For most people, this is an unusual, unprecedented and unsettling set of circumstances. Who better to turn to for advice on coping with isolation than a former astronaut whose jobs entailed long periods of it?
The first female commander of the International Space Station (ISS), Peggy Whitson has spent a cumulative total of 665 days in space, which includes two six-month tours of duty.
She says she believes that isolation is nothing to fear, Space reports, as long as you are realistic and make an effort to get along with the people you’re with.
1. Learn to make the best of things
Trying to balance work, parenting and family while at home can become very challenging, Whitson says. “We actually train our astronauts to improve those skills because we want everyone to play well with others onboard the space station. You don’t get to pick your crew, you’re just going to be up there and you have to make the best of whatever situation.”
2. Have a sense of purpose
Whitson says that feeling like you are part of a higher purpose is something that helps astronauts stay positive. “Covid-19 gives us a higher purpose much like being in space does because we are saving lives by quarantining,” she says. “It is important to understand that bigger purpose and to embrace that purpose to give you reason and rationale for continuing to put up with the situation.”
3. Keep busy
Periods of inactivity can be tricky. Whitson says that while on the ISS, she would do things she’d been thinking about doing if she had more time, and recommends people stuck at home during coronavirus lockdown do the same. “What are the things that you would do if you had more time? Is it to read? Is it to maybe write poetry or do art? What is the thing that has been in the back of your head?”