Former NASA and ISS Astronauts Give Their Tips for Successful Isolation

picture of a slice of the planet earth lit from the sun taken from outer space

A view of the Atlantic Ocean and Antarctica taken from the unmanned spacecraft, Apollo 4. [Photo: NASA]

The monotonous stretch of decorated walls of one’s home cannot compare to the degree of isolation that outer space creates. Astronauts like Scott Kelly (who served on the International Space Station [ISS]) and NASA's former Space Life and Physical Division Director D. Marshall Porterfield (who coached these astronauts during their missions) are intimately aware of how difficult living within small spaces can be. Here are Kelly and Porterfield's tips on how to win the isolation game.

Astronauts who have been to space—like Scott Kelly and D. Marshall Porterfield—are no strangers to being distanced from others for long stretches of time. So, here's some advice from these experts on how to successfully self-isolate.


Follow a Schedule

“If you're working from home, maintaining a normal schedule is important,” says Porterfield. Keeping a schedule allows you, and those you live with, to become better adjusted to operating within your smaller space. This includes making a set bedtime. Now is the time to break up with your snooze-button routine.


Pace Yourself and Get a Hobby

Not every moment of the day has to be spent working or maintaining your living quarters. Make sure to include time for enjoyable activities which you might have otherwise neglected. This is the perfect time to start learning a new craft, instrument, or recipe you've been waiting to try.



Go Outside and Stay Active

According to Kelly, he and his colleagues “liked to play a recording of Earth sounds, like birds and rustling trees, and even mosquitoes over and over” while they were stationed on the ISS. Porterfield says that now is a good time to start a workout routine, if you didn't have one before. Simply, keep yourself grounded by taking daily walks outside or sipping on a cold drink while sitting in your backyard.


Take Time to Connect to Loved Ones

Modern technology allows us to stay connected to our family and friends, and is an even more vital resource when physical contact is discouraged. Thus, be sure to make time to check in on your loved ones, especially those who are alone. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, isolation and loneliness might actually contribute to weakening human immune systems. Taking that Zoom call might help you fight off any virus that comes your way.



Listen to the Experts

Kelly warns against being overwhelmed by “social media and other poorly vetted sources” as they can be “transmitters of misinformation.” Therefore, be sure to look to expert authorities on what information you can trust. “Living in space taught me a lot about the importance of trusting the advice of people who knew more than I did about their subjects…that was keeping me alive,” Kelly says.


Remember That We Are All Connected

The ISS veteran points out that “seen from space, the Earth has no borders” and that “all people are inescapably interconnected, and the more we can come together to solve our problems, the better off we will all be.” He reminds us to stay compassionate for those around us and to help our communities in any way that we can. “I know we can prevail over this one if we all do our part and work together as a team.”


Scott Kelly: Website | Facebook | Instagram
h/t: [The New York Times, Lifehacker]

Related Links:

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Here's All the Things You Can Learn & Do Online to Expand Your Mind While in Isolation

Megan Cooper

Megan Cooper is a Contributing Writer for My Modern Met and a mid-century historian living in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has received a BSA in Public History from Appalachian State University in 2017 and is currently working towards finishing a Masters in Film and Media Studies through Arizona State University. She is extremely passionate about gender and women's studies and the democratization of cultural knowledge.
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