COVID-19, digital devices and our health |

COVID-19, digital devices and our health

Submitted by Kimberly Parker

According to the World Economic Forum, 2020 will likely lead us to a secondary epidemic of psychological burnout, poor emotional wellbeing, stress and eye strain. For many, a significant amount of each day is now centered on video calling. Sitting in front of a laptop screen for significant periods of time may result in dry eyes or eye pain, exhaustion or fatigue, blurry vision, headache, and other neurological problems.

Continued focus on digital devices may lead to long-term physical damage. More and more people are complaining about backache and migraines. Late-night digital sessions are impacting sleep.

Sleep issues are often triggered by using digital devices too close to bedtime. This phenomenon has to do with the reality that blue light brightness from mobile phones, electronic devices, and laptops activates the brain. To prevent the effect of bright light and to achieve sleep balance, you should quit using your device at least 30 minutes before retiring for the night.

Spending hours on a screen at home or in a work environment impacts movement and an individual’s level of exercise leading to increased physical inactivity. Intensive use of video call meetings encourages a sedentary lifestyle which is proving to have adverse health effects such as high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular complications, and diabetes.

No one is immune to digital fatigue, but the good news is there are things you can do to reduce the impact. The American Optometric Association recommends to follow the 20-20-20 practice when you are on a digital platform for a significant period of time. Take 20 seconds to look at something at least every 20 feet away every 20 minutes. By taking breaks, you can relieve pressure on the eyes and minimize eye strain.

Other suggestions include focusing on your breathing to ensure you are in a relaxed state. Take a deep breath before you start. When on screen, keep your facial expressions relaxed. Smiling evokes positive emotional energy that can be felt across the screen. Try not to scowl or frown when you are intently staring your screen.

While many want to see a “gallery of faces” when they are online, be aware that it takes much more energy to focus on a large group. You will lesson your level of exhaustion by utilizing the speaker view.

Stop multi-tasking. You may feel that you need to read emails and complete tasks while online to keep up, but it actually has a negative impact on your mental health and is shown to reduce productivity. Enforce a 50-minute hour meeting and use the other 10 minutes to organize notes, respond to requests, etc.

Be thoughtful of your energy level. Hydration is very important. Keep water handy. Don’t reach for unhealthy snacks, but keep nutritional options within reach. Eventually when things settle down and communities open up, the number of video calls will likely slow down. Until that point it is important not to underestimate the impact that these calls are having on your physical and mental state.

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