Let’s face it, suddenly having to restrict outings and work or study from home can feel confining. For some of us, the moment we heard the news we instantly wanted to hit the nearest restaurant, beach or bar.

Fortunately, we still have the option to get out in the fresh air.

One man who lived in extreme isolation couldn’t do that. Scott Kelly is a NASA astronaut who lived in space for almost a year.

As our patience for home isolation wavers, Kelly shares his solid strategies for staying mentally and physically well – based on his experience on the international space station far from Earth.

Craving some space? Take this astronaut's advice.

1. Schedule like a spaceperson

In space, day and night is altered and astronauts live, work and sleep in a very confined environment, so maintaining a schedule is crucial.

If you feel like the space between work and life is blurring at home, you might also benefit from more structure. It can help create a sense of separation and order – at a time where you might feel that structure is disappearing – and help to create a calmer home life environment.

Map out time for work, time for play and, importantly, time for rest.

2. Make time for down time

Kelly warns, “When you are living and working in the same place for days on end, work can have a way of taking over everything if you let it.”

A crucial part of the schedule is honouring your commitment to relaxation time.

“I met up with crewmates for movie nights, complete with snacks, and binge-watched all of Game of Thrones – twice,” Kelly reveals.

One part of the schedule that’s as easy to ignore as it is crucial is managing your sleep through a consistent bed time.

"Quality of sleep relates to cognition, mood and interpersonal relations – all essential to getting through a mission in space or a quarantine at home.”

3. There's oxygen out there – go get some!

Working from home doesn’t mean you must stay inside your four walls. Research has shown that exercise and spending time in nature is beneficial for our mental and physical health.

Moving at least once a day should be part of your quarantine schedule, and moving away from your computer at regular breaks is always good practice, whether at home or work.

4. Conserve some energy for the fun stuff

If you want to thrive during quarantine, you need to make time for hobbies.

“When you are confined in a small space, you need an outlet that isn’t work or maintaining your environment.

“Some people are surprised to learn I brought books with me to space.

"The quiet and absorption you can find in a physical book – one that doesn’t ping you with notifications or tempt you to open a new tab – is priceless.

“You can practise an instrument, try a craft or make some art. Astronauts take time for all of these while in space (check out Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s famous cover of David Bowie’s 'Space Oddity').”

5. Journal your journey

These are remarkable times. Keeping a journal of what’s happening and how you’re feeling is a great way to capture the experience, and something you may treasure reading in the future.

Kelly says:

“NASA has been studying the effects of isolation on humans for decades, and one surprising finding they have made is the value of keeping a journal. Throughout my year-long mission, I took the time to write about my experiences almost every day.”

6. Reach out like a rocketeer

At first, FaceTiming and having virtual drinks is a new and fun adventure. But maintaining social contact is also important to your health. So if the novelty of videoconferencing wears off, make sure you still pick up the phone to call a friend, and maintain your social bonds.

“Scientists have found that isolation is damaging not only to our mental health, but to our physical health, including our immune system,” Kelly says.

Make the time to connect with someone every day.

7. Listen to the experts

You’ve probably already found there are opinions, home cures and poorly vetted media coverage about coronavirus, when the simple rule should be – listen to the experts.

Kelly has a great space analogy for this:

“I’ve found that most problems aren’t rocket science, but when they are rocket science, you should ask a rocket scientist!

"Living in space taught me a lot about the importance of trusting the advice of people who knew more than I did about their subject, and that was keeping me alive.”

Small steps & giant leaps – together

This bonus wisdom from NASA’s Scott Kelly puts it all into perspective:

“I’ve seen humans work together to prevail over some of the toughest challenges imaginable, and I know we can prevail over this, if we all do our part and work together as a team.

"Oh, and wash your hands – often!”

We can prevail together – from the comfort of home!

Want to know more about remote learning?

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VU's award-winning Block Model is designed for students of all backgrounds, ages and stages of life.

Delivering one unit at a time for four weeks (rather than the traditional four units at once over 12 weeks), the Block Model allows you to focus more and stress less.

Other benefits include smaller, workshop-style classes, and a more streamlined timetable so you can maintain a life outside of uni.

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