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10 Eye Exercises for Strained Eyes

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An exhausted woman rubbing her eyes.

We live in a digital world, and it seems impossible to be more than a few feet away from screens at any point throughout the day. While technology can be helpful, it does have some drawbacks—like digital eye strain, that feeling of exhaustion and fatigue in the eyes. Fortunately, your optometrist can recommend several exercises to perform throughout the day so you can find relief from your eye strain.

10 eye exercises for strained eyes include:

  1. The slow blink
  2. Paling
  3. Rolling your eyes
  4. Rest
  5. The 20-20-20 approach
  6. The figure 8
  7. Distance switching
  8. Pencil push-ups
  9. Wall writing
  10. Brock string exercises

If you find that you’re still dealing with eye strain after trying these exercises, visit your optometrist to discuss solutions.

What Causes Eye Strain?

If you exercise a little too hard or push yourself too much doing physical labor, your muscles quickly tire out. This can make you feel sluggish, slow, and heavy—showing that they need a break. 

Your eyes are no exception to this. There are plenty of tiny muscles responsible for controlling your eyes. These muscles help with focus, movement, coordination, and more. When you overuse them, they tire out and send signs that you need a break. This is eye strain.

Eye strain often causes:

  • Blurry vision
  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Headaches
  • Sore, tired eyes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased sensitivity to light

If you recognize these symptoms, you’ve probably dealt with eye strain before. While your optometrist can help, you can take some small steps at home to find temporary relief and give your eyes a much-needed break through the exercises below.

1. The Slow Blink

This is a simple exercise, but it can be extremely effective. When you spend too long looking at a screen, you tend to blink significantly less. This puts additional strain on the eyes since they’re less protected than before. The slow blink is simple:

  • Sit or stand comfortably and take a few deep breaths.
  • Close your eyes, but do so very slowly—imagine the slow closing of window blinds.
  • Keep your eyes closed for a few seconds.
  • Slowly open your eyes, repeating as needed.

This helps give your eyes a much-needed break and protects them with a new layer of tears.

2. Palming

Palming is a technique designed to warm the area around the eyes, stimulating blood flow while also giving them a break. The approach is simple:

  • Sit comfortably with your elbows on a table and close your eyes.
  • Press your palms together and rub them gently, using friction to slowly heat them
  • Cup your palms over your eyes, making sure no light filters in. Your hands should not touch your eyes; try to create a bowl shape arching over the eyelids.
  • Relax and take deep breaths for a couple of minutes, letting your hands warm the area.

The warmth of your hands and the darkness can help to reduce the irritation from the eye strain.

3. Rolling Your Eyes

Eye rolling can be an extremely effective way to deal with eye strain: 

  • Start by sitting, staring straight ahead
  • Look up as far as you can without straining your neck
  • Slowly circle your eyes in a clockwise direction, then close them to relax
  • Repeat the motion in a counter-clockwise direction

This helps stretch the muscles used to control your eye movements, helping to loosen them up.

A professional-looking man resting his eyes after a prolonged exposure to a computer screen.

4. Rest

Sometimes, the easiest approach can help—and some rest might just be the right answer for you. Your eyes aren’t invincible, and taking a break could be the solution to your eye strain. The approach is simple—just close your eyes and relax for a few minutes! You’d be surprised how much it can help.

5. The 20-20-20 Approach

It’s often difficult to take a break when you’re using your screens. Work can be demanding, or you might be hyper-focused on something fascinating you’re seeing. Fortunately, there’s an easy approach to reducing and preventing eye strain: the 20-20-20 method.

The steps are simple—every 20 minutes, focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a chance to re-orient themselves.

6. The Figure 8 Exercise

The Figure 8 exercise helps to stimulate the muscles responsible for controlling your eyes’ vertical and horizontal motions. The steps involve:

  • Sit comfortably facing a wall
  • Imagine a large figure 8 or infinity symbol on the wall
  • Trace the infinity symbol with your eyes five times in one direction, then five times in the other.

Do this exercise for about 30 seconds at a time, as often as you can manage.

7. Distance Switching

Distance switching aims to help your eyes focus on objects near and far away. It stimulates the muscles responsible for focusing at different distances.

  • Start by picking 3 objects at different distances—1 nearby, 1 distant, and 1 in-between
  • At varying intervals, such as every 10 minutes, try to switch your focus to an object, then the next, then the next
  • Return to your activity

This can help reduce eye strain by preventing intense focus on your screen. By switching up the distance your eyes focus at, you can help stretch the muscles and give them a short break.

8. Pencil Push-Ups

Don’t worry—this one doesn’t require actual push-ups!  Instead, all you need is a pencil and a few moments.

  • Hold a pencil at arm’s length, at eye level.
  • Focus on it as you would when reading.
  • Bring the pencil closer, focusing on the same point as long as possible, then refocusing as you slowly move it away.
  • Repeat 5 times, or as needed.

9. Wall Writing

Wall writing is a fun exercise that can help you take a moment and relax your eyes. The approach is simple:

  • Sit comfortably, facing a wall
  • Pick a point on the wall
  • Using nothing but your eyes, write an imaginary word or sentence, tracing the individual letters with your eyes

10. Brock String Exercise

The Brock string is a tool used to help your eyes focus together, helping to keep them aligned while simultaneously relieving you from eye strain.

  • Get a string and 3 beads, then thread them together with the beads at different distances
  • Tape one end of the string to your desk, holding the other to your nose
  • Focus on the bead closest to you until it’s the center of your focus
  • Switch your focus to the next bead until it’s clearly focused
  • Repeat with the final bead, then work backward

This helps keep your eyes aligned while stretching them out, which can do wonders for finding relief.

Visit Your Optometrist

If you find that you’re regularly dealing with eye strain, contact our team at Total Vision Camarillo, and let us help you find relief. We can help recommend the right exercises so you can prevent these symptoms in the future. Relief is right around the corner, so book an appointment with us today!

Written by Total Vision

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