With billions of people around the world suddenly adjusting to social distancing measures as part of the battle to slow the spread of COVID-19, some professionals who are used to confinement have some tips. From astronauts to submariners, here are some practical ways to boost your well-being and stave off cabin fever during those weeks stuck at home.
‘Have a schedule’
Scott Kelly, a retired NASA astronaut, spent nearly a year aboard the International Space Station. He told AFP that mindset was crucial.
“People need to have the right expectation, we don’t know when this is gonna be over,” he said. “We could be in this for the long haul so your mindset needs to be: I’m living a similar thing to living in space for a year, I need to have a schedule, I need to get up at a regular time, to go to sleep at a regular time.”
He also said exercise was key for both physical and mental well-being while confined. “You need to schedule time for exercise. If you cannot get out if you don’t have a garden, raise the window shade, open the window and stick your head outside, make that part of daily routine.”
Find your mission
For Vincent Larnaudie-Eiffel, a former commander of a nuclear submarine, working well in confinement means finding and investing in your own personal “mission.”
Just like on board the sub, “stuck in our apartments, we all share a mission and that is to protect others, medical workers, and successfully navigate this ordeal.”
He said it was important to establish a daily routine and stick to it. “You can’t give in... you need to do something with this suspended time.” For Larnaudie-Eiffel and his crewmates, this involved building models or growing plants under artificial light during their spare time.
“It’s also important that everyone has their own space,” he told AFP. “In a submarine it might be a cramped bed-space. It’s the same in a cramped apartment.”
‘Try new things’
Sailor Isabelle Autissier was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe alone. This involved a lot of time to herself. But she said she never felt lonely because “I chose to be alone.”
For people stuck at home she recommends using the time “to try new things, reading, listening to different music, write your journal, take photos, start drawing.”
Above all it’s important that people don’t look too far ahead. When she was at sea, facing an indeterminate amount of time alone “the first thing is not to count the days,” said Autissier. “You can’t constantly be thinking I’ll get there in three months, in a month, in 10 minutes.”
‘Morale dips are normal’
Cyprien Verseux, an astrobiologist at Germany’s University of Bremen, once spent over a year in a small pod with five other volunteers simulating conditions in a future mission to Mars.
“It’s normal for your morale and productivity to dip,” he said. “That’s not a sign of weakness. Don’t add guilt to your problems.”
When in confinement for the experiment, Verseux wasn’t allowed outside and was forbidden from communicating in real time with the outside world. “Even if we don’t all react the same to confinement we can adopt good practise that makes these periods more manageable,” he said.
He recommends choosing one or two activities and practising hard. “Also do your sport, light weights, do yoga, zumba... even if there’s a lack of space there are solutions to stay in shape,” he said.
Stay in touch
In 2009, astronaut Frank de Winne became the first European to command the International Space Station.
He said it was vital to maintain human contact, even if only electronically. “Means of communication are there, you have to make the effort and use them,” he said.
The Belgian, now in quarantine on Earth, makes sure to video call his elderly mother at the same time each day. “That allows her to see me. It also creates a bit of structure for her because she knows that I’m going to call her,” he said.
Did you know?
Cabin fever is defined as extreme restlessness or irritability from living in isolation or in confined spaces for long periods of time.
Cabin fever may set in when a person or a group of people spend long periods in an isolated situation, such as in a vacation cottage or a submarine. It can cause sleep problems and induce feelings of boredom and anxiety, and may consequently lead to irrational or potentially life-threatening decisions.
(Lin Lee-kai, Taipei Times)
1. social distancing phr.
保持社交距離 (bao3 chi2 she4 jiao1 ju4 li2)
2. confinement n.
禁足 (jin4 zu2)
3. astronaut n.
太空人 (tai4 kong1 ren2)
4. submariner n.
潛水艇人員 (qian2 shui2 ting3 ren2 yuan2)
5. cabin fever phr.
幽閉煩躁症 (you1 bi4 fan2 zao4 zheng4)
6. mindset n.
心態 (xin1 tai4)
7. daily routine phr.
每日例行程序 (mei3 ri4 li4 xing2 cheng2 xu4)
8. circumnavigate the globe phr.
環繞地球航行 (huan2 rao4 di4 qiu2 hang2 xing2)
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A: Are there any other organisms facing extinction? B: Reportedly, over 40 percent of amphibians, 25 percent of mammals and 13 percent of birds could face extinction. A: These are really frightening statistics. B: If humans do not look after the animal kingdom, one day we too might become extinct. A: 那其他生物會不會也面臨絕種危機啊？ B: 據說百分之四十的兩棲動物、百分之二十五的哺乳動物、百分之十三的鳥類都可能滅絕。 A: 這些數字看起來好驚人。 B: 如果人類再不保護動物，總有一天自己也會滅絕。 （Translated by Edward Jones, Taipei Times／台北時報張聖恩） Audio recordings for Speak Up! dialogues will be suspended until further notice due to the pandemic.
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