Who knew, that this spring would bring opportunity to learn something from Astronauts, Submariners, Isolated Peak Climbers, and Doctors working in Antarctica?
Knowing a thing or two about living in isolation, they generously shared tips with CNN in a comprehensive article recently. We may glean some wisdom from their way-of-life experiences on how to cope, stay sane, and even thrive in this present reality.
Forming new habits and schedules was the number one thing all of the surveyed experts agreed on, and strongly recommended. During a time when so much is uncertain, most of the population is very uncomfortable with the feeling of not having control.
In a confined and isolated situation like the home sanctuary we all are living in now, establishing routines and structure within the home – for all parties involved - does give a sense of control, at least on an hourly and daily basis, and that helps. British Astronaut Tim Peake labels this normalizing the abnormal, and says it can help boost positive mental attitudes in a new environment.
With children homeschooling and parents juggling in-home day jobs with maintaining household duties, some are struggling at best. Who has time or energy to create structure? Here are some of their tips:
- Make planning new schedules a family project; designate serious time for this.
- Delegate tasks to everyone involved, especially children.
- Divide everyone’s day up into school/work, rest, exercise, meals, playtime. Test it out and make adjustments, then stick to it.
- Change up the rooms for different activities if possible.
- Include house cleaning as a team effort.
- Have fun creating themes for dinner each night that everyone will look forward to.
- Create new rules for how to get quiet time alone when one needs it.
Set goals and start new hobbies.
While the future may hold so many questions, for those who find that this is a window of (lots of) extra time, focusing on something new can be inspiring and uplifting. Seasoned climber Dr. Jon Kedrowski has already signed up for the NYC Marathon and will train as soon as we’re on the other side of this.
Besides delayed marathon training ;), many are using the time to get in shape; honing their cooking skills; learning a new language online; finally making creative use of their craft room by making crafts; volunteering where needed. Others are finally de-cluttering their homes before they embark on a list of innovative DIY projects.
Creative types – including those who are willing to tap their inner creativity – now star in their own evening “shows” on Facebook Live. Some sing, some tell stories or share stand-up comedy, some lead games like scavenger hunts. It’s a really clever and fun way to stay connected by entertaining loved ones. Even better, it is said that this is a time to be unapologetic, and there is no time like the present to take a leap and trust that the net will appear – who can predict how such creative efforts will ultimately unfold?
By the way, Dr. Beth Healey who has spent time at the South Pole Station, recommends making relatively long-term plans, as her team would do for long winters. She claims that challenging times may hit later than sooner. Make plans for now and down the road to continue bringing purpose and joy. (So, for instance, maybe budding Facebook Live stars want to plan on a Season 2 or 5 or 10.)
Make Fun part of your new normal.
NASA Astronaut Christina Koch, who recently spent a record-breaking stay on the station, swears by creating time for meals together, celebrations, and other fun activities. It gives everyone something to look forward to, and makes people feel important and special; everyone needs that right now. This kind of extended spring break hasn’t happened ever before and probably ever will again, in our lifetime, so she suggests we relax and rest, recharge your batteries, and find ways to have some fun.
Go outside sometimes; practice self-care; stay active.
Self-care for astronauts is said to be key to their mission’s success. A typical plan includes hygiene, time management, sleep, and maintaining mood. We can take a page from this book.
Exercise is not only good for your physical body, it promotes mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well. Astronaut Scott Kelly claims that exercise can push you physically or turn you inward to meditate
Dr. Kedrowski likes to take his car (in Colorado) into the wilderness to explore where he’s never gone before. (Other times he simply practices yoga, for the Zen benefits; also highly recommended.) Even though we may not have his same geographical benefit, we could still drive to a new, remote neighborhoods and take long walks. The change of scenery and fresh air would promise lots of benefits.
Closer to home here in LA, did you know that these two nature havens are still open?
Stay connected and take care of others.
In space station situations, they have varying brands of team care, depending on group dynamics or isolation. Here are some things that they practice:
- Cooperate rather than compete.
- Use each individual’s culture to build the whole; respect roles.
- Share responsibilities and workload.
- Take accountability; appreciate and give praise.
- Ensure a positive team attitude.
- Video calls with loved ones.
- Demonstrate patience and respect.
- Monitor your team for signs or stress or fatigue; create solutions accordingly.
- Share credit; take the blame.
- Encourage participation in team activities; “everyone is welcome”.
- Keep calm in conflict.
Granted, the jury might be out for a little while, as to whether can actually master the new challenges before us right now. As these extraordinary leaders have demonstrated, it can be done, so quite possibly we’re going to be OK - it's inevitable.
Jon Bailey is a robot submariner, once a Navy submariner. Perhaps his wisdom is the simplest. Like all other patrols, this one will end. Bring your world close, focus on little things that you enjoy and make plans for the future.
And, he thinks it’s important to have a window ;)