Exercises to help counteract screen-time
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While we spend time at screens - for work or other purposes - our focus is almost entirely directed to that single point limiting our peripheral awareness and the movement of our head and neck in particular.
There are many ways to discuss overuse of screen-time - this piece focuses specifically on the uppermost region of the body. There are tools and resources to support ourselves and to help us counteract the time we spend at screens.
One significant point is how it limits our eye movement and our field of vision - we are less aware of what is going on around us and this can make us closed off from our immediate and wider environment. When we open up our field of vision we send a signal to our nervous system that we are safe and things around us are okay. Visual vestibular and smooth pursuit exercises (some of which are included below) can help us increase our visual and sensory awareness, giving us a break from the narrow screen-oriented focus.
Our head, neck and shoulders are also very much limited in their movement, too, which can potentially contribute to us holding negative tension, muscular tightness and/or weakness and feelings of stress or being ‘stuck’ in our upper bodies (including headaches). Ensuring that we take breaks to move and reset, in particular, this upper body region, can be vital in addressing our posture and taking care of ourselves.
General ideas to help counteract screen-time include: make time to look (or be) outdoors and take in natural light and outdoor sounds and objects; ensure you take regular breaks; engage in movement-based activities and play; spend time doing regular chores; switch off and give yourself plenty of time before going to sleep at night.
Below are 5 exercises to explore for your eyes, head and neck:
- Eye movements - hold your arms out wide with your thumbs up. Keeping your head still, move your gaze from one thumb to the other. Take your arms to diagonals and repeat. Move your arms to one up and one down and repeat. Notice any activity in the back of the neck.
- Head + neck movements - steadily nod your head up and down. Then turn from side-to-side. Then draw one ear over towards the same shoulder, turn your nose towards your shoulder, return the ear towards the shoulder. Draw back to neutral.
- Lead with your gaze - begin to take your gaze towards one side and let your head, neck and upper body follow into rotation, and keep leading with your gaze. Again, use your gaze to initiate the return to neutral. You can explore other movements, too.
- Follow the object (smooth pursuit) - draw one arm out in front and focus your gaze on your fingertips. Begin to carve a half circle with your arm, following the movement of your fingers up towards the ceiling and back down again. Repeat with the second arm. Then pick up a small object, e.g. a pen, and focus on it. Begin to move it in different directions following with your gaze. Your head and neck can eventually follow as the movement becomes bigger. You can explore with other body parts and objects, too.
- Head/neck release + reset - set up in a comfortable position (ideally lying down). Take your thumbs to the area just below the base of your skull (the suboccipital region). Use your thumbs to apply a small amount of pressure and create a little length in the back of your neck (so your chin isn’t jutting out). The back of the skull can rest on the ground. You can create some tiny circles with your thumbs. Added options include: use your thumb and fingers with a light touch to gently massage down the back, the sides and the base of the neck.
USEFUL REFERENCES & RESOURCES
‘Neck Posture’ (ep. 163) and ‘Dealing with the busy-body that is your neck’ (ep. 208) - Movement by Lara: Redefining Yoga
Movement Fluency by Erin Jade - https://www.movementfluency.net/
Brain and Spine - https://www.brainandspine.org.uk
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