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Sukanya Mitra

What CPAs Can Learn From Mary Poppins

Experts provide four tips on easing eye strain during busy season.

February 13, 2012
by Sukanya Mitra

For many CPAs busy season leads to burning, dry or red eyes. Pouring over Excel spreadsheets and 1040s, as well as squinting over paper receipts and client scribbles can make many a CPA cross-eyed or worse.

So what can you do to ease the strain?

If you’re myopic or have any corrective lenses, Laura Green, MD, residency program director of Cornea, Cataract and Refractive Surgery at Baltimore, MD-based Krieger Eye Institute, said the first thing to do is make sure that your eye glasses or contact prescription is up to date and fitted correctly.

“Glasses that are too strong or too weak can cause eyestrain, [while] poorly fitting lenses can cause more irritation to your eyes,” Green said. Though newer contact lenses allow more oxygen and water to contact your eyes, Green said contact lens wearers are more apt than people who wear glasses to get dry eyes.

She also warned against staring at the computer screen for long stretches as this causes dry eye. “People don’t blink as much when they are concentrating, so this worsens the problem,” she said.

Andrea Dietzen, wellness manager at East Carlsbad, Calif.-based Pure Wellness, a corporate wellness solution provider, said often people don’t realize that even if they wanted to cry, they can’t because their eyes are too dry. Green and Dietzen suggested using over-the-counter artificial tears that are readily available at neighborhood drugstores. But Dietzen also noted that artificial tears should not be confused with eye drops that help treat redness and alleviate the burning associated with dryness of the eyes.

Here are four tips from Green and Dietzen for easing those burning sensations:

  1. Blink. Watch out for dry eye. Most office buildings have very dry air. “When you are staring at a computer screen for hours on end, concentrating on your work, you tend not to blink as much,” Green said. “If you are not blinking as much, your eyes will dry out more because you are not refreshing your tear film with each blink,” Green said. “Use artificial tears before and throughout your workday to supplement the moisture on the surface of your eye.”
  2. Where You Sit Matters. Moving or blowing air will dry out your eyes more than still air. “Sit away from vents blowing air, and if possible add a humidifier to your work environment to add moisture to the air,” suggested Green.
  3. Deer Caught in Headlights. Adjust lighting according to your comfort level. While this will vary from one person to another, Green said most people feel more comfortable with the room lights low while looking at brightly illuminated computer screens.
  4. Oh Yes, the Dreaded Word … Exercise. There are actually two sets of muscles that allow your lens to focus, said Dietzen. Staring at one spot for a long time wears out one set of muscles, “much like your patience,” she said. “To give them a break, focus your eyes on an object that is in an opposite area of the room. For instance if you have been looking down at paperwork, look up and focus on an object across the room for a few minutes. This gives the first set of muscles the break it needs to keep working complaint-free.” Alternately, you can give your eyes a rest and stretch your hands a bit by doing the following exercise:

    Hold your right arm out directly in front of you with your palm facing up, use your left hand to pull your all the fingers on the right hand back (except the thumb), holding for five to 10 seconds. Switch sides and repeat on the left arm, suggested Dietzen. Continue “holding both hands out in front of you, make fists with your hands and move them around in circles five times and then repeat going the opposite direction.” Finally, she advised making “tight fists with both hands, and hold[ing] for about five seconds. Release your fists and immediately stretch your fingers out as wide as they can go. Repeat this two to three times more.”

And there you have it: blink, sit, adjust, exercise blink, sit, adjust, exercise … no you can’t just read these tips and bury it under the “To Do” pile. This can be fun … just like rock, paper, scissors. Come to think of it, doing that will help exercise your fingers and give your eyes a break. As the revered Mary Poppins would have said, “find the fun, and the job is done!”

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Sukanya Mitra is managing editor of the AICPA Insider™ e-newsletter group.