Screen Fatigue: Another Lockdown Crisis & How to Prevent It

If any of the following sound familiar to you, then you like many others are buried in a pool of LED light, and suffering from screen fatigue.

-Scheduling zoom meetings with your entire family, but spending the first 15 minutes making sure that everyone can hear you.
-Navigating through all the genres on netflix & hotstar and giving up just to watch FRIENDS.
-Posting about the latest Dalgona Coffee trend rather than drinking it.
-Constantly scrolling through instagram every 5 minutes, hoping for some new content.

Considering the entire country is in complete lockdown mode, it doesn’t come as a surprise that our days now start and end with the glow of our phone screens. Whether it’s the new ‘work from home’ requiring us to be planted in front of a laptop, the number of hours we are spending on binge watching netflix just to get through the day, or the numerous news updates about the growing number of cases, the source of it all, is just a screen. Even more so, with physical distancing being a necessity at this point to flatten the curve of COVID-19, our social needs are also being fed to us through our screens. While it’s a blessing that technology has advanced to such an extent, that it is keeping us all connected even amidst a world pandemic, however, we must not forget that too much of anything is good for nothing.

While at first the idea of ‘work from home’ seemed pretty tempting right? You could simply just dress up from the waist up while still being in your pajamas and sit for the next team meeting without spending hours looking presentable. However, as time progressed, did your eyes start drying out or feeling tired? If yes, then you’re probably experiencing something known as ‘screen fatigue’.

Screen Fatigue or Digital Eye Strain is an extremely common condition caused mainly by moving your eyes in a constant repetitive motion, one that occurs when you try to focus and refocus on a screen for long durations of time. The most common symptoms of screen fatigue include blurred or double vision, tired, burning eyes, headaches, pain in shoulders and back and difficulty sleeping. Although they may not cause too much discomfort in the beginning, constant exposure to the harmful blue light emitted by screens can be detrimental in the long run.

How can you manage your screen time?

1. Try the 20/20/20 rule. To prevent your eyes from getting tired due to the constant focus on the screen, exercise them by looking outside after every 20 minutes of screen time, at a distance of 20 feet for about 20 seconds. This will help relax your eyes.

2. Take frequent breaks. This is difficult to do especially when your office as well as your entertainment is just a ‘screen’. However, it is extremely important to take regular breaks to give your eyes and body the much needed rest. Avoid scheduling meetings back to back. Having at least 30-60 minutes between them is helpful. Use these breaks to do tasks that don’t require using your phone, for example, getting done with the household chores, cooking, or catching up with other family members at home.

3. Use technology to prevent technology strain. This sounds strange but in fact, if used correctly can be extremely beneficial. Most smartphones and laptops now offer advanced display settings. By keeping the brightness, contrast and text size of your screens constant, the strain they put on your eyes will be reduced. Another helpful technique is making use of the ‘night mode’ which reduces exposure to excess blue light right before bed, allowing better sleep.

4. Monitor your screen time. While iOS has a built in feature that gives you a weekly report of your screen time, other apps like ‘dinnermode’ and ‘socialfever’ come with other added benefits. In addition to monitoring the amount of time you spend online, they also give you challenges which require ‘no screen time’. Based on Behavioural Psychology principles, winning these challenges allows you to post about them on twitter or challenge other friends, acting as a reinforcement. Moreover, some of these apps also give you an option to meditate while using them, instead of switching between the same 5 apps to kill time.

5. Use screen time productively. The simplest way to do this is to consider screen time in terms of ‘calories’. Just like there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ calories, categorising screen time as good or bad can also be helpful. For instance, 30-45 minutes of connecting with friends to meet your social needs or an hour of writing a report for work or university can be considered a good use of screen time. However, spending 30 minutes lying in bed watching random cat videos can be equated to ‘bad calories’, thus, putting unnecessary stress on your eyes.

6. Try eating meals without the screen. Due to spending over 9 hours in office, the only time one would get to catch up on all the shows on their watchlist would be over dinner. However, being confined to our homes has given us plenty of time to exhaust these watch lists. Thus, giving yourself a break from the screen while eating meals should not be that hard anymore. This will not only rest your eyes but will also let you enjoy the food more. For those living with their families, eating meals together can actually be a great way to bond.

7. Engage in other activities. Although options are limited, there is still a lot one can do at home and off the screen. Picking up a hobby like painting or cooking can be a fun way to utilise your time.

8. Wherever possible, schedule a phone call instead of a video call. This will prevent you from the data overload that may occur while seeing so many faces at once. Moreover, it will utilise your oral and auditory senses, giving you visual relief.

9. Schedule a ‘No screen weekend’. Changing from one pair sweatpants to another and losing all sense of time as every day feels the same, has sort of dissolved the concept of weekends. However, scheduling a day, where you minimally engage in screen time, giving your eyes and back a day to unwind and relax, just like a normal weekend, can be beneficial. Pick a day where you don’t have a lot of work from office or when you know you have enough chores at home to keep you occupied, as it will ease out the temptation of checking your phone.

10. Exercise as you watch or try Eye yoga. It’s understandable that with limited access to the outdoors, physical activity has taken a backseat. However, you can try some basic stretching or home workouts while at home, with your favorite show playing in the background. This will focus your energy and attention on bodily movements, while still allowing you the comfort of some screen time. Or you could try eye yoga which basically involves simple and quick eye exercises that can be done anywhere and anytime, allowing your eyes to rest and rejuvenate. You can check out this link for a few eye exercises.

Facing a global health crisis is not easy and doesn’t come with any rule book, and it is understandable that one would use means of technology to get through it. However, we must remember that one crisis should not be the source of another – the crisis of screen fatigue. With the rumours of lockdown extension, screens are going to be our only gateway to the outside world, thus, it is imperative that we make use of screen time judiciously.

With ‘Online Challenges’ like the plank challenge now trending on instagram, a fun way to reduce your screen time could be to challenge your friends for the ‘NO SCREEN CHALLENGE’. Let us all push ourselves to reduce the nations screen time and protect our eyes!


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