Retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly shares isolation tips from spending a year in space

(HOUSTON) — Retired NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly spent 340 days on the International Space Station (ISS) where he experienced what Americans are collectively taking part in now: isolation.

At least 11 states across the U.S. have implemented or announced statewide closures of all non-essential business to try to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus and local governments across the country are trying to encourage and even enforce stay-at-home measures.

With employees and students alike across the country told to stay home, many Americans are learning what it’s like to spend all their time in one place, just as Kelly did for months in space.

“In my case … my expectations were this is where I live now. I have to deal with it and someday it will be over,” Kelly said Monday on Good Morning America from his home in Houston. “I think people need to have that kind of mindset.”

Kelly, who wrote about his isolation experience in a March 21 New York Times opinion piece, said there are steps people can take to make isolation

“We can get through this if we work together, if we support each other, if we stay connected,” Kelly said on GMA.

Here are four tips Kelly shared on GMA.

1. Have the right expectations

“Since we don’t know how long this is going to be, you have to think, hey, this is my new reality,” Kelly said. “I’m going to be here for who knows how long and I’m going to take it very, very seriously.”

2. Make a schedule

“When I got to space the first time I was on a long flight, it was hard to get used to that being scheduled for five minutes at a time, sometimes for one hour, sometimes for eight hours if it was a spacewalk,” Kelly said. “But I found as I got used to it, I actually needed it. And when I got home, I missed it.”

“You need to schedule things like work, rest, taking care of your environment … whether that’s the house you live in, the apartment that you live in,” he said. “Take time to go outside if you can. Sunlight and nature is so very, very important to our health.”

3. Journal

“You put your feelings in a journal and if you’re feeling a certain way, writing it down, being honest with yourself about it is the best possible thing you can do,” said Kelly. “And when this is all over someday, we can look back at this time, one of the most challenging times in our country, and you can have a record of what it was like for you and what you did.”

He went on, “Were you helpful? Did you rise to the occasion? Hopefully that will be the case for everyone, but if you didn’t, at least you have that outlet, something to do on a regular basis that’s part of this regular schedule of getting through this.”

4. Identify your isolation ‘crew’

“I think the first thing that people need to recognize is that everybody is different,” he said. “Everyone has different skills. Everyone has different things that they’re bad at. Sometimes you can help elevate people but sometimes it’s just not in their DNA to be able to act and to behave a certain way.”

He continued, “You need to be able to understand who is your crew on this certain mission … it’s your family, it’s the people you’re in isolation with. They might be young. They might be old. Understand what their traits are, what they can add to the team and then where they need help. And then communicate. Understand that we’re all in this together. If you’re feeling stressed, talk about how to help. That’s how we work through these things.”

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