctor about those lenses if you’ve been noticing some irritation with your eyes or problems with your vision.
You probably already know the importance of getting enough water each day. But, it’s especially important if you’re staying in virtually the same spot. Not only will drinking enough water help to give you more energy and improve your focus, but it will also force you to get up and move.
The more water you drink, the more often you will have to get up and take a bathroom break. That might sound a little tedious or even annoying at first. But, if you have a hard time tearing yourself away from your screen, having to go to the bathroom is a great excuse that you can’t ignore.
Do a Detox
We’ve talked before about the benefits of doing a social media detox, even for just a short period of time. But, sometimes that isn’t enough. If you’re feeling burnt out from being in front of the computer, it could be time to step away from screens completely - at least, for a while.
If you’re in front of a computer for work, it can be worth it to your mental and physical health to take a personal day and step away from the screen. Spend as much time outside as possible, or doing activities that have nothing to do with electronics.
Even if you can’t afford to take a full detox, make sure that you’re filling your time away from your computer with things that don’t involve technology. So, don’t immediately go from your computer to your phone or tablet. Take the time to do things you love away from screens. By the time you do have to sit in front of a computer again, you’ll feel refreshed, more energetic, and ready to get back to work.
Set Up a Routine
If you were working in a traditional office setting or going to school in-person, you would have to have some sort of routine in place. That would likely include waking up around the same time each day, getting ready, and going to work.
Your nighttime routine would be something similar, and you would probably end up going to sleep at about the same time each evening.
People who work from home or don’t have a regular work/school schedule might find themselves drifting away from any kind of stable routine. Unfortunately, that can lead to a variety of problems. You might find yourself working late at night to play “catch up” because you slept in. Or, you might have to finish an assignment while the rest of your family is enjoying their evening.
Not having a routine can throw off your work-life balance. That leads to burnout, extra stress, and can even contribute to anxiety or depression.
One of the biggest challenges people face when they’re on a computer all day is staying productive. Setting up a routine for yourself will help you to get things accomplished on the computer during the day, so you can still maintain some balance in your life.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough rest each night should absolutely be a part of that routine you’ve set up for yourself. Aim for 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night in order to feel alert and full of energy the next day.
Sleep is more important than most people realize. It is necessary for everything from muscle repair to cognitive response. If you don’t get enough sleep, your brain will start to be more “sluggish” and your response times won’t be what they should. You might have trouble focusing or concentrating on one thing for a long time.
Unfortunately, spending all day in front of a screen can actually impact the amount of healthy sleep you get. So, be sure to step away from your screen for at least an hour before you decide to go to bed at night. If you try to go to sleep just after sitting in front of the computer, it can take some time for your mind to “shut down” and your eyes to adjust.
If you find yourself in front of a computer screen more than ever lately, you’re not alone. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make your mental and emotional health a top priority. Keep these tips in mind to stay healthy, whether you’re working, connecting with others, or taking classes online. You’ll feel so much better by taking these precautionary steps, and you may even find that you can do more on your computer because it’s easier to focus and stay energized.
This is a contributed post
Image by Unsplash