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Message From The NASA Administrator: Coping with Isolation: Tips from the Pros

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Monday, April 20, 2020

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A month ago, the NASA leadership team and I decided to move the entire agency to mandatory telework and take extra measures to protect NASA employees from the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Whether you are teleworking or working on-site to continue NASA’s vital missions, we understand these uncertain times have had a significant impact on everyone’s lives. As we all do our best to follow CDC guidelines and practice social distancing to help protect ourselves and others from COVID-19, I know that many are still learning to cope with social distancing. 
 
Living in isolation is a concept with which NASA psychologists and astronauts are extremely familiar. For 60 years, NASA astronauts have been in space sometimes for months at a time, in small cohorts, with limited contact with their loved ones on Earth. Astronauts can provide excellent guidance for all of us as we navigate life during these times of social isolation. 
 
Expert Tips
 
NASA astronauts have shared some specific advice about their training and the concept of expeditionary skills.  

·         Anne McClain shared NASA’s five key expeditionary skills and examples of how to practice them in daily life.

·         Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan made videos from the International Space Station sharing their tips, like following a schedule and taking good care of yourself and your health. 

·         Morgan says it’s important to think about how your actions affect the actions of others. 

·         Meir talks about the importance of finding the silver linings.

·         Christina Koch, who spent 11 months in space, suggests thinking of how you can brighten someone else’s day. 

Even former astronauts are sharing tips, like Peggy Whitson, who helped create the curriculum we use to train astronauts on social isolation, wanted to remind folks that even though we might be in a small space right now, we are part of something bigger. 
 
Overcoming the Challenges of Isolation
 
NASA has been spotlighting resources from our Human Research Program’s Social Isolation in Space page. We have also been adding social isolation-themed content on NASA.gov/coronavirus.  
 
Here are some of my favorite features so far:

·         This episode of Houston, We Have a Podcast on social isolation

·         This web feature on long duration missions

·         The most recent HERA simulation

·         In a recent ISS downlink with students (and their moms) from their home state of Maine, Chris Cassidy and crewmate Jessica Meir talk about their experience living and working on station

Remember, we are in this together, so continue to check in with members of your team, and don’t hesitate to ask for what you need. 
 
Ad Astra,
Jim 
 

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