If you’re struggling to remain positive while social distancing, consider watching a space film to put your quarantine in perspective. All jokes aside, many astronauts are used to spending extended periods of time in isolation, sometimes up to a year.
A few astronauts have weighed in on staying busy and sane during weeks or months of isolation. Here are the tips from space station experts.
Peggy Whitson broke the record for most cumulative days in space after spending 665 days aboard the International Space Station. She says it’s important to establish a functional living routine with those around you. According to Whitson, NASA even trains astronauts on communication and collaboration techniques to help them get along with others on board. What did she do to pass the time? Whitson says she did everything that had been at the back of her mind that she hadn’t had time to get around to. She recommends doing that thing you have always wanted to but not had time for like reading more or writing poetry.
Anne McClain emphasizes the importance of mastering what astronauts call “expeditionary behavior,” or speaking so you are clearly understood and listening actively. This sounds easy, but simple communication can often be difficult to master. She also writes about the importance of spreading positivity in the group while making sure your own needs are met. “Respect roles, responsibilities and workload. Take accountability; give praise freely,” she says.
Veteran NASA astronaut Scott Kelly says to follow a routine and slow down. A set schedule will help people adjust to the new living style. Kelly says he and crewmates also took time to set up movie nights, complete with snacks, to take breaks together. He says reading, playing instruments, and keeping a journal are all great ways to pass the time.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield uploaded a video with some of his best isolation advice from a more analytical perspective. “Once you understand the risk and your mission, your sense of purpose, and your obligations, then take action. Start doing things,” he says. He also emphasizes how internet access opens a whole world of opportunities during isolation. We have a vast literary resource right at our fingertips.
Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, didn’t have too much to say on the topic. The famous astronaut turned 90 last week and his advice in the time of COVID-19 is simple: stay home.
It’s normal to feel a little stir crazy at the moment. Keep yourself busy with new activities and, as Hadfield says, “Take care of yourself, take care of your family, take care of your friends, take care of your spaceship.”