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Coronavirus self-isolation tips from an astronaut who spent months in space

Published Mar 24th, 2020 1:20AM EDT
Image: Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

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  • Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield offers tips for self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Hadfield spent months at a time on the International Space Station, and still managed to be productive despite not being able to operate under his normal routine.
  • His coronavirus self-isolation tips include understanding the risk, figuring out your objective, taking note of your constraints, and then taking action.
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There are thousands of people all over the world fighting for their lives in hospital beds right now after being infected with the new coronavirus, but for a vast majority of us, the most difficult challenge we’ll face in the coming weeks and months is staying away from our friends and family members to stop the spread of COVID-19. “Social distancing” and “self-isolation” probably weren’t terms you ever expected to apply to your daily life, but that’s what this pandemic calls for. And who better to help us through an extended period of isolation than an astronaut.

Over the weekend, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield took to YouTube to offer up some advice on how to cope with self-isolation, which, having spent nearly five consecutive months on the International Space Station, he might be as qualified to give as anyone you will ever meet. Plus, he’s very succinct about it.

Before you watch the video (unless you skipped straight to it and already watched it, in which case, ignore this part), you shouldn’t expect any life-changing secrets that you couldn’t have surmised yourself. That said, Hadfield might be the calming presence you need in your life right now, even if just for a few moments:

It’s worth breaking down each of Hadfield rather general tips and applying them to the new coronavirus.

Hadfield’s first piece of advice is to “understand the actual risk.” One of the biggest hurdles that many people have had to overcome (and I include myself in here) is coming to terms with the severity of the situation. You don’t need to panic or stock up on months worth of toilet paper, but you do need to stay informed by watching the news and reading articles from trustworthy sources. Every day we learn something new about the virus.

Secondly, you need to figure out what your objective is while you’re in isolation. For many of us, that objective will be to maintain some semblance of a normal routine as we adjust to working from home and staying inside on weeknights and weekends. The most important thing that many of us can do right now is simply to not get infected or not spread the virus if we’re already infected. Figure out how to cope with your new reality.

Next, take note of your constraints. Multiple US states, counties, and cities have issued stay-at-home orders, so that’s a pretty obvious constraint. Most of us are also trying to limit the number of times we leave the house for groceries or exercise or vital errands. That’s another. And then there’s the constraint of not being able to see many your friends and family members in person. None of these constraints are ideal, but we all have to live with them.

Finally, once you’ve got a grip on the risk, your objective, and the constraints you face, it’s time to take action. There are countless ways to power through this period of self-isolation, whether it’s by starting a new project, learning a new skill, binge-watching every season of The Wire, or singing virtual karaoke with your friends on Google Hangouts. And that’s how Hadfield and the rest of us are going to make it through this.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.