As I wrote today, I did 40 squats, 40 push-ups, and 20 sun salutations, in between adjusting my dorky lumbar support pillow. I ate a banana, drank a bottle of water, and went for a walk around the neighborhood when I finished. All of those things might seem distant from digital media, but they meant that I was able to get work done at a calm pace without hurting my body. This article will detail healthy practices for computer workers, and how to avoid injury while still being productive.
Personally, I’ve noticed that my eyes, hands, and back especially ache after excessive computer use. Repetitive movements, bright lights, and poor posture all contribute to feeling awful after work. So what can happen to us without these thoughtful practices? The thing is, excess of anything will be bad for the human body. Any sort of repetitive movement or static position, performed daily, without proper stretching, will screw up your muscles. This can range from feeling sore to legitimate health problems.
Combatting Eye Strain
“Red eye” doesn’t just refer to something off the Starbucks secret menu. Computer-induced eye strain can include headaches, blurred vision and twitchy eyelids. Most of this comes from poor lighting choices as we look at our screens too closely, for too long. Computers are made to mimic sunlight by using blue light, which is fine during the day but kinda painful at 1 am. It might even induce insomnia, so it’s just a good idea in general to avoid using electronics at least one hour before bed. If you are working late, get Flux! Flux adjusts the screen light to orange past sunset, giving your eyes a rest.
Speaking of breaks, try to look at something non-digital every twenty minutes as you work. Just like when watching television, people blink less frequently when they work on computers, so make a conscious effort to bat those lashes before your eyeballs shrivel up and roll out of your head! Or get eye drops, or even computer glasses for the especially health-inclined. It also helps if you’re not working under fluorescent lights, sadly hard to avoid in office and classroom settings.
Are you coming to grips with healthy computer use now? Give yourself a hand for bettering your lifestyle! Typing, clicking, and scrolling all day long will definitely cause digital strain, and the following advice will be very handy. Keep your fingernails short to allow for the most natural typing position. There are ergonomic keyboards, although I find it helpful to position my arms at diagonal angles, rather than vertical, to alleviate wrist strain. It’s also good to take breaks, just like with the eyes. If you have some free time, try out these hand and wrist exercises. They’re useful for artists, musicians, and anyone else who has to do detailed work with their phalanges.
Excessive computer use stresses the muscles from the base of the skull to the bottom of the spine. Neck, shoulder, and back pains are probably the most common villains for those who work this way, since most of us have bad posture to begin with. Lots of ergonomic chairs are expensive, but my dorky lumbar support pillow is really useful and can be attached to any cheap chair. You could do away with chairs altogether and get a standing desk. For the true multitasker, there’s also the treadmill desk. I guess you could also balance your computer on top of a normal treadmill. I’m waiting for the waterproof kickboard-desk hybrid, so I can answer emails while swimming laps.
Excessive computer use stresses the muscles from the base of the skull to the bottom of the spine.
Regardless of the desk, it’s important to take breaks while working. Try to get up and move around every twenty minutes or so, and do some exercises, or at least touch your toes a few times. At the end of the day, I find heated rice packs really helpful! I can’t use them while working, because they make it harder to type, but they’re very comforting while watching TV.
With all those planned breaks, it’s convenient to have a timer around, preferably non-digital. The Pomodoro technique works for tons of people--where you work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and then get back to it. Those breaks will give your full body a rest, and maybe you can pound out some jumping jacks to improve blood flow to the brain, and be more focused and healthy, or something. Try keeping a yoga mat by your desk as a constant, threatening reminder to rest and exercise throughout your work day. There are tons of things we can do to improve our quality of life while being productive, and the most important aspect is to build healthy habits. Moving with purpose, breathing, and… it seems like a silly question, but did you eat today? A full meal? Maybe the 3 pm headache isn’t caused by a difficult project, but rather from only having coffee and bagels all day. Oatmeal, yogurt, seeds, fruit--these all make for healthy snacks that you can munch on while going through footage.
Also, not to be a total health nut, but all of us are drinking too much coffee. It’s best to drink an extra cup of water for each coffee, along with the other 64 ounces you should already be drinking. I’ve started limiting myself to one coffee a day, and then drinking green tea the rest of the time, and have definitely noticed fewer caffeine-induced rages towards editing software/myself/the confines of space and time.
Our bodies receive stress from more than just deadlines, and remember: you can’t edit if you’re dead!
Rhiannon McGavin began making YouTube videos when she was 12, and continues to use the platform to discuss art, literature and lipstick. She interned for 2 years at RED Studios in Los Angeles, and currently makes waffles in the film equipment rental office of UCLA between classes.