While living in isolation may be a new experience for many of us, this experience is part of the basic training for those who desire to become astronauts. Astronauts are required to learn how to manage loneliness and anxiety, all while being separated from the rest of society in a small space.
But before astronauts even step foot in the rocket for their next mission, they are required to self-isolate as to not get sick when they deploy for the stars.
Of isolation in NASA, former astronaut Jose Hernandez told NBC, “We live in isolation for more than a month, and even before that you have to do a lot of exercises with your team to prepare.”
Here are Hernandez’s top three tips on how to best handle isolation and separation from society:
1) Communicate and Establish Routines
Much like the teams of astronauts that are forced to be in the same space for a long period of time, families are being forced to spend a lot more time with each other at home. But for some, spending too much time with the same people can become difficult. At NASA, astronauts go through a procedure in which they are required to give instructions, have the instructions repeated back to them, and evaluate what is reasonable in the requests given. This method of careful and thoughtful communication can also be used at home when trying to express your concerns with other members of your household. Routines, Hernandez suggests, are also vital—even when there is nothing on the agenda for the day—as routines help to establish accomplishments.
2) Reach Out Digitally
Being out in space makes a quick visit to friends and family impossible. During a time of not being able to visit those we are not quarantining ourselves with, the effects of loneliness can become harsh on someone who is not used to being away from human interaction. Hernandez suggests reaching out to the people you care about digitally. While in space, Hernandez used to video call his family and show them how he would eat M&Ms in zero gravity. Hernandez uses video calling during the pandemic as well to talk to his parents who are isolated from him.
3) Stay Positive
To cope with loneliness while in space, Hernandez was trained to look at his time in space with a positive attitude. When days were hard for Hernandez, he would remember he was one of the lucky few who was trained and chosen to do the kind of work he did.
When days are hard for us, we can think of how grateful we are to be in a place of safety and health during a time when many are not. It may not make the immediate situation better, but staying positive can help to ease stress and decrease anxiety.
There is a lot to be learned on how to handle this new normal, but following these tips can help us make it through.