6 Tricks To Stay Healthy While Sitting + Staring At Screens All Day

cubicle health

So here’s something creepy.

I’m 99% sure that I’m developing ulnar tunnel syndrome (it’s the red headed step-child of carpal tunnel syndrome).  And I’m 99% sure that I’m getting it because I insisted on using a super cute, design-y desk chair and a super cute, tiny mouse.   I don’t want some  dorky, ergonomic monstrosity maring my adorable office!  I don’t want visible wires!

Buuuuut, I also don’t want to lose feeling and function in two fingers on my left hand. Or undergo an expensive and painful surgery.

So!  In honor of being a Grown Up Who Takes Care Of Her Body, I’ve started making a conscious effort to really, really look after myself during all those hours spent sitting and staring.

Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to stay healthy:

1.  Take a break every 25 minutes
I’ve been a missionary for the Pomodoro method for quite a while, but I often used those five minute breaks to check Facebook or do exciting things like wash dishes.  Now I use my break time to do a few sun salutations, some lunges, put my legs up the wall, or just close my eyes.

2.  Drink one metric ton of water
You already knew that, right?  In addition to staving off headaches and making your skin lovely, drinking lots of water will reduce Dry Screen-Staring Eyes and you’ll also have to pee more often - which will get you up and moving around more often. I try to drink at least two full water bottles each day and I fancy it up by adding pieces of fruit, fresh herbs, or tea bags.

3.  Switch between contacts and glasses
Your eyes don’t particularly enjoy staring at screens all day.  Give them a break by occasionally wearing glasses instead of contacts or at least keep some rewetting drops on hand. (Note: Visine doesn’t actually help with dry eyes, it just constricts blood vessels so your eye don’t look bloodshot.  I’m the last person in the world who wears hard contacts, but I like these drops.)

4. Get regular massages
Wait!  I know you’re thinking “Von Bargen, I’m not made of money!”  I know, dude.  But! Groupon is full of massage coupons and many malls feature those ‘$1 per minute’ places.  You’d be amazed by the difference seven minutes can make.

5.  Add plants + a humidifier to your office space
If you live in humid climate, go ahead and disregard the latter part of the above sentence but Minnesota gets drrrrry in the winter.  When the the air is dry you’re more likely to get sick and your eyes get even drier and more worn out.   Humidifiers are good for your skin and eyes and they actually make cold winter air feel warmer (and you can even get a cute one!)

What’s the point of buying a potted plant?  They clean the air, decrease stress, and improve productivity.

6. Do non-sitting, non-staring things when you’re not working
A lot of us (myself included) engage in sitting, screen-staring hobbies even when we’re off the clock. (For the record, cat video-watching toooootally counts as a hobby.)  But your body and eyes and brain will be a lot happier if you use some of your time making things with your hands, cooking, talking to friends (like, with your voice while looking at their face), hiking, being outside, or really just doing anything that’s different than what you’ve been doing for the last either hours.

Also?  Pony up and get the dorky ergonomic chair/keyboard/mouse.  Your health is way more important than having an office like this.  (Though I do want a mirror desk now.)

Has your office job had any effect on your body or health?  What are you doing to stay healthy?

photo by nkeppol // cc



Kieran O'Connor

I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I suffered from a slipped disc in my back earlier this year that I was forced to take action to correct my poor posture and also the amount of time that I spend sitting at my desk.

There is no doubt that being aware of posture and taking proper breaks has improved my well-being, not to mention that my slipped disc is almost cured.


Great tips - I need to apply number 6 to my life haha! I work on a freelance basis so two things I try to practice is to switch off my laptop as soon as it hits 6:30pm and get a really good nights sleep.

Clare Elise

Great post working from home from a comp and its easy to just sit… I’m just creating my office space right now so I’m gonna go and invest in a plant and a humidifier now :) hee hee :)


I’ve been wondering if I should at least invest in some reading glasses. I get migraines on occasion, and it usually comes from not getting enough sleep or staring at various screens for too long (laptop, phone, TV). I do a lot of reading during the day, including books, so I think the strain on my eyes triggers the migraines most of the time. However, I don’t want to get glasses and then it hurt my eyesight. I don’t really need glasses to read, I just thought maybe they’d help take the strain off my eyes.


