I’ve been using a program called Workrave for the last couple of days to force me to take breaks from staring at pixels and thumping my fingers on a keyboard.
Workrave is a program that assists in the recovery and prevention of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). The program frequently alerts you to take micro-pauses, rest breaks and restricts you to your daily limit. Please refer to the feature comparison for a complete list of features, and how the program performs with respect to other programs on the market. The program runs on GNU/Linux and Microsoft Windows.
The program also has a set of exercises that you can do to ease the strain that RSI causes. An animated (anime?) girl shows you how to the exercises, which are easy and don’t take much time.
Workrave allows you three types of breaks: micro-pauses, rest-breaks, and daily limits. Micro-pauses are short breaks (e.g. 30 seconds), rest breaks are longer breaks (step away from your desk mister), and daily limits are reminders that you should stop and go eat tiramisu.
What the program is helpful in doing is what we should be doing ourselves–taking breaks in between work and allowing our strained muscles, ligaments, etc. to rest and recover from the strains of work-life. Sometimes all it takes is to look away from your monitor, or walk away from your desk, or stretch a little.