How to tackle eye strain

Posted on Jul 19th, 2010 | Productivity

When you spend the majority of your working day staring at a computer screen, or reading pages of hard-copy text, your eyes can start to feel the strain. Is this just a drawback of desk-based work? Or is there something that can be done about it?

Since I’ve made the switch to a form of work which requires intense scrutiny of close-up objects, my eyes have suffered as a result. I’ve passed eye-tests with flying colours, varied the contrast of my computer screen, altered the height of the monitor and done my best to ensure my eyeballs are rested during the day. Yet my pupils continued to feel the strain.

The logical next step was to see an eye specialist. So I started the (eye)ball rolling. I saw my GP and got him to put through a request for an appointment with an ophthalmologist. A couple of weeks later I got a letter saying that the request had been made. A couple of weeks after that I received a letter saying the request had been successful and that I would receive another letter in two weeks time giving me a time and date. That letter finally came and informed me the appointment had been made for a few months down the line.

A few months can be a long time in optometrics.

So, in the meantime I had to find ways of looking after my eyes and lessening the strain upon them. And through my research I discovered a number of methods which, when put together, actually did work. I hope the following information will be useful for anyone suffering similar problems.

The Workout: Eye Exercises.

One of the main reasons why we suffer from eye strain in the workplace is because our eyes aren’t getting enough exercise. In the history of humanity, it has never been a natural trait for us to stare at an object just a meter away for such long periods of time. Our eyes aren’t biologically developed to handle such a scenario. It’s like sitting still for too long a period – it leads to stiffness, and ultimately muscular degeneration.

This is where eye exercises come into play. Dumbbells need not apply.

Here’s a selection of possible exercises for you try out:


Pretty simple. With your head still, switch your vision back and forth from far left to far right. Like watching tennis without the swivel of the head.


As above but… up-and-down.


As above but…


Roll your eyes 360 degrees clockwise and then anti-clockwise.

Scan the horizon

Let your eyes follow the lines of a door frame in the mid-distance or further away if you can. Whatever inanimate objects are in your vicinity follow their outline with your eyes. It could be the roof of a building or a series of picture frames. The important thing is to make your eyes follow their outline and keep them moving.


Apparently when studying a computer screen we blink less than we usually would. Therefore… have a crazy blinking session from time to time.

These exercises can be done at various times of the day to suit you, so make the most of your ‘natural breaks’ during the working day. The number of repetitions is down to you, but generally the more the better.

20, 20, 20 rule

This is a theory that for every 20 minutes of computer activity, you should spend 20 seconds gazing into the distance about 20 yards away. I received limited benefit from this method, but it may be worth a try.


If you spend your breaks outside of the office, as I do, then the glaring sun will do little to ease your eyes during the interval. Put on a pair of shades. (And after that, learn how to suck eggs.) Wearing shades also allows you to perform eye exercises during your break without looking like some discombobulated eye fiend.

Eye supplements

I once took an eye supplement a long time ago but didn’t really feel the benefit. Nonetheless, I thought I’d give them another go (I still had some left and they were about to go out of date). To my surprise they actually did help! Before you all cry “PLACEEEEBOWW”, I didn’t have the slightest belief that they would actually help.

The particular brand I tried was Visionace ‘Healthy eyes and good vision,’ but there are plenty of alternatives on the market. The science behind them is that certain vitamins and minerals are particularly active in maintaining eye health (such as zinc, and vitamin’s b and c). However, research is somewhat conflicting on the effectiveness of such eye supplements and they also tend to have unnaturally high concentrations of vitamins and minerals, which can have possible side effects.


These are all methods which have personally helped me, but there are a whole range of other eye exercises and contributing factors which I haven’t discussed because they didn’t personally impact on me. These may include the glare of a computer screen or ergonomic considerations.

Also, using the Pomodoro Technique can be very useful here by breaking up your working day and allowing you 5 minutes rest per 25 mins focused work, offering you ample opportunity to rest your eyes in a disciplined manner.

Your eyes are two of your most important tools, it’s important to look after them.

When not rolling his eyes Mel Dixon is a freelance copywriter and occasional guitarist.

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Written by Mel Dixon

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