A young woman sitting on the stairs and holding her laptop in her lap.
If You Have To Look At Screens All Day, Here Are 8 Little Ways To Protect Your Eyes
by Caroline Burke

When you're looking at a screen all day long for work, it can take a serious toll on your emotional and physical health. Computer vision syndrome is real, people, and if you're required to use a computer for work, it can feel unavoidable. Figuring out how to protect your eyes from screens has basically become a necessity for most people, but rest assured, there are several ways to look out for your well-being here.

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), computer vision syndrome happens as a result of staring at screens (computers, iPads, phones, etc.) for extended periods of time. It involves serious eye strain and discomfort, as well as head and neck pain, to name some of the more common symptoms. And while it's not clear how many people actually have this condition, a 2014 report on the subject estimates that somewhere between 45 and 70 million people spend too much time looking at screens, and may very well be at risk for developing the syndrome.

To a certain extent, looking at screens is pretty much unavoidable for many of us. Nearly all jobs these days require you to sit in front of a computer all day, so you can't exactly quit your current job and expect to find something different in this regard. What you can do, though, is take some steps to prevent the symptoms from getting too bad. Here are eight ways to protect your eyes from screens, even if you have to stare at them all day long.

Follow The "20-20-20" Rule

The "20-20-20" rule is a great way to take some strain off of your eyes, according to the AOA.

Here's how you do it: Every 20 minutes, direct your gaze toward something at least 20 feet away from you, and do this for at least 20 seconds. This will force your eyes to shift from short- to long-distance perception, which will allow them to relax after staring at your computer screen.

Make Sure There Are No Reflections On Your Screen

You can't necessarily choose where you work, but you can absolutely position your computer screen so you don't have to deal with things like a glare from the sun, or a weird reflection pattern on your screen, which could strain your eyes even more than usual.

Shifting your screen an inch to the left or to the right could be all you need to lessen the strain on your eyes — and to keep your nosy co-worker from snooping on your open windows.

Opt For Glare-Reducing Glasses

Computer glasses are normal glasses that have an additional, anti-glare tint built into them, similar to polarized lenses. According to All About Vision, these types of glasses generally have "about 60 percent the magnifying power of reading glasses," though you'll need to factor in things like how close or far away you are to the screen you're looking at all day.

Because eyeglasses are so particular for each person's vision, you should definitely go to an eye care specialist to see what's right for you, rather than opting for an over-the-counter pair or ordering them online.

Keep The Screen An Arm's Length Away

Making sure that any screen you use is at least an arm's length away is a super easy way to reduce the strain on your eyes, according to TIME — and it might actually surprise you how freaking often you hold a screen closer than that to your face.

And yes, this includes your smartphone. Keep it away from your face, and your eyes will thank you.

Don't Forget To Blink

This one sounds a little silly, but it's pretty surprising how serious it is. According to The Atlantic, you can literally forget to blink when you're staring at a screen for long periods of time.

So yeah, unless you enjoy the whole zombie look, you might want to remind yourself to blink once in a while — not just for appearances, but to keep your eyeballs healthy and feelin' good.

Adjust Your Screen Settings

Lowering the brightness, switching the color spectrum toward the yellow-ish side (i.e. away from the blue end), and inverting your colors into a black-and-white scheme are all potentially viable strategies for helping your eyes when looking at screens all day, according to TIME.

Try playing around with any of these options, and see what feels best for you.

Buy A Blue Light-Blocking Screen Protector

EYES PC Blue Light Blocking Screen Protector, $56.95, Amazon

Investing in a blue light-blocking screen protector will help keep any harmful UV light from reaching your eyes, thus reducing the strain and discomfort that happens when looking at a screen all day.

This won't solve the problem of your phone, but it will definitely make your work day a little less painful.

Minimize Computer Activities As Much As Possible

This one will depend on what you do for work, specifically, but odds are, there are some things you do digitally that you could do manually, instead.

For example, instead of messaging a co-worker on your computer, go to their desk and talk to them in person. Or, instead of ordering a coffee from the Starbucks app, take the extra five minutes to wait in line (without looking at your phone while you wait), and interact with a barista in person. It'll not only be good for your eyes, but also for your soul.