A pair of NASA astronauts who’ve done stints on the International Space Station recently shared their thoughts on emotionally surviving the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated social distancing and stay at home directives. Chris Hadfield spent five months on the International Space Station, of ISS, beginning in 2012. Christina Koch was on the ISS for 328 days, the longest a woman has been in space.
Interestingly, the time this pair of astronauts spend on the ISS was not their first experience with what fairly can be called “social isolation on steroids.” Before his ISS mission, Hadfield lived in a laboratory off the coast of Florida and at the bottom of the ocean. Koch did a tour of duty at the South Pole.
As a consequence, these two individuals are well-versed in the trials and travails associated with social isolation for more extended periods of time. They shared some basic strategies they’ve routinely employed to allow them to emotionally survive and manage social distancing:
- Become an expert on the thing that threatens you
- Be your own taskmaster
- Enhance virtual relationships
- Creatively bridge the physical gap
- Undertake doable hobbies
Become an Expert on the Thing That Threatens You
Astronauts Hadfield and Koch both agreed that one important tactic to employ to emotionally survive the COVID-19 pandemic and manage social distancing is to become what they termed an expert on the thing that threatens you. Both of the astronauts faced a common threat in the vastness of space and all of its hazards that surrounded the ISS. In addition, during his life, Hadfield experienced the threat of the ocean surrounding his work and living quarters at the bottom of the Atlantic. Koch experienced the threat of a deadly environment at the South Pole, surrounding her own work and living environment.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, all people on the planet face a common threat in the form of the novel coronavirus, a germ with the capacity to kill. Unfortunately, there remain important aspects of the pandemic more generally and the coronavirus specifically that are yet to be fully understood. In addition, as is the case with so many things in this day and age, there is a considerable level of misinformation pertaining to an array of matters or issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
While COVID-19 is an inherent threat to humankind, that hazard becomes significantly magnified when we don’t fully understand it or when we have “bad information” about it. As a result, according to the astronauts, an important step you can take is to become an expert on the thing that threatens you: COVID-19. The fact is that a lack of knowledge and an associated uncertainty results in something like the COVID-19 pandemic becoming more emotionally challenging.
There are useful resources available to you, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that provide up to date and reliable information about COVID-19 and related matters. You can avail yourself of these various reputable resources and educate yourself about COVID-19 and issues associated with the disease.
Becoming an expert on the thing that threatens you – COVID-19 – also means understanding what can be done to deal with your environment should there be an issue or concern about coronavirus contamination. This includes having a basic understanding of how a professional COVID-19 cleaning and disinfection company addresses preventing and remediating coronavirus contamination.
Be Your Own Taskmaster: Create Mini-Missions for Each Day
Hadfield and Koch also suggest that you “be your own task master” and “create mini-missions” for each day of the week. This includes establishing a schedule for the day that sets forth what you will be doing at any particular point in time. Not only do these two astronauts recommend this type of structure, but this is what successful and content individuals who work from home do as a matter of routine as well.
On an associated note, set goals for yourself for any given day. These can include the accomplishment of long-put-off tasks like cleaning out a closet. They can also be milestones to a larger objective, like a larger project you always want to tackle but never had time to take on.
Enhance Virtual Relationships During Pandemic Social Isolation
In this day and age, we are blessed and cursed with technology that permits us to connect with others, literally around the world. This includes everything from social media platforms to video conferencing to an array of other communication portals.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and associated strictures on physical connections, we remain capable of enhancing our virtual relationships with people. In other words, we can make proper use of digital and associated technologies to not only stay in touch with people but to build our relationships with them.
Creatively Bridge the Physical Gap Associated With Stay at Home Orders
There are ways in which you can bridge the very real physical gap that exists in many cases as the result of stay at home orders and social distancing. One way you can accomplish this is to engage in a particular activity at the same time others close to you will be doing the same things. For example, when her friends on Earth were running in a 10K, Koch got on the ISS treadmill at the same time and “ran with them.”
You can undertake other similar coordinated activities as well. For example, you can schedule mealtimes simultaneously with family members or friends. Sharing experiences simultaneously aids in developing and maintaining a sense of connectivity, even during a period of social isolation.
Undertake Doable Hobbies
Both astronauts cited the importance of taking up a hobby that is doable under the circumstances. A doable hobby during the era of COVID-19 stay at home isolation needs to be easily accessible, affordable, and something that you can obtain enjoyment or satisfaction – joy – from on a regular basis.
A doable hobby can be something as simple, and beneficial on a number of levels, as reading. Perhaps you enjoyed an accessible, affordable hobby in the past that went by the wayside as a result of other time-consuming commitments. If you are like a considerable number of people working their ways through social distancing associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, you very well may have at least some extra or free time on your hands that can be well spent by getting back into the hobby that you once enjoyed.
By employing these strategies recommended by astronauts Hadfield and Hoch truly can be of significant assistance. They can provide a foundation to meet the emotional challenges of the COVD-19 health crisis head-on and to manage them more effectively.