5 Reasons Why You Should Give Your Eyes a Break

I’ll Be Taking a Break, and You Should Too

What element of training do most beginner athletes miss?  It’s rest.  It doesn’t come naturally to any of us.  Some runners have a harder time learning to rest than they do training to run.  But think about it: could you train for a marathon without resting?  Of course not.  Even after your lightest workout you would still need rest.  Professional athletes reduce their training schedule several days before a race.  And no one turns around at the finish line to run it again!  But sadly, this is what many busy professionals ask their eyes to do every day.

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Summer Skies Relax Your Eyes

Here’s an interesting occurrence in the eye care industry: during the summer, eye doctors have few children with cases of eyestrain.  Why is that?  Because kids don’t focus their eyes as much during the summer break as they do when they’re in school.

It’s like clockwork: eyestrain complaints rise near the end of school when exams and standardized testing occur, and again when school starts in the fall.  But it’s so common for kids’ eyes to recover in the summertime that I tell parents glasses for eyestrain may sit on the shelf all summer long.  And that’s ok.

Eye Strain Is Really Muscle Strain

What many of my young patients (and their parents) don’t realize is our focusing systems work using muscles like those in our arms and legs.  Most people would not expect their legs to work for two whole marathons in a row.  And we can’t expect our eyes to continue the hard work of staring at a screen, small print, or other visually demanding items without resting.  This is especially true if we perform the same visual tasks every day, week, and month.  Otherwise these common vision problems can start or get worse:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Reduced focus
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry eyes
Why Take a Break?

There are several good reasons to give your eyes a break:

  1. Giving your eyes a break helps avoid eyestrain: I tell patients their eyes need 20 seconds of rest for every 20 minutes at a computer or other near task. But this is a minimum.  If you’re able to get away on vacation, you’ll find your eyestrain bothers you less.  Just make sure you unplug, relax, and truly take a break from your work.
  2. Taking a break from focusing actually helps you build focus: Productivity experts have been saying this for decades. Whether you’re writing the Great American Novel, painting the next masterpiece, or simply plugging away at that pesky project, nothing renews your focus like stepping away and focusing on something else.  This is true for your eyes too.  Your focusing reserves will be renewed when you’re not punishing your eyes daily.
  3. Focusing on other things actually makes you smarter: It’s true. It’s been proven that a stroll through the woods or visiting an art gallery increases your intelligence.  This is because as you view organic forms such as tree branches, leaves, or the strokes of a paintbrush, your mind’s perception and processing of those forms keeps it alert, active, and flexible.  Maybe this is why I sense the world changes for the better every time I walk into the woods.
  4. Taking a break allows you to spend more time with people you love: As a component of living the visual lifestyle, I have written before about making a list of those people counting on you; the people who need the best you.  In addition to renewing your physical focus, a break that allows us to reconnect with our loved ones gives us renewed reasons and motivations to stay on target.
  5. Finally, taking a break makes you more productive: I also wrote about how living the visual lifestyle makes you more productive. Part of being productive is removing distractions, and there are few times we’re more distracted than when our eyes aren’t working or feeling right.  Efficient focusing and clear, comfortable vision allows more quality, distraction-free work.

Although giving your eyes a break is only a small part of living the visual lifestyle, it’s important.  Consider planning a short break today, and a longer break in the days or weeks to come.

If you’re a regular reader, thank you.  I hope your journey to living a full visual lifestyle is well underway and you’re as excited about the possibilities as I am.

I will be taking my own break this coming week.  As a professional, I want to follow my own advice as closely as I can.  It’s unfair for me to ask you to do anything I can’t do or don’t believe in.  So, although I usually post twice a week, I will not be posting at all next week.

I will return to writing the week after next.  Because I firmly believe in the five reasons above, I expect to return with a renewed focus, meaning both my eyes and my mental game.  I look forward to reconnecting.

Question: You’re reading this on a screen.  How many minutes has it been since you gave your eyes a small break?  How long has it been since you gave yourself an extended break?  Feel free to comment here or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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