Scott Kelly spent almost a year in space, aboard the International Space Station. Away from his friends, family, and gravity, he returned from his mission sane and healthy — and he has some tips for us.
“Being stuck at home can be challenging. When I lived on the International Space Station for nearly a year, it wasn’t easy. When I went to sleep, I was at work. When I woke up, I was still at work. Flying in space is probably the only job you absolutely cannot quit.”
Kelly learned a thing or two about surviving with only a handful of people, in a very limited space. The first thing to do — he recommends — is build a schedule.
Sure, you’re working from home, or not working at all, who even knows, right? Chaos is slowly setting in — but that cannot be allowed. To eliminate chaos, it’s important to build a schedule. Go to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time. Heck, sleep longer on weekend to maintain the structure of the week. Make time to eat, cook, clean, read, and whatever it is that you like.
Spread your time between working or learning things and relaxing.
It’s important to get a hobby to fill your time and help you gain a sense of achievement. Learn to play an instrument, finish that book you never had the time to read, work on learning a new language — anything works, really.
Kelly picked up a few books as he went out into space. Yes, physical books that NASA carried to the ISS, because the mental boost that you get from reading a book is worth the effort — particularly if you appreciate books as Kelly does.
“The quiet and absorption you can find in a physical book — one that doesn’t ping you with notifications or tempt you to open a new tab — is priceless. Many small bookstores are currently offering curbside pickup or home delivery service, which means you can support a local business while also cultivating some much-needed unplugged time,” Kelly writes for the NYT.
Go in with the right mentality
Having a schedule is particularly important because it also helps you shift your mindset. We will likely be in quarantine for a while, so counting the days until it’s over won’t really do anyone any favors. We all know that the more intensely we wait for something, the slower the time seems to pass.
So instead, organize your lifestyle around the current conditions.
“We could be in this for the long haul so your mindset needs to be: I’m living a similar thing to living in space for a year, I need to have a schedule, I need to get up at a regular time, to go to sleep at a regular time.”
Another person who knows a bit about self-isolation is Isabelle Autissier — the first woman to circumnavigate the globe alone. This involved a lot of time to herself that she had to manage, and counting the days is the worst thing to do.
“You can’t constantly be thinking I’ll get there in three months, in a month, in 10 minutes.”
Autissier also recommends trying new things, things that are fun: “reading, listening to different music, writing your journal, take photos, start drawing.”
Stay in touch
Although we might be isolated in our own home, we also have access to unprecedented communication technology. Kelly managed to stay in touch with his friends and family while he was on the ISS — we can at least try to do the same thing from home.
Frank de Winne, the first European to command the International Space Station, says it’s vital to maintain human contact, even if it is electronically.
“Means of communication are there, you have to make the effort and use them,” he said.
The Belgian is now in quarantine on Earth, but he makes sure to call his elderly mother at the same time each day (remember the schedule).
“That allows her to see me. It also creates a bit of structure for her because she knows that I’m going to call her,” he said.
Find your mission
It’s important to keep in mind that we’re doing this for a reason: not only to avoid getting infected ourselves but also to help steer the disease away from the more vulnerable. Our mission is to help them and play our part in the COVIC-19 pandemic — even if it’s just staying home.
From Space, the Earth has no borders. There’s nothing to separate a country from another, nothing to differentiate between humans. Similarly, we are all at risk from this pandemic, one way or another. It’s important to work together and stay calm (and sane) throughout this struggle.