Retired NASA astronaut shares isolation tips after spending a year in space
A retired NASA Astronaut and Expedition 44 flight engineer, Scott Kelly, spent 340 days on the International Space Station (ISS) where he experienced what most Americans are taking part in now: isolation.
Several states in the U.S. have implemented or announced statewide closures of all non-essential businesses in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus. Local governments are trying to encourage and even enforce stay-at-home measures.
While Americans of all ages are told to stay home, they are learning what it is like to spend all of their time in one place, as Kelly did for months in space.
1. Have the right expectations
Kelly tells Good Morning America that isolation is not easy, but it is important to realize that it will be over eventually. He says he managed to get through it by coming to terms with his situation and altering his expectations.
The uncertainty of the virus pandemic can be challenging and stressful, Kelly says, however, "we can get through this if we work together, support each other, and stay connected," he says.
Since the term of isolation is unclear, Kelly says, "we have to think hey, this is my new reality, this is where I live, and I will have to be here for who knows how long. I am going to take it very, very seriously."
2. Make a schedule
The most important thing to do while isolated in a confined space is to make a schedule for yourself, Kelly tells GMA.
"You could schedule things like work, rest, taking care of your environment. Take time to go outside if you can. Sunlight and nature is so very very important to our health."
Kelly says journaling is another helpful way to cope with isolation, as you can log the experience and keep track of how it is making you feel.
"When this is all over someday, we can look back at this time, one of the most challenging times in our country, and you can have a record of what it was like for you and what you did. Were you helpful? Did you rise to the occasion? Hopefully, that will be the case for everyone, but if you didn't, at least you'll have that outlet, something to do on a regular basis that’s part of this regular schedule of getting through this," Kelly explains.
4. Identify your isolation 'crew'
While being quarantined with others, like family or friends, maybe a few astronauts, Kelly says the first thing to recognize is everyone is different.
"Everyone has different skills. Everyone has different things that they're bad at. Sometimes you can help elevate people but sometimes it's just not in their DNA to be able to act and to behave a certain way."
He continued, "You need to be able to understand who is your crew on this certain mission ... it's your family, it's the people you're in isolation with. They might be young. They might be old. Understand what their traits are, what they can add to the team and then where they need help. And then communicate. Understand that we're all in this together. If you're feeling stressed, talk about how to help. That's how we work through these things."