As people around the world continue to self-isolate during the novel coronavirus pandemic, many are turning to the experts for tips on how to survive while isolated.
There are probably few who know it better than Col. Chris Hadfield.
After spending 166 days in space, including as the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station, Hadfield has trained many times for the isolation and loneliness of space.
But for the 61-year-old, space isn’t lonely or isolating. Neither is closing ourselves off from the outside world. Instead, he says isolation and loneliness are psychological, not physical.
“We are all alone and we’re all confined, it’s just a matter of how you sent your own psychological boundaries of what’s normal for you,” he said while appearing on 630 CHED Afternoons with J’lyn Nye on Wednesday.
“Everybody in Canada is, hopefully, shifting their pattern a little to limit their interaction with people they don’t know and try and draw into family and friends a little bit, but that means you’re now surrounded by family and friends more than normal, so take that as a plus.”
Before heading up to the ISS, all astronauts undergo a two-week quarantine to insure they are completely healthy. During that time, Hadfield says the astronauts prepare. First, they determine what the threats are. Second, they determine what the objectives are.
“We use it to educate ourselves, to figure out what’s actually going on and what are the actual threats and then how can I change my own behaviours to protect myself and my family and the people and things that are important to me.”
Hadfield says people can do the same during the global pandemic.
“Change is hard, especially when there’s sort of an unknown fear out there, but if you can get to the facts of the threat and think about what you’re trying to accomplish and then make an effort to revel in the people around you,” he said.
“The attitude that you bring in to it and the way you interact with the people around you and the purposes that you give to yourself each day, they’re enormously important in your psychological health.”
Hadfield rocketed — pun not intended — to fame in 2013 by using his time in space unlike any astronaut before him. While making videos and calling classrooms from the ISS was nothing new, Hadfield opened people’s eyes to the reality of living in space, and isolation, for lengthy periods of time.
To him, education is a great way to get through a long period of isolation, and he encourages Canadians — and those around the world — to use this time to sign up for an online course, learn an instrument or language and really utilize technology, saying the world has never been in a better position to deal with a pandemic.
“The stuff that’s at all our fingertips, access to the whole world through television and through social media and through the Internet is unprecedented,” he said. “We’re not just locked in a room with three books for weeks on end.
“Absolutely pay attention to the threats, and do the right thing and take care of people who need help, but that’s not the only part of it, there are other parts of it as well.”
While what’s going on around the world can be scary and concerning and is serious, Hadfield says people need to remember there is good happening as well.
“You don’t want to let the negatives overwhelm your whole life. There are always positives no matter what and there are going to be a whole bunch of those too. Don’t miss them.”