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How to survive isolation — NASA astronauts share pro tips amid coronavirus outbreak

With most countries practising social distancing to flatten the coronavirus curve, astronauts are coming out to share tips on isolation. 

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New Delhi: It has been over a fortnight since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As cities go into lockdown across the world, more and more people are having to stay at home.

Social distancing to flatten the curve has become the aim of most countries. At a time when lives are being lost to the virus at an accelerating rate — the Worldometer puts the global death toll at 16,568 — the professionals who know a thing or two about living on their own for long stretches, namely, astronauts, are coming out to share tips on how to survive isolation.

Anne McClain — a lieutenant colonel in the US Army, a NASA astronaut and the first of her tribe to come out as a member of the LGBT — took to Twitter to share some pro tips.

She explained how successful living on the International Space Station (ISS) for 20 years and flying for more than half-a-century took years of research by NASA astronauts and psychologists. By examining “what human behaviors create a healthy culture for living and working remotely in small groups,” they came up with five general skills and the behaviours associated with it — Expeditionary Behaviours (EB).

Also read: 8 steps to make Indian systems work smoothly in a coronavirus lockdown

Expeditionary Behaviours

The five skills include communication, leadership/followership, self care, team care and group living.

McClain defines communication EB as — “To talk so you are clearly understood. To listen and question to understand. Pick up on non-verbal cues. Identify, discuss, then work to resolve conflict.”

Drawing comparisons to her stay at the ISS and those who are now working from home and parenting at home 24×7, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson also laid emphasis on this skill, “You have to be able to communicate effectively. That is the most important thing you have to be able to do.”

For ideal leadership/followership EB, McClain says accepting responsibility and adjusting your style to your environment is key.

On self care, McClain emphasised the importance of “keeping track of how healthy you are on psychological and physical levels. It includes hygiene, managing your time, getting sleep, and maintaining your mood.” While team care focuses on similar concerns including logistics, except on a larger scale.

Finally, on group living she states cooperation must always take precedence over competition. She ends the thread with — “We’ll be successful in confinement if we are intentional about our actions and deliberate about caring for our teams.”

‘Keeping a journal can be helpful’

Astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent nearly a year in isolation at the ISS, wrote about the importance of following a schedule.

“You don’t need to work out two and a half hours a day, as astronauts on the space station do, but getting moving once a day should be part of your quarantine schedule,” he writes in his op-ed for the New York Times.

Addressing the gravity of the situation, Kelly maintains that social distancing is a must. And to maintain one’s mental health, keeping a journal during a time like this can be helpful.

“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,” he adds.

Also read: Need more masks, sanitisers — doctors say hospitals ill-equipped to fight COVID-19


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