IN this week's Community Column, health writer Lucy Dunn outlines some of the best ways to avoid getting sucked too far into the digital vortex while working from home during lockdown.

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Almost a year since lockdown was first announced, we’re only just starting to get a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s not the only light we’ve been focusing on, though: studies from across the world show that “screen time”, in both children and adults, has increased significantly since Covid began.

Increased time at a screen has been associated with obesity, depression and anxiety in both children and adults, with type 2 diabetes, sleep disorders and, more recently, eating disorders also linked.

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A new phenomenon called “Zoom dysmorphia” has been cited as one of the major negative impacts of screen reliance, described as “feelings of self-consciousness and body dissatisfaction due to the increased time that a person is on a video call”. Eyesight has also taken a hit: 38 per cent of participants in a Fight for Sight survey claimed their vision had got worse since Covid-19 started.

Since the pandemic began, the average person in the US spends more than 13 hours a day looking at a screen, with millions of people exposed to more screen time than before in the UK. But if working from home is our only option, how are we supposed to avoid the screen?

Fight for Sight recommends the “20-20-20” rule: look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds after 20 minutes of screen time. This can be applied to other facets of life too; as one German study found, increased computer work and higher levels of physical activity are not mutually exclusive.

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Take frequent breaks when you can, and if your work is self-directed, then schedule time away from the computer.

Counteracting the fatigue and low mood that working at a computer all day brings, exercise’s endorphins may help protect against the increasing digitisation of our lives.

Focus on utilising your breaks to exercise, whether that’s a walk outside, yoga in a different room, a garden workout or a run.

Avoid getting sucked too far into that digital vortex to make your lockdown even the tiniest bit more bearable.

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