Ren I used to get the exact same thing - painful headaches from reading/staring at various screens. Turns out there was no problem with my eyesight as such, just that my eyes focussed too intently and it was physically straining/draining. I now wear glasses while I’m at the computer, but they haven’t had any negative impact on my eyesight - I don’t need them any other time and can even read just fine without them when I want to. I highly recommend you go to an optometrist and get it checked out.

Sarah Greesonbach

Fantasti-nomenal! Tried and true tips from top to bottom… I use the old tea bag in the water bottle trick myself, and thank you for the encouragement to buy the chair I’ve been eyeing.

Rekha Monger

vey helpful tips, I needed it when my job demands me to spent 90 % of my time staring at the monitor. I shall follow No. 1 and 6 tips. Thanks a ton!


I just had an eye check-up and was told glaucoma is much more prevalent in younger folks now because of staring at screens all day. She gave me the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look at 20 things throughout the room for 20 seconds a piece. It helps strengthen your eye muscles and releases the pressure behind your eye. I haven definitely seen a difference!


Do you know how hard it is to do something non staring or non sitting when trying to relax? When I’m done with work at night all I want to is chill out and watch a movie but it feels wrong because I have been staring at a screen all day. Totally getting a massage soon!


Word! I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately (like, from books with actual pages), going on walks, and I’m trying to find a new, non-screen, ‘make stuff with my hands’ hobby. I’m very seriously considering paint by numbers!


I really should guzzle more water in the office. I tend to skip on that in the mornings and simply zero in on coffee. I agree that glasses is better when staring at the screen for hours on end each day. And a good chair! That one is definitely really important. (Now I find myself looking at my chair. Lol.)

Victoria McCarthy

Thanks for these tips…I need them! I do have one great solution for posture in your chair that isn;t too expensive. I use a Backjoy …you can put on your chair, car anywhere and I swear you will be amazed…..it looks like a giant potato chip made our of Croc material..not sure how it works but it does….you can find them at CVS, Staples..bunch of other places…

Sam Hamilton

Definitely recommend the plants, we had a massive open space office which when we added a bunch of plants into suddenly made the place come alive. Plus it was great 6 months later to watch the vine grow up bits of office furniture trying to take over the place.


I recommend that everyone try a standup desk for a week. I did and I’ve been standing up to work at my computer for three years.

Just get some boxes or whatever you need. A couple of these work great: http://www.target.com/p/closetmaid-31-horizontal-organizer-white/-/A-11187107

Standing up to work will change your life.

Angela Hemming

Great tips. What forces me to get up from my desk is that I placed my laptop on a high shelf. When I’m not editing video, which I need to do at my desk, I head over to my “standing desk station” and surf the web. That way, mindless surfing (AKA non-billable time) is at least accompanied by some standing!

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Massages have made a ginormous difference for me. I’m a graphic designer and noticed some insane neck, elbow and wrist pain near the end of the week. Started going bi-weekly and things have seriously improved. I get a couples massage with my husband on Friday evenings, which is an added bonus. Nothing better than a massage right after a long work week.

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Oh, yes it has! I started working in the back office of a hotel a couple of months ago, and my eczema - which is already pretty severe - started flaring up even worse than normal, even reaching to new areas, like my neck, arms, chest and shoulders. I’ve been perpetually covered in rashes for the last month or so. More recently, it’s started on my face. Ugh. I made the connection, and bought a humidity reader, and found out that my office is suuuuper dry. I’ve been thinking about buying a mini-humidifier for the office for a while now, but this post just pushed me to do it. In a few days, I should have a cute little green drop sitting next to me and (hopefully) keeping my skin a little more moisturized! Thanks, Sarah!

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