With the rise of remote work, we have seen a shift in how much time we spend looking at screens. Since remote work requires us to use computers for the majority of tasks and communication with teammates, there’s little we can do to avoid it. In fact, a recent study found 50% of adults surveyed looked at screens for 11 or more hours per day.
Our screens are so ingrained into our lives we often won’t even realize we’re using them. We take breaks from our laptop screens to look at our phone screens, all while our TV screens play in the background. The average American reportedly takes less than 10 minutes to look at their first screen of the day after waking.
But how does this excessive screen time translate when it comes to the impact it has on our physical health? While we can’t always avoid using them in a professional sense, what negative effects should we be looking out for? Here are four key factors to keep in mind.
Staring at a screen affects our whole body. Just some of the potential pains and strains include:
- Hand and wrist strains, cramping, carpal tunnel, tendinitis
- Neck and shoulder pain and strains
- Lower back pain
- Eye strain and dryness
- Posture issues
Take the time to set up your desk so your computer is at a height where you don’t need to look down at it. Get a wireless keyboard, mouse, and ergonomic chair. Speak to your employer about the possibility of coverage for these necessities – many companies have a fund for this.
Working a desk job drastically increases the amount of time you spend sitting down. This leads to a sedentary lifestyle which can negatively impact your health. This could include increasing your risk of obesity, heart conditions, diabetes, and stroke.
If you find yourself sitting for extended periods during the working day, try setting timers to remind yourself to stand up and take a short movement break. If you can, take a walk outside on your lunch break or after dinner before settling in for the night.
Depression and anxiety
It’s no secret that we have seen a rise in rates of depression and anxiety since the modern digital age. But the truth is it isn’t so much our devices themselves that are to blame for this as it is the content we consume on them.
Social media is a wonderful tool for communication and sharing ideas, but it can also drag a person down. Set yourself timers for your social media consumption and weed out the negativity of any apps that you find cause you undue stress. They simply aren’t worth it.
While this has an immediate impact on your mental health, it can bleed over into your physical health too if you become lethargic and sedentary as a result. It could also have the inadvertent effect of causing you to binge on comfort food or inhibit your desire to exercise and live a healthy lifestyle.
The light from your screens reduces melatonin production in the brain, leading to difficulties falling and staying asleep. It can also be difficult to unwind after a long day consuming media because our brains are in overdrive processing all that information. Failing to establish a healthy sleeping routine can affect our physical health and can make us more susceptible to illness. On top of being detrimental to our well-being, this will also have an adverse effect on our productivity levels at work.
Try keeping your screen usage outside of work to no more than two hours and none in the hour directly before bed.
You’ll find that just a few key changes to your screen time can impact your whole life. Practicing mindfulness when it comes to screen time will help you stay on track and reduce the negative health impacts of prolonged use.
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