Astronaut Scott Kelly Who Spent Whole Year In Space Offers Advice For Coping With Isolation
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has shared some advice on how to cope with isolation. He spent nearly a year on the International Space Station, so probably knows what he’s talking about.
Across the globe, government officials are urging people to stay inside as much as they can to help tackle the spread of coronavirus and prevent healthcare systems from becoming overwhelmed.
The measures have people swapping well-populated offices for makeshift setups on the kitchen table, and running around living rooms rather than out on the streets.
Though it is necessary, self-isolation can be tough. It’s not something many of us are used to, but there’s a select group of people who make a living out of being confined in places where heading out for a walk after work is simply not an option.
Those people, if you hadn’t guessed, are astronauts, and a couple of those in the know have used their knowledge to help shed some light on the experience.
Buzz Aldrin, for example, had to spend 21 days in quarantine after returning from the Moon in 1969. He recently offered a few words of wisdom during an interview with Ars Technica.
To protect himself from coronavirus, 90-year-old Aldrin admitted he was ‘lying on [his] ass and locking the door’.
As for what other people could do to keep themselves busy in isolation, Aldrin said:
Well, Mike Collins and I used to exercise and jog a little bit around the hallway.
Of course, exercising is a good tip, but Scott Kelly offered some slightly more in-depth recommendations – if you fancy doing a bit more than jogging back and forth in your hallway, that is.
Speaking to The New York Times, Scott said:
When I went to sleep, I was at work. When I woke up, I was still at work.
The astronaut advised people in isolation to follow a schedule, saying: ‘Maintaining a plan will help you and your family adjust to a different work and home life environment’. Whether the schedule is full of longer activities, like completing a shift at work, or a spacewalk, in Kelly’s case, or a series of small tasks, it provides structure and purpose to the day.
Another of his tips was to ‘pace yourself’, adding:
When you are living and working in the same place for days on end, work can have a way of taking over everything if you let it. Living in space, I deliberately paced myself because I knew I was in it for the long haul — just like we all are today.
Scott recommended taking time for activities like movie nights, and emphasised the importance of sticking to a consistent bedtime.
He cited NASA research to back up his advice, saying:
NASA scientists closely study astronauts’ sleep when we are in space, and they have found that quality of sleep relates to cognition, mood, and interpersonal relations — all essential to getting through a mission in space or a quarantine at home.
Scott also recommended, where possible, going outside and getting your fill of nature; something he ‘craved’ after being confined to a small space for months.
Whether it’s by getting in your daily dose of exercise with a walk or simply opening a window, he pointed out ‘research has shown that spending time in nature is beneficial for our mental and physical health.’
He also stressed the importance of exercise, saying:
You don’t need to work out two and a half hours a day, as astronauts on the space station do, but getting moving once a day should be part of your quarantine schedule (just stay at least six feet away from others).
A beneficial way of passing time while in isolation is to get stuck into a hobby. Scott recommended things like reading, practising an instrument, trying a craft, or making art. He also suggested keeping a journal and detailing experiences or memories to help put things in perspective and ‘let you look back later on what this unique time in history has meant.’
One of the key ways to feel less alone during isolation is to stay connected, with Scott saying he ‘never missed the chance to have a video-conference with family and friends’. We are better equipped than ever before to stay in contact with people through technology, so the astronaut recommended ‘making time to connect with someone every day’.
The spread of the coronavirus is showing us that what we share is much more powerful than what keeps us apart, for better or for worse. All people are inescapably interconnected, and the more we can come together to solve our problems, the better off we will all be.
As helpless as we may feel stuck inside our homes, there are always things we can do — I’ve seen people reading to children via video-conference, donating their time and dollars to charities online, and running errands for elderly or immuno-compromised neighbors.
The benefits for the volunteer are just as great as for those helped.
However, as beneficial as social media can be to help us stay connected, it can also be a source of inaccurate information. Scott recommended listening to the advice of experts, such as the World Health Organization and the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The astronaut offered a final piece of advice for everyone, writing:
Oh, and wash your hands — often.
We are living in uncertain times, but as someone who has dealt with isolation for almost a year, there’s no doubt Scott knows his stuff!
It’s okay to not panic. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our coronavirus campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization on Coronavirus, click here.