Freelancing requires a lot of determination, flexibility and motivation. Often, it also requires a lot of computer use – for contacting clients, pitching for work, record-keeping and often for doing the work itself. But sitting in front of a computer for the hours these tasks require can cause serious problems.
Let’s look at the two major dangers – and how you can avoid them.
A common problem among computer-hogging freelancers is CVS, or Computer Vision Syndrome. It’s caused by your eyes constantly having to cope with glare and readjust as they flick back and forth, aligning themselves with images on the screen and bringing them into focus. When we ask our eyes to perform these tasks constantly for hours at a time, it puts strain on the eye muscles and can cause irritated dry, red eyes, as well as blurred vision, double vision, headaches and neck or back pain.
So how can you avoid or relieve CVS?
Adjust the lighting in your room to reduce glare. This can be achieved by installing a dimmer switch so that you can easily adjust the light levels or simply by acquiring a lampshade. A glare filter for your screen might also help.
Adjust your monitor’s settings for brightness and contrast to make it comfortable for your eyes. Your monitor will probably have a selection of buttons on its underside to open the screen menu and the settings.
Every twenty minutes, look away from your screen at an object some distance away from you -preferably twenty feet or so – or just look around your room for twenty seconds. This is also known as the 20/20/20 rule. It will give your eyes a rest from constantly focussing close up.
Make sure your monitor is around twenty to twenty-eight inches away from you.
The Curse of Constant Sitting
Recent experiments involving nearly 800,000 people showed a 147% increase in the incidence of cardiovascular events (any incident that may cause damage to the heart muscle) in people who spent the most time sitting, compared to those who sat the least, and a 90% increase in deaths caused by such events. The study also showed a 49% increase in death (from any cause) and a 112% increase in the risk of diabetes amongst those spending longest sitting. Unsurprisingly, obesity is also linked to prolonged sitting, and James Levine, Director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, told the Los Angeles Times last year that he believes “sitting is more dangerous than smoking… We are sitting ourselves to death.”
Scientists are still unsure as to the exact causes of these statistics, but the evidence for them is disturbingly strong. Some experts believe there is a link to the accelerated bone and muscle loss, and accelerated ageing, identified in a study of astronauts in the early 1970s; they’ve hypothesised that the effects of prolonged sitting may to some degree resemble those of a zero gravity environment, and so cause the same consequences. Even people who exercise regularly need to avoid prolonged periods of sitting, as it doesn’t seem to be merely an issue of lack of exercise.
To ensure you don’t spend too long sitting:
Break up periods of seated activities (of any type – so not just working on computers, but also taking notes, reading, playing video games and watching TV etc.) with short one to two minute sections of activity.
Stand up when taking buses or trains.
Stand or walk when on the phone.
Consider investing in a standing desk – normal desks which can quickly and easily convert to standing desks are available too, as well as devices to convert your existing desk.
The best tip of all? When you’re about to do a task, stop – and ask yourself: “do I have to do this sitting down?” If the answer is no, then don’t! The less time spent sitting down, the better.
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