Ways to Address Your Stress

by Mary Mageau -

Our long history of evolution – from that of being a hunter gatherer to becoming a global citizen connected through the internet, has brought both benefits and burdens.

We have experienced many mental and physical changes during our long history and our eyes, often described as the windows of the soul, have been affected as well. 

Our ancestors all possessed very sharp long distance vision, essential for spotting game or alerting them to dangers. But in our current left brained, electronics based lifestyle most of our work and activity is carried on within an arm’s length. 

From early man’s unrestricted eye movement out of doors with wide fields of view, to us overworking for hours in confined spaces, under artificial lights - our eyes have been required to make huge adjustments. 

As we now spend much of our day and night hunched over our computer screens, reading or watching TV, this constant near-point stress has produced long term changes to our vision.

More than four hours spent working at a computer will stress and fatigue eye muscles leading over time to ‘computer vision syndrome.’ 

The symptoms of this condition that includes many students and office workers in its ranks can involve the experiencing of headaches, burning and itchy eyes, neck, shoulder and back pains and concentration problems together with tired, strained eyes and bodies. 

These symptoms can be lessened and controlled through better managing of one’s workspace and routine. 

There are many simple eye and relaxation exercises that could be performed at work during short breaks and I’ve listed several below.
1. With your eyes closed breathe slowly and deeply through your nose several times. When time is spent in highly focused concentration our breathing often becomes shallow. Deep slow belly breathing loosens tight muscles, while nourishing the eyes with increased blood circulation. 
2. Deliberate yawning and stretching relaxes all the facial muscles and expands the flow of oxygen through the whole body. You should occasionally leave the close work situation and walk across the room, shaking yourself loose.

3. Several exercises taken from Pranayama Yoga will also tone and strengthen your mental focus and relax the nervous system. Nadi Sudi (alternate nostril breathing) is a simple exercise to enhance balance. First sit quietly then take in a gentle breath. Close your right nostril with your right thumb, pause briefly then exhale slowly through the left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril, close it with your right index finger, pause for a moment, open your right nostril and then exhale through the right nostril. Continue by inhaling right, switch to the thumb then exhale left, etc. Enjoy this Yoga technique as you adopt it for stress relief.

4. Dr Bates, the founder of modern natural eye care, favours the yoga technique of Palming as it creates relaxation and promotes circulation by resting the eye muscles and optic nerves. Sit comfortably close enough to the desk to support your elbows. Rub your hands back and forth briskly, palms together to create warmth and healing energy. When your hands are very warm place your palms over your eyes, cupping them. Bend forward resting on your elbows, dropping and relaxing your shoulders. Block out all the light, breathing deeply and gently, imagining the black field behind your eyes growing ever darker. Black is the colour of total relaxation for your eyes. Hold this for 3 – 5 minutes to gain maximum benefit.

5. Jenny Livanos, a Certified Natural Vision Improvement instructor, suggests you give your eyes a quick session at the gym by rolling them smoothly up and down for a few seconds, then horizontally from side to side, keeping your head straight throughout. Another simple means to exercise your near – far focus involves you standing in front of a window, holding your index finger at the end of your nose then focusing with both eyes on your fingertip for a few seconds. Then shift your gaze outside through the window selecting a distant object and looking at this for several seconds. Complete this full near – far exercise several times.

Your immediate desk or station can also be set up to improve your own working conditions. Occasionally push your chair away from the desk while you stretch, massage your neck and shoulders, wiggle your toes and feet.
Try to keep your body soft and relaxed while working. Position your computer screen directly in front a little lower than eye level. Tilt your screen up slightly and position it at arm’s length away from you. Set large dark characters against a white background. Lower the screen brightness if necessary and select a large font.  
Your chair is important too as it should allow you to sit up straight with shoulders and hips level with a back rest supporting your lower back. Feet should be placed flat on the floor, knee joints at 90 – 100 degrees and elbows at right angles. Make sure your computer screen and glasses are always clean. Don’t forget that a small touch of colour can do wonders for your work environment too. A familiar photo, a live pot plant or a fresh flower in a vase of water will lift the spirits.
In the busy contemporary lives we all lead, each one of us must ‘Address Our Stress.’ 

Regular meditation, fresh air, exercise, yoga, Tai Chi and relaxation exercises will all help.

Eat fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible, cut back on caffeine and drink plenty of clean water.

During the lunch hour break make an effort to go outside into the sunshine and breathe in the fresh air. 

Get enough sleep and keep your ‘windows to the soul’ healthy and sharp.

Vision is a precious gift, one we must cultivate and nurture to safeguard its best results.

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