|Dealing with Stress at the Computer I
Dealing with Stress at the Computer I
Asthenopia, better known as eyestrain, is a huge problem for the computer
user. There is a cause-and-effect relation between eyestrain and
undesirable symptoms including fatigue, headache, and neck pain -- all
You are not Bruce Wayne. You should not be conducting your day-to-day
operations in a room that resembles a bat cave. Having the right amount and the
right kind of lighting is of paramount importance. Eliminating glare and other
sources of eyestrain will pay dividends in terms of work productivity. The eyes
play an important role in matters of stress. When you are tired or feeling
irritable, it is usually your eyes that give this away.
Your bedroom or home office should contain enough light to enable you to work
effectively. Too much light is as bad as too little light. Whether your primary
source of light is natural light or artificial light is immaterial -- after
all, you may prefer working the owl shift. However, for artificial light, you
may find that fluorescent lights are better on your eyes than are incandescent
bulbs and last longer to boot.
Glare is the big gorilla in the room when it comes to causes of eyestrain. Be
sure to eliminate sources of direct glare, which is light shining directly into
your eyes, along with sources of indirect glare, which is light reflecting off
a computer screen. Some monitors have anti-glare coating as a design feature,
whereas for other monitors, an anti-glare screen may come in handy, provided
that screen readability is not sacrificed in the process. Configuring your
computer to use a light-colored desktop wallpaper can often quickly remedy the
amount of glare.
A close relative of glare is any form of high contrast. This includes
everything from the foreground and background colors of the digital documents
you read to the color combinations of your furniture. Yet lack of color variety
can be a source of eyestrain too. Often there is very little you can do to
remedy high contrast or low color variation, though if you do find yourself
pulling out the paint kit, consider using light pastel colors for your walls,
since occupational psychologists believe these colors have a calming effect.
Few things in the office are more irritating than flickering light bulbs or
computer monitors. Replace all such light bulbs immediately, and have your
flickering or dim monitor serviced or replaced -- though with flickering
monitors, sometimes simply increasing the refresh rate is enough to stop the
flickering. Have a tech-head friend or relative adjust your brightness and
contrast settings appropriately, since there are not any good rules of thumb
that cover all monitors out there. While you are at it, consider setting your
monitor resolution to 800x600, which is believed to be the best setting for the
What you are reading should be legible without undue exertion. Small fonts,
exotic typefaces, and poorly scanned documents are some of the many hassles
that plague the computer user. It is often possible to use an OCR program on
poorly scanned documents to extract text and transform it into something more
It is common sense that facing a monitor directly is the way to go. Rather than
pull out a ruler to measure twenty inches between your screen and your eyes,
just sit as far away from the monitor as possible, with an arm length or so
being the minimum. Opinions vary on whether your eyes should be in line with
the top of the screen, slightly below the top, or slightly above the top. Do
what feels right for you, though most experts (but not all) seem to agree that
looking above the horizontal is more tiring to the eyes than looking below the
Do not tire out your eyes by focusing on any one thing too long. Take an eye
break approximately every twenty minutes for a couple of minutes, and include
some looking into the distance. You may find that cupping your palms over your
closed eyes for a few moments is very soothing. On the other hand, while you
are working, do not arrange your material such that you are continually
switching focus between a near and a far object, since this too can tire out
your eyes. Get a document holder that can be positioned next to your monitor.
Finally, low humidity leads to dry eyes and, in turn, eyestrain. So do air
Look out for your eyes and they will keep looking out for you -- literally.
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