How stress can cause eye problems – and what you can do about it

By Staff 7 Min Read

In a world full of stress and screens, is it any wonder so many of us suffer from eye-strain these days? Here, an expert outlines what the constant bombardment of modern life can do to our vision – and how best to overcome it

Millions of Brits experience stress on a daily basis – but did you know the constant bombardment can cause all kinds of unexpected problems for our eyes?

April is Stress Awareness Month, and experts at Optical Express have put together all the potential problems tension and anxiety can have on our vision. When we experience a stressful moment, the pupils of our eyes dilate to enhance our eyesight. But when we’re continually stressed and experience stressed eyes, our pupils commonly stay dilated, which can lead to a number of problems:

Eye strain:

Eye strain causing visual fatigue is a common side-effect of looking at a computer screen too long, but it can also be triggered by stress.

Blurred vision:

Long-term stress or highly stressful situations can lead to raised levels of adrenaline in the body, which in turn may lead to blurred vision caused by stress.

Dry or watery eyes:

Stress can lead to dry or watery eyes, with either symptom brought around by worry or anxiety. However, which symptom you experience depends on how your body handles stress specifically.

Eye twitching:

After prolonged periods of stress, it is possible to develop involuntary spasms in one or both eyes.

Light sensitivity:

People who are experiencing stress may begin to find it difficult to see in bright lighting, or find that bright lights cause their eyes to hurt.

Eye floaters:

A sign of prolonged stress, or a highly stressful situation, could be tiny spots swimming across your vision.

Stephen Hannan, clinical services director at Optical Express, said: “Stress can impact us all in different ways. One person could feel all of these symptoms, while the next only feels one or two. Whether you experience these issues or not, stress will cause the muscles that surround the eyes to become tense, which could lead to soreness or migraines. If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms, there are a few techniques you can use to help de-stress. Exercising and deep breathing both help relieve tension by relaxing the body and calming the nervous system which controls the ‘fight or flight’ response.”

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Top tips to beat stress

To help relieve any anxiety here are four easy-to-follow and execute strategies courtesy of Shi Xing Mi (Walter Gjergja) — a Shaolin secular monk of the 32nd generation, co-founder and chief wellness officer at AI-powered personal trainer app Zing Coach.

Exercise in a mindful way

Practise mindful exercise by being aware of both the quantity and quality of your physical activities. While exercise can be relaxing, intense and prolonged aerobic workouts may temporarily elevate cortisol levels, the stress hormone. Opt for workouts that involve moderate intensity and ample movement.

Consider activities like brisk walking, gentle jogging (if already reasonably fit), yoga with its flowing movements and mindful breathing, or tai chi for slow, controlled routines. Cycling and swimming can also provide calming workouts, but avoid pushing yourself too hard to beat personal records.

Spend more time outside

Allocate time to spend in nature as it significantly reduces stress levels. Just 120 minutes a week outdoors can lower stress by at least 30 per cent. Eating lunch in a park or any natural setting can boost mood, promote relaxation, and increase serotonin production, benefiting both mental and physical health.

Eat well and drink plenty

Maintain a healthy diet and hydration routine. Stress often triggers unhealthy snacking habits, leading to wolfing down sugary and processed foods that spike blood sugar and stress hormones. Limit caffeine intake and prioritise water consumption along with a balanced, nutritious diet to support mental well-being.

Put the phone down

Reduce screen time, especially on social media. While scrolling may momentarily boost dopamine levels, constant exposure to curated content fosters social comparison and feelings of inadequacy, elevating stress levels. Minimise notifications and screen time to prevent information overload and preserve mental wellness.

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