What Would an Astronaut Do?

To astronauts, living in isolation is nothing new. Physical distancing from friends, family and their community is expected of them when in space—and even when they first return to Earth. For astronauts living aboard the International Space Station (ISS), isolation can last weeks, months and sometimes up to a year. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield gives us great advice on making the best of isolation, remaining healthy and taking care of ourselves in these unique circumstances. Take a look at these common feelings we may have when practising isolation and think: what would an astronaut do?

Feeling Confined

It’s easy to feel cooped up when we’re spending more time than ever in our homes right now. Even with limited space, we can stay active and have some fun to beat the feeling!

  • Exercising at home is important. On the ISS, astronauts have to work out for two hours a day to keep their muscles in shape while in space. Exercising is a priority for astronauts aboard the ISS so that they don’t lose muscle and bone mass.  Try out a simulated astronaut workout, like The (Chris) Hadfield Shake!
  • Astronauts may be confined, but they have more ‘space’ than you might think. The ISS is similar in length to a football field. But the living quarters are closer in size to the inside of a commercial airliner. There are two bathrooms on board, one gym, six sleeping quarters and the famous 360degree bay window. Astronauts might have the spectacular views, but it takes many more steps for them to be able to go outside! Head outside of your living quarters, enjoy the great outdoors and you might even be able to spot the ISS in the sky!

The Days Seem Repetitive

Without school or seeing our friends and extended family, the days can definitely start to feel much the same. It’s important to change up your days and do different activities! It will help the time to pass faster and help you to feel better.

  • Astronauts are sent up to the ISS with specific tasks to complete. This gives astronauts a specific purpose for each day, and makes every day new and exciting. But it’s not all work and no play – astronauts find free time to have some fun, too! To fight the feeling of repetitiveness, think about making sure you follow this same principle and keep a balance of learning and fun! Take a look at A Day in the Life Aboard the International Space Station.
  • Set yourself a weekly schedule to incorporate new things each day. Keep a variety between studying, learning an instrument, drawing, exercising or watching a new film. Take a look at Personal Achievement Badges you can explore, Outdoor Adventure Skills that you can practise and more ideas from Scouting at Home that can add some extra fun to your days. The hamburger metaphor can be a helpful planning tip. Think of one less-exciting task (cleaning your room, washing the dishes or taking the garbage out) as the patty of the burger, surrounded by two buns of more-exciting tasks (reading a book, watching a new film or shooting hoops) for before and after!

Missing Friends and Family

For many, missing family and friends may be one of the most difficult parts of physical distancing. How lucky are we to have people we miss and love in our lives? How can we make the distance between us seem smaller?

  • Astronauts spend many special days and holidays apart from their friends and family when they’re on the ISS. Regardless, they think of creative ways to stay connected – even from 408 km above Earth’s surface! How can we safely celebrate birthdays, holidays and special occasions during this time? For astronauts, they not only need to think about distance from their loved ones – but even crumbs floating away from their holiday treats! Take a look at astronauts like Canadian David Saint-Jacques who celebrated the holidays in space. How can you celebrate a special occasion in a different way?
  • Think of astronaut Peggy Whitson, who set the record for the longest time living and working in space. She spent 665 days in space—almost two years! While on Earth, try out different ways of communicating with people. There’s virtual chats, online games, sending mail to loved ones or even connecting with a new Pen Pal. Task yourself with making a list of all of your friends and family that are important to you, and send a letter to one person on your list every week to make them smile.

We are all working towards a common purpose. When physical distancing feels tough, think of what we’re achieving and the people we’re helping – just by doing our part and staying home. We’re stronger together!

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