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How to stay healthy while working at a computer


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Do you care about your health?


The possibility to organize my working time freely became priority for me, when I decided to leave an office and join the freelancers. Over the years I spent in the company, I have achieved many goals that were interesting to me, paying a heavy price for that in the form of my eyesight, posture and time. The main lesson that I learned from this is that the success I achieved at the expense of my health was not worth the effort. I have transferred much of my work home, and I set the goal for myself to organize the time that is being spent at the computer, so as to reduce its impact on my health to a minimum.

That was not easy. In this article I will tell you about my way of organizing the right working day, and what should be done to achieve that. The main topic will be the computer and health.

Why do you need this?


First of all, it is necessary for everybody. It would be naive to assume that you can sit in front of the monitor spending plenty of time without any damage for your health. Anyway, sooner or later you will have to pay for that. First of all, it damages your eyesight. The health is our greatest asset, so that one day you wake up and realize that you definitely need to keep it for a family and children. I think there are only two cases when you may not appreciate your health. First - you're designing something so great that you are ready to sacrifice yourself, the second - you're the Terminator. Okay, if you're the Terminator, you really do not have to worry about anything, but in other cases you should take care of yourself.

In addition, it is necessary for your projects. The human body is designed so that the short distances are better than long, and the work-rest routine is more effective.

You probably are familiar with the situation when you take a short break during the project, and then you get back to it again and it is easy to make something that you are going to spend a lot of time. Thoughts come faster to a fresh mind, and something similar is happening at all physiological levels. Of course, this approach requires the skills of self-organization, and I will write about them later. However, today I will talk about tips that apply to your home computer (home office), as it is easier to organize something for yourself first.

So, let us begin!

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Here are some healthy tips to keep your body and mind at their best:

1. Drink more water.
Without over exaggerating I think it is safe to say that most people spend their life in a constant state of minor dehydration. People simply do not drink enough water. Not doing so has a serious impact upon your mood, your perception, and your ability to think rationally, these are all very important things in the life. Most people don't realize however that your body only has a limited rate of absorption you can’t just chug a liter of water and expect that your daily hydration needs have been satisfied, yet I see this happen all the time.

2. Stretch your back and neck regularly.
You would think that sitting in a chair and not really moving would be quite easy on the body, but the problem with that is that the body was made to move and so when we sit for long hours at a time our joints become stiff, our muscles turn to jelly, and our bones crumble to dust. OK, well maybe I'm exaggerating a bit.

Stretching is one of the cheapest and easiest things to do, you don't need to join a yoga class or get dressed in skimpy white exercise outfits or flop around on the floor, although I'm certainly glad that some of you do.

3. Stretch your hands and fingers.
Carpel tunnel syndrome is painful and it sucks, and not being able to use a computer can have a serious impact on your earnings if you are self employed. Take care of those hands. A few simple stretches every day can go a long way to keeping you out of the doctor’s office. Ask Google for a list of proper stretching techniques.

4. Set timers and take breaks
Here is a picture of my timer settings. I find this to be invaluable. Every 45 minutes I take a 7 minute break, during the break I get up, do a couple quick stretches, and walk around a bit, drink some water. Break time goes by surprisingly fast. I personally find that this style keeps me not only awake but also eager to be back at my desk so I can continue with my work.

The trouble is that without a timer I will simply forget to do it. So if you're like me then get yourself a timer and make it a part of your routine.

5. Relax your eyes regularly.
Many people in developing nations have a tradition of doing eye exercises, what they do is they stare at distant objects and try to focus on them, they claim that doing this helps to improve vision. Western medicine says that these eye exercises don't really have any measurable effect upon a person's vision, but Western medicine does agree that relaxing your eyes by focusing on objects at different distances is beneficial for preventing eye strain.

Basically the problem is that when you use a computer you end up focusing for several hours at a point no more than 2 feet in front of you. Eye focus doesn't happen by magic, focus is the result of tiny muscles pulling your eye into a particular shape which brings a certain distance into focus. Now when you spend many hours per day making your eye muscles just focus at just one distance then they can get tired and sore. So change it up, focus on something far away during your breaks, at least 30 feet away from you, or preferably if you have a window in your office then go and stare at the mountains for a while, you might even find doing so to be relaxing.

6. Redshift your computer monitor at night
The idea behind these applications is that your computer screen is essentially a white light-bulb, during the daytime this is fine behavior because the surrounding light is also white, but at night staring into a white light-bulb can cause your brain to think it is still daytime outside and it can also cause eye fatigue over time. When you use redshit it will adjust the light temperature of your computer monitor to a cooler setting after the sun goes down, this cooler color is more similar to natural evening light. This is easier on your eyes and in theory the cooler color also sends signals to your brain that evening has arrived and that it should start getting ready to sleep.

