We spend considerable time in front of computers for work and pleasure. As our computer use increases, symptoms of physical stress appear as eye, back and wrist strain, neck problems and weight gain.
One study of over one hundred female college students found 80 per cent had muscle complaints related to computer use. Another found a high number of computer users suffer from neck, shoulder, arm and back pain.
Bright light from computer screens, poor lighting and air quality, noise, the amount of time spent on a computer and positioning of equipment all play a part. Our bodies experience physical stress and strain as a result.
Computer screens project a considerable amount of light towards us. As we stare at the screen, we tend not to blink as often as we normally would. Research suggests that looking at a computer screen for a long time leads to back and neck pain, blurred vision, eyestrain and headaches.
Over time, poor air quality caused by lack of air circulation and ionized air produced by fans within the computer can lead to stress. The constant noise made by the computer can also be irritating.
Work environment also plays a role. Improper lighting and poor ergonomics make it harder to work comfortably. Repetitive task and overuse of key muscles also stress the body.
If you have a hard time understanding how computer hardware and software work, this can be psychologically stressful. A study among 150 cyber café users found that those with low self-esteem and low computer skills experienced more stress while using a computer.
The computer environment is constantly changing, and adapting can be stressful. Slow or ‘frozen’ computers increase the pressure as we work to meet deadlines. Productivity is reduced, and stress increases.
In one study, volunteers showed increased heart rate and signs of stress when the computer responded slowly. This effect did not appear to be related to the level of computer knowledge and skill.
Computer users tend to do two or more tasks at the same time. For instance, we might talk on the telephone while typing, thinking we are accomplishing more. In reality, we make more mistakes, increase our stress, and actually get less done.
Learning new computer skills can be difficult. Many older users are more stressed than their younger counterparts by the need to learn more new skills. In comparison, the younger generation grew up with and are more comfortable using computers.
We may feel pressured into using computers by employers, peers and society. Some of us are anxious, reluctant or fearful to use the computer. Irritability, headaches, resistance to learning about or outright rejection of the technology are all ways we reveal anxiety.
You can reduce the stress of the computer work environments in many ways. The first step involves evaluating the situation and identifying sources of physical stress.
Placing equipment properly is key. The following tips can help ease stress caused by staring at a computer screen.
If the constant noise produced by the fan motors causes stress, consider an aftermarket computer case and fan kit. These are designed to lessen the noise made by computers.
Opening a window for fresh air will improve air quality. This will reduce the effects of ionized air and dust circulated by the computer fans.
Sitting in one place for long periods can make you stiff and sore. Invest in a comfortable chair with good back support. Armrests support the weight of your arms as you type. If possible, get out of the chair regularly and go for a walk to loosen stiff muscles.
Losing data can be extremely stressful. Whether lost due to equipment failure, Internet-spawned viruses, power outages, or our mistakes, the solution involves properly backing data up. Copy your work to an external disk for safekeeping.
If data is lost, recovering it from a backup disk requires little effort compared to the discouraging task of recreating it.
Old equipment, disk file fragmentation, e-mail spam and running too many applications at once can all slow a computer. To make your computer run faster, you may need to update the system. Rebuilding it by reloading the operating system and applications may also improve speed. Regular disk maintenance is important. Your operating system software includes tools to help maintain the computer.
For the beginner, learning how computer hardware and software work certainly helps reduce stress. Ask experienced computer users for help, take a course, or purchase training materials. Free information and technical support can often be found on the Internet. Actively learning helps us become efficient and leads to a more positive experience while using the computer.
Be careful about using the Internet excessively. Spending long periods of time surfing can be isolating and cause information overload. We do less of the activities we normally enjoy. Irritants such as pop-ups also increase stress levels. Limiting Internet exposure and interacting with others helps us to have a more balanced day.
By understanding the sources of computer stress, you can take steps to become more relaxed and productive. Arranging the work area properly, learning more about computers, and forcing yourself to take breaks also reduces stress. If you regularly experience problems with computer-related stress, a health care provider may be able to help.