Astronauts and Submariners Covid-19 coping lessons

Astronauts and submariners understand tight spaces

There are explorers and adventurers in our midst who have been through tough situations that have trained their minds to deal with strange and extremely tough positions. If anyone knows a thing or two about being isolated from society and staying the course, it is definitely astronauts and submariners.

Astronauts can stay in space for months at a time in a confined spaceship with no way to escape, no place to run free and isolated from family and friends. Submariners stay underwater for up to three months at a time, with nowhere to go, similar to the strict isolation many of us feel we have been experiencing over the past year or so.  The lessons we can learn from astronauts and submariners are valuable as they are in some ways similar to the lockdown experiences of many of us (although let’s be honest, you’re super grateful you’re not locked down in space or underwater).

The interview of astronauts and submariners

In an article published in the World Economic Forum on the 2nd of April 2020, three astronauts and a submariner were interviewed and asked how they mentally cope with such demanding situations. Astronauts and submariners follow strict protocols as part of their daily routines and the structure assists them in coping mentally with their gruelling circumstances. Mental endurance plays an important role in one’s ability to cope when being isolated and confined to a certain space for an extended period of time.

Astronauts and Submariners Covid-19 coping lessons
Astronauts and submariners share valuable lessons

Peggy Whitson

Peggy Whitson, an astronaut and the first female commander of the International Space Station (ISS), has spent more than two years of her life in space. Peggy has a few tips for combating the mental strain of isolation:

  • Make the best of your situation. Learn a new skill whilst you have the time.
  • Have a sense of purpose:  

“COVID-19 gives us a higher purpose much like being in space does because we are saving lives by quarantining,” she says.

  • Keep yourself busy. Do the things you’ve been putting off for months. Fixing the garden, painting the bedroom or even reading that book that’s been collecting dust on your shelf.

John Rafferty

John Rafferty, a submariner in the US Navy has a few valid points that will help fight the cabin fever:

  • Look forward to what life has waiting for you after isolation ends.
  • Stick to your daily routine. Wake up, shower, put clean clothes on and pretend as if it is a normal day.
  • Shower and put on fresh clothes:

“I am seeing a number of parallels between my experience on the submarine and self-isolation today. And one way of coping begins with showering and putting on clean clothes once a day. On the days that we let ourselves lounge around the house the way we would on a sick day or Saturday, there’s a different feeling to your work. But if we get up, exercise, shower, put on clean clothes, then we’re ready to show up in front of our computers and put in a good day’s work. I notice that that makes a really big difference.”

  • Take the time to better or renew relationships with your family if you are isolating with any. This is the perfect opportunity to bond with family.
  • Try find a new hobby you can do whilst in isolation.
  • Take this time to plan your future: What will your next move be once all this blows over?

Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut, gave a valuable piece of advice:

“Do something different, go and find something to do that you would have never done before. Keep your mind occupied with new things”.

Scott Kelly

Scott Kelly, another world-famous astronaut who lived and worked on the International Space Station for nearly a year says:

“When I lived on the (ISS) for nearly a year, it wasn’t easy. When I went to sleep, I was at work. When I woke up, I was still at work. Flying in space is probably the only job you absolutely cannot quit.”

Scott knows exactly how we are feeling doing all of life from the confines of our homes. So Scott suggests the following:

  • Make a schedule and stick to it.
  • Do not rush things, take your time.
  • Connect with family or friends via video whom you cannot see.

So with all that being said, I’m sure we can take away a valuable lesson or two from the astronauts and submariners who know all too well the feelings of confined spaces. If you are working from during this time then you may find this working from home blog helpful.

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