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An Astronaut’s Advice on Living in Isolation

Note: Today’s post is available for you to either watch as a vlog or read as a blog post below.


Astronaut Scott Kelly is a veteran of four space flights and was the pilot for the space shuttle Discovery in December 1999. This experienced astronaut recently spoke about how to handle long periods of time in isolation. As in social isolation. Sound relevant?

Here are some wise and practical tips he offers us from his time isolated in space:

1. Regulate your expectations.

Life will be different. Adjust your expectations for normal. So much of our frustration in life stems from the distance between expectations and reality. During our time of social isolation, we’ve got to adapt what we expect from life and manage our emotions. Get psyched for time alone. Prepare for more time to read or listen to podcasts or watch documentaries.

2. Schedule everything.

Schedule your meals. Your exercise. Your prep time for a virtual meeting, etc. When we plan for various activities, we’ll better practice regulating our expectations. When we fail to schedule, we waste lots of time, and we end up simply reacting to all kinds of distractions that pop up throughout the day. Isolation becomes manageable when we see a day full of meaningful projects we can check off our list.

3. Go outside for a while every day.

Even though astronaut Scott Kelly couldn’t step outside his space shuttle or station, he discovered the importance of getting outside of his routine and the location where he spent the majority of his day. Scott suggests it will accomplish a lot for us if we plan a break time to walk around outside and enjoy some fresh air. It will add value to our brains and our bodies.

4. Journal daily.

What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Scott said one of the most helpful tasks he did while in space keep a journal, where he doodled what was happening both in his thoughts and feelings and outside of the shuttle. You’ll look back one day. If this sounds intimidating, tell yourself you’re going to jot, not journal, and watch how your writing expands when you let yourself put thoughts into words.

5. Recognize the differences in personalities of the people with whom you’re isolated.

Much of the time, conflict arises when we are cooped up with a group of people (even family) for long hours. Scott said it helped him to remember the different personality types he was with in the shuttle or space station. They’ll likely communicate differently, expect different outcomes, and handle stress differently.

6. Communicate consistently.

People tend to be down on what they’re not up on. In times of stress or isolation, we must over-communicate with others, even the items we assume everyone knows. This keeps negative or inaccurate narratives from seizing control of our thoughts.

If these tips worked for Scott while he was in space, they may just help us in the space between our ears.

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An Astronaut's Advice on Living in Isolation