A small percentage of us may be coping with symptoms of COVID-19 or we know someone who is, but all of us are coping with “sheltering in place.” While we all at some points in our live may have wanted “some time to ourselves,” this is not what we had in mind. It is a bit ironic that a professional who spent nearly a year without gravity has some very concrete tips for the very weighty notion of surviving isolation.
Retired Astronaut Scott Kelly spent nearly a year in the International Space Station, and his experience in a job that you truly cannot just walk away from offers some great advice.
- Schedule Yourself – Mr. Kelly talks about how his day was entirely time-blocked by his employer, NASA. You may not have a boss telling you what to do, but you need to keep regular bedtime and waking hours, have meals on schedule and set aside time for leisure and time for work and working out.
- Keep Pace – You are not going to clean your entire home top to bottom the first day in isolation. You are not going to become a top flight runner the very first week, and you are not going to catch up on all those movies you have wanted to see. Build a calendar that includes explicit work and reward times.
- Get Out – You will be surprised that even on some of our cold days the birds feel and singing Spring. What has amazed me is what I call COVID Cordiality; 95% of the people I see who are walking their dogs or just themselves make eye contact and greet you…maybe even ask about your well-being and you reciprocate.
- Hobby Time – Do something just for you. Maybe it is reading a designated number of minutes each day or learning a new language or starting seedlings in your well-lit kitchen window. This is “you time,” and you will find something that is special to you to fill it.
- Journal It – Astronauts are required to keep track of all manner of things so that their environment continues to sustain them. You may start a daily diary of thoughts and experiences that are part of your story. And given that this is a truly momentous event unfolding, you will be writing history.
- Connect Time – My husband and I had “dinner” with friends earlier this last week, and we had Happy Hour Sunday afternoon with all of our adult children and their partners who wished to attend…and they all said they would like to do it again next Sunday-go figure. All thanks to ZOOM-the picture here is a screen shot.
- Experts Count – People who understand this disease are worth hearing. They will tell us how long to wait before surfaces can be touched after someone else has been there. They will tell us what the arc of this epidemic is shaping up to be, and we should and should not do to get through this.
- Self Care – The bottom line for all that we do with families caring for an older loved one