7. Place a light source and cactus behind your monitor.
The idea behind this tip is that, again, your monitor is essentially a white light bulb, and that as you are watching your monitor your eyes have a tendency to roam around and they will at times look above and beside the monitor. If the area above and beside the monitor is dark then this can cause your eye aperture to open wider so that your eye can take in more light and see that darker area better, but then your gaze returns to viewing the brightly lit monitor and this causes the aperture to tightens up again. Repeat this a thousand times per night and you will quickly understand why the muscles around your eyes begin to feel sore. Placing a light behind your monitor brightens that area allowing your eye to make fewer adjustments as it roams back and forth thus causing less pain and fatigue over time.

Cactus always works!
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8. Buy a bigger monitor.
The monitor is the thing you look at for 100% of your computer usage time. It makes a lot of sense that if there is one area where you are going to spend a bit more money this would be it. Having a bigger monitor will not only impress your friends but it will also reduce eye strain, at least in theory. While you are at it, also increase your font settings, there is no point having a huge monitor only to strain yourself with tiny fonts.

9. Go for a walk and get at least 30 minutes of fresh air and sunlight every day.

You may be thinking that I recommend this for the health benefit of sunlight producing vitamin D but actually that is not the case, 30 minutes a day is not nearly enough time to get the proper amount of vitamin D your body needs especially if you live in North America or Northern Europe. If you are worried about vitamin D you should really just take a supplement, that’s what I do anyway.

The reason I say to go for a walk and get some air and sunshine is actually more just for the relaxation benefits. Working with computers can be a stressful activity even if you happen to enjoy the work itself as I do. Regularly taking a step away from the home office and breathing some fresh air and getting a bit of sun can help ease some of that tension, and it may even help you to sleep better at night. Walking is also a good chance to relax your eyes. Regular walking can also keep you regular in the bathroom which shouldn't be overlooked either.

10. Get your beauty sleep.
Sleep deprivation can lead to mental disorders.

Trouble sleeping is often seen as a problem for people who spend long hours working with computers.

For me personally this is something which I've always struggled with. I developed insomnia in grade 9 and I've struggled with it just about every night from then till now.

I wish there was one super tip I could give for getting a good night sleep but I honestly don't think there is one, everyone is a little different and so there is no tip that will work for everyone. One thing that seems to be rather consistent though is that late night computer usage is unhelpful. If you do use your computer late at night then really, please, for your own sake apply tip #6 and install a redshift application on your computer at home. Also, turn off the computer at least an hour before you want to go to sleep.

In addition to redshift and turning off the computer, the other thing that I've found to be helpful is that if I cannot sleep I get up and grab a note pad and turn on a very low watt bulb and as I stand there I write or drawing about whatever comes to mind. After about 15 minutes of that I want to sit down but instead of sitting down I hop back into bed. It isn't a magic bullet but usually this works for me.

11. Wake up early.
You might ask how can a person wake up early if they didn't get enough sleep, well the truth is that it doesn't matter how much sleep you get you can always wake up, but of course you might not stay awake very long if you don't get out of the bed. Your body is a machine and it thrives on consistency. I always try to get up at the same time every day no matter how much sleep I've had.

12. Eat breakfast every day, as soon as you wake up.
I can get a small bowl of cereal ready and finish eating it in under a minute. Your body is a machine, a bio-mechanical engine if you will, and the engine needs fuel. For me personally I find that having a bowl of cereal first thing in the morning is just as energizing as having that first cup of coffee, of course I do also like to drink coffee, but I usually have my first cup around 10 am.

13. Socialize.
Don't be a shut in. Kick yourself out of that plush chair and go make some friends :)!

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Ending notes
With these 13 tips hopefully you can learn that live a healthy life. I know I am going to give these 13 tips a whirl. Along with trying to live by them I will try to eat healthier and workout frequently. Do not get down on yourself, just stop saying you will do it and DO IT. Follow through with your actions. If you do stuff for a while and get really tired, take a break. Just do not let that breaking become a habit. There are enough hours in the day!

I hope some of these tips will be useful for you. If you are already using some of these methods to stay healthy—feel free to share in the comments. If you have anything to add—you are welcome to share your ideas! I’m sure other writers will find them interesting to read.
BumBum 14 march 2012, 14:31
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