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How To Survive Self-Isolation According To Astronauts


Rachael Funnell

Social Editor and Staff Writer

clockMar 24 2020, 17:04 UTC

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly corrals the supply of fresh fruit that arrived on the Kounotori 5 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-5.) NASA Johnson/Flickr/ Scott Kelly

Across the globe, cities and even entire countries are on lockdown as governments desperately try to flatten the curve of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. For some, self-isolation is an opportunity to take a step back, wear those joggers for the third day in a row, and re-watch Breaking Bad. Social butterflies, on the other hand, fare less well confined to their bedrooms, and while celebrities in mansions continue to broadcast that “we’re all in this together”, it can feel like a rough deal when you’re holed up in a dilapidated and cramped six-person houseshare. 

In these distressing times, it’s good to look to the professionals for advice on how to survive quarantine with your sanity intact, and who knows more about passing the time during isolation than astronauts?


In an opinion piece for the New York Times, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly recently wrote, “When I lived on the International Space Station (ISS) 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.”

His 12-month stint on the ISS from 2015 to 2016 taught Kelly some skills that he believes lend themselves well to surviving the isolating impact of a pandemic. When working from home, it’s easy to feel like others are questioning if you’re really working or just making the most of Friends reruns, so it can be easy to slip into the trap of working late or through lunches to prove your commitment. Kelly recommends making and keeping to a schedule to establish structure and avoid overworking. “Take time for fun activities: I met up with crewmates for movie nights, complete with snacks, and binge-watched all of “Game of Thrones” – twice.”

He goes on to highlight the importance of structure with sleep too, as well as taking time to get outside and keep your daily nature quota up. Now obviously Kelly and his crewmates couldn’t just pop outside and appreciate a cloud, so instead they turned to recordings of birds, rainy weather, or trees moving in the breeze.


Kelly also recommends pastimes such as reading, playing an instrument, honing a new skill (we love this football/glazier fusion), penning a diary, and keeping in touch with friends and family via video calls. 

Canadian astronaut and ISS commander Chris Hadfield is famous for his space station pastimes, with his cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity having been viewed over 45 million times. It’s the OG Isolation TikTok.

Hadfield has stepped up to the camera again, this time to give advice from the safety of terra firma on how to stay productive during self-isolation. He provides four key considerations that guided him on the ISS: know the risk, assess your goals, understand your constraints, and take action (video above).


However, if you’re finding yourself a little nauseated from all the social posts casting quarantine as an opportunity for growth and reflection, you might prefer Buzz Aldrin’s school of thinking who, in an interview for Ars Technica, said he was keeping safe by “Lying on my ass and locking the door.”

We’re right there with you, Buzz.


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