coping-strategies daily-life life-lessons mark-kelly pandemic

What lessons Astronaut Captain Mark Kelly learned from his time in space

Practical advice to use in your everyday earthly life

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I have always been interested in astronomy. As a young child I spent a lot of time peering through a telescope at the constellations. My fascination with space continued into my adult life. Many years ago, I had the incredible opportunity to meet two astronauts in person and interview them. This took place at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida. One was Cdr. Wendy Lawrence, the other was Cdr. Robert “Copa” Cabana. Cdr. Lawrence had just returned from the Russian Space Station MIR, and Cdr. Cabana had just returned from his trip on the Endeavour to the International Space Station. Wow. I can remember asking them what you do for an encore after doing all that! A silly thing I did was reach over and touch my index finger on Cdr. Cabana’s shoulder. I smiled and stated I simply had to touch him, someone who was up in space doing something so spectacular as that. What struck me so much was how, well, “down to earth” they both were! Humble. Intense. Proud. It was truly an honor to meet them and interview both. Cabana is now the Director of the Kennedy Space Station.

One burning question I had asked, “what the most exciting moment of the experience.” They both had the same answer. That moment when once they were up in space and looked out the window at the earth. As they described the profoundness of that vision, my hair stood up on end. A very compelling description.

Right now in this life on earth we are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. There are millions of people unemployed as a result of the ripple effects of the virus. Not only are they out of a job, but they’re home-bound due to the stay-at-home rulings, and mandatory isolation. The news headlines of death tolls rising also equates a rise in fear. Not only are there the financial uncertainties during this time, but the psychological effects of a total disruption of our daily lives and routines.

While it is critical to eat healthy, your overall health depends also on several things. Keeping stress down, sleep, and exercise all play into your state of health. There are things you can do that will help you maintain at least some degree of normalcy in your daily life. These are all very important to help keep your immune system functioning like it is supposed to

So, you are wondering, why in the world did I start out talking about astronauts? OK. Here’s why! The other day I saw a great video of former astronaut Mark Kelly talking about coping with isolation. He should know, as he’s been in space on four missions. Here are the points he talked about, with some of my own thoughts added in.

Maintaining a schedule. This is very important to help keep you feeling like you have some degree of your normal routine. Getting up at or near your normal waking time, having breakfast, whatever is your normal routine.

Exercise. If you typically were exercising prior to this time, continue to do so. And if you didn’t, now would be a perfect time to get started! Of course, you cannot go to your health club, but there’s endless on-line exercise videos to pick out and get moving.

Variety. Add a little spice to your life, and maybe try something new. Or maybe you’ve had a list in your mind of projects around the house that have been needing to get done forever. Now’s the perfect time to roll up your sleeves and get them done!

Slow Down. Oh, this is a big one. You are literally forced to slow down because of the pandemic. Most people are always going and going, and their kids. Over scheduling has become the normal way of life. Until now. But this is a good thing. Time to reflect. Regroup. Learn how to relax. You will find that you can get more done when you take time to relax and refresh. Maybe even sipping your favorite tea or cup of coffee while lounging and read a book.

Try something new. With so much time at home, and not being able to go out to restaurants, many people are resorting to cooking their meals at home. For many this is a new venture. For others it is the time to try new recipes that you’ve been saving. Instead of just looking at the recipe, it’s time to go ahead and make it! I saw an article today about the latest rage is people making bread at home! That brought a smile to my face. The aroma of freshly baked bread coming out of the oven is a beautiful thing. These are things the whole family can get involved with together. Preparing the food and all sitting together to eat the homemade meal. This is an art that has been long forgotten. Or maybe you’ve been wanting to paint, learn photography, or take up restoring old furniture. Try something new.

Stay connected. Just because you can’t physically be with friends or family doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected. It’s more important than ever before to reach out to those important to you. Reconnect with old friends.

Try to stay positive. That might seem like a difficult task right now. It gives some comfort just knowing that others are in the same boat right now. Limit your time spent watching the news. Perhaps twice a day, in the morning and evening to keep up with daily events. More than that can have a negative effect on your psyche. That doesn’t mean you don’t have compassion or care about the pandemic. Try to focus on the positive things and what you do have control over. Every little bit helps.

Sleep. Get enough sleep. Now might be the perfect time to get a full night’s sleep. So many people are pushing themselves beyond their limits and sleep far less than they should. That’s very bad, even dangerous. Here’s your big opportunity to get 8 hours of Zzzzzz’s!

Get outside. Try to get outside each day for even 20 minutes. What a perfect time to get your daily dose of vitamin D from the warmth of the sun. Listen to the birds singing. It’s wonderful therapy to close your eyes and just listen to the beautiful melodies you will hear. I just wrote a blog The Birds Are Still Singing. I talk about how nature is going on all around us totally unaware of the global pandemic.

There are positive things emerging from this unexpected, stressful time. Remember, we are all in this together. At some point life will begin a return to normalcy. In the meantime, let’s make the best of it, learn new things, learn to savor life, and stay positive.

Note: Mark Kelly is married to former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing Arizona’s 8th Congressional District from January 2007 until January 2012 when she suffered severe brain injury from an assassination attempt. Kelly is a Navy Combat Veteran and retired NASA Astronaut. He is a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Arizona. Watch the very compelling video of him on his website

You can watch the interview with Mark Kelly to hear him talk about his time in space and learning to deal with isolation. There’s also a great article as well. Mark Kelly

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What lessons Astronaut Captain Mark Kelly learned from his time in space was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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