By Scott Kelly. Being locked up at home can be challenging. When I lived on the International Space Station for almost a year, it was not easy. When I went to sleep, I was still at work. When I woke up, I was still at work. Flying in space is perhaps the only job you can’t give up.
However, I learned several things during my time there that I would like to share because they are about to become useful again, now that we are going to lock ourselves at home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Here are some tips on living in isolation from someone who has already done so.
Specialists claim that people can have depression from being locked up at home. Photo: Reforma
Follow a schedule
On the space station, all my weather I was scheduled, from the moment he woke up to bedtime. Sometimes that included a spacewalk that it could last up to eight hours; at other times, it was a five-minute task, such as taking a look at the experimental flowers he was growing in space. You will see that following a plan will help you and your family adapt to a different work and home environment. When I returned to Earth, I missed the organization this provided me and later I found it difficult to live without it.
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When you are living and working in the same space for many days, work can invade your whole life if you allow it. When I lived in space, I deliberately took breaks because I knew it would be there for a long period, just like the situation we are in now. Take time for fun activities: I’d meet up with crew colleagues to watch movies at night, complete with snacks, and watched every season of “Game of Thrones” twice.
Also, don’t forget to include in your calendar a constant time to go to sleep. NASA scientists closely study astronaut sleep when we are in space, and have found that sleep quality is related to cognition, mood, and interpersonal relationships, which are essential to completing a mission in space or quarantine at home.
Get out of your four walls
One of the things I missed the most while in space was being able to get out and experience nature. After being locked up in a small space for months, I really started yearning for nature: the color green, the smell of fresh earth, and the feeling of the warm sun on my face. The flower experiment became more important to me than I ever imagined. My colleagues liked to play over and over again a recording with earth sounds, like birds, the sound of trees when shaken by the wind, and even the sound of mosquitoes. That took me back to Earth, although sometimes I slapped my ears to scare away imaginary mosquitoes.
For an astronaut, going out is a dangerous mission that requires days of preparation, so I appreciate that, in our current dilemma, I can go abroad anytime I want to go for a walk or a hike without the need for a spacesuit. Research has shown that spending time in nature is beneficial to our mental and physical health, as it is exercise. You don’t need to exercise two and a half hours a day, like astronauts do on the space station, but moving once a day should be part of your quarantine schedule (just stay at least two meters from others).
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You need a hobby
When you are locked in a small space you need an escape other than work or maintenance of your surroundings.
Some people are surprised to learn that I brought books into space. The silent distraction provided by a physical book — one that doesn’t alert you to any notification or give you the ability to open another tab — is invaluable. Many small bookstores are now offering delivery of orders to your home or in your vehicle, which means that you can support a local business and, at the same time, ensure a time of disconnection, which is so necessary.
You can also practice an instrument (I just bought a digital guitar trainer online), do crafts, or some other art project. Astronauts take time to do all of this while in space. (Do you remember Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s famous version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”?).
Write a diary
NASA has been studying the effects of isolation on humans for decades, and a surprising discovery has been the value of journaling. Throughout my yearlong mission, I took the time to write about my experiences almost every day. If you realize that you are only recording everyday events (which, in this context, may be repetitive), you better try to describe what you are experiencing through your five senses or write about your memories. Even if you don’t end up writing a book based on your journal, as I did, writing about what happens in your days will help put your experience in perspective and will allow you to look back later at what this unique moment in history has entailed. .
Take time to get in touch
Even with all the responsibilities of serving as a space station commander, I never missed an opportunity to have a video conference with friends and family. It seems to scientists that isolation is harmful not only to our mental health, but also to our physical health, especially our immune system. Technology makes it easier than ever to keep in touch, so it’s worth taking time to connect with someone every day. It could help you fight viruses.
Listen to the experts
I have discovered that most problems are not as difficult as space science; however, when they are, you should consult with experts. Living in space taught me a lot about the importance of trusting the advice of people who knew more than I did about certain subjects, be it science, engineering, medicine or the design of the incredibly complex space station that allowed me to stay alive.
Particularly in a challenging moment like the one we are experiencing now, we must seek the knowledge of those who know the most about it and listen to them. Social media or other sources that do not verify your data can spread disinformation in the same way that a handshake transmits a virus, making it necessary to look for reliable sources of facts, such as the World Health Organization and the Center for Resources on Coronavirus from Johns Hopkins University.
We are all connected
Viewed from space, Earth has no borders. The spread of the coronavirus shows us that what we share is much more powerful than what keeps us away, for better or for worse. All people are inevitably interconnected, and the more we come together to solve our problems, the better off we will be.
One of the side effects of seeing Earth from the perspective of space, at least for me, is feeling more compassion for others. As helpless as we feel locked up at home, there are always things we can do: I’ve seen people read to children through video calls, donate their time and money to charities online, and run errands for the elderly. or neighbors with weakened immune systems. The benefits for the volunteer are as great as for the people who receive the aid.
I have seen humans work together to overcome the most complex challenges we can imagine, and I know that we are capable of succeeding this time if we all do our part and work as a team. Oh, and wash your hands often.