3 Ways to Reduce Screen Strain

There is a reason why screen time is the number one thing to be limited for those recovering from a concussion. There is a tremendous amount of brain stimulation that occurs through focusing and directing the eyes, but also interpreting the information being transmitted. For those without concussion, this stimulation and stress still occurs, we just have a greater capacity to adapt to it. In addition to the visual/ brain stimulation, when we are sitting in front of a computer, looking down at our phones or even sitting for long periods of time looking down at a book (hello students, I see you!) , we experience significant repetitive stress due to the posture we adopt. Over time, our neck and upper back fatigues and patterns of tightness and weakness occur.

Of course, ensuring your spine is aligned and of optimal function is a key piece to minimizing daily postural or screen stress, however there are a few things we can do on our own day-to-day that will offer further support.

20-20-20 RULE

I don’t recall where I originally heard this “rule” but it’s one I offer to anyone working at a computer for long stretches of time, people recovering from concussion or anyone really who notices a change to posture, eye strain or focus. Whether you perceive strain or not in your body, there is an inherent stress that occurs from staring at a screen. The 20-20-20 rule is a reminder that every 20 minutes to glance at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows our eyes to relax, our brain to refocus and most likely will ease the neck and upper back posture.

SPHINX POST

This is a key pose when if done properly can help strengthen the upper back, neck and open the chest. Not for those who have known facet issues (pain when standing or in a back bend), but basically is the needed tummy time for everyone from infants to adults.

Laying on belly, squeezing glutes if needed to protect low back, with arms out in front of you. Slowly inch elbows towards you. At the deepest expression, shoulders will be stacked over elbows with palms down and hands pointing forward. Keep shoulders “down” (avoid sinking shoulders towards ears) and keep chest “open”. Look forward, keeping spine long and breathe. Hold for up to 2 minutes, as long as integrity of posture can be maintained in the upper body and low back does not experience compression.

“Hands-Up Stretch”

When we are rounding forward and/ or looking down at our screens, certain postural patterns emerge. Typically we see a weakening of the upper back and front neck and a tightening of the chest and back neck. The “hands- up stretch” is a gentle way to take pressure off the areas working hard to keep you head up while opening the chest.

Lay on Floor with lower legs supported on stool or chair (hips & knees 90deg)

Head should be neutral so chin is not tucked or pointing to ceiling. You may need a pillow or support under your neck as long as it is not pushing your head forward (since this is what we are trying to reverse). If you do use a support, try using less after you’ve been doing this stretch a few times as you may not need as much.

Option 1: Arms lay flat on floor at 45 deg from side of body, palms up and shoulder blades tucked under and away from your ears.

Option 2: If no stretch is experienced across your chest in option 1, lay as above but with arms in the shape of a football goal post (straight out from shoulders, elbows at 90, palms up and ideally flush with the floor. Avoid joint strain and support your arms as needed until you can relax in that position flat on the floor for the full time. Hold for 10-20 min.

The little things we do on a daily basis can make a big difference. No two people are the same and no one strategy is the solution. Posture is something we can maintain and improve upon but it takes time and practice.

Clear the Clutter

I find that when I’m mentally cluttered (frazzled, overwhelmed, disorganized), my environment (my car, office, home, even my wallet and desktop) often reflects the mess. I’ve wondered if it’s the chicken or the egg…does the mess in my space create the mental clutter or is it the other way around? I’m guessing a little bit of both. What I do know is that the physical clutter is something I can take care of and at times can be easier to take action on. As I find order in my physical world, my mental world calms too.

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As we create systems in our lives from paying bills to meal planning to avoid the after work stress of figuring out dinner, we can find more sustainable order. No one size fits all, but slowly, I’m finding my groove with what works for me. As my physical world is finding more order (thanks to coaching, trial-and-error, reading, podcasts, you name it!) I’m noticing that intentional mental strategies are finding a place in my daily life. It is and will continue to be a work in progress, but so far it is creating a much gentler start to my day so that I am able to show up at my best, grounded and clear for my patients, colleagues, family and friends.

So my challenge to you…

  1. Where is clutter showing up in your life? Mentally? Physically?

  2. Start by cleaning ONE area up.

    Is your computer desktop littered with files you will “get to tomorrow”? If so clear it. Create folders of urgency, importance or those to look at on a “rainy day”. Delete redundant files and empty the trash can. Create a system so that every file you save has a home, action step or its gone.

    Do you have a hard time remembering to do a list of home exercises from your Physio or Chiropractor so instead of doing some, you do none and then stress about not doing them? Pick one. Commit to doing one when you brush your teeth or set your alarm before going to bed. You will make more progress doing a little than none at all, and you will reduce some of the “shoulds” in the list of things you have to do in a day.

  3. As your physical world becomes less chaotic, how do you feel? How does it feel turning on your computer and having a clear screen, or a concise folder of things that require your attention rather than splitting it/ distracting it among noise? How does it feel getting into a car that smells good and is clean? How does it feel knowing where that favourite shirt is when you get that unexpected invite out for drinks?

  4. Once your physical spaces are in order (or before, if it feels right) take a minimum of 5 minutes a day to declutter your mind. Focus on breath, stare at the clouds, centre yourself in gratitude or a greater intention for the day.

“Out of clutter, find simplicity.”
Albert Einstein

Waiting for Perfection

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It’s not hard to see that my blog writing has taken a back burner. I’m one who is full of ideas but when it comes to sitting down and articulating them in a coherent way I blank. To be honest I probably have about fifteen blog posts started, all of which go unposted because they aren’t “perfect”. They don’t flow or I wonder if its a topic that people will actually be interested in. Each week I push “write blog” into the next day, telling myself that “today is the day”. Well, today actually IS the day and I am committing to an improved blog contribution, to post things that I find interesting, hoping to resonate with those choosing to read it. I am going to post them even if they aren’t perfectly worded or are shorter than I’d like.

I’ve been reflecting on things I follow-through on, what unfinished business causes me stress, and where I’m being incongruent. I encourage my practice members all the time that it doesn’t have to look perfect to produce progress. Something is most often better than nothing. Of course in those circumstances I’m usually referring to healthy eating, stretching/ strengthening or overall physical activity, but doesn’t this apply to anything we are working to achieve? If I had written a page a day for the past year I would have 365 days of content. Small incremental (sustainable) steps are just as powerful (sometimes more) than a giant leap of commitment.

What things have you been “putting off” or procrastinating on? Is it no longer a goal? If so maybe let yourself off the hook and rewrite your next step. Is it because you are waiting for circumstances to be perfect or for it to be easy? If so, give yourself a firm deadline and a small incremental step to take. Once you start you will find that the hardest step to take is the first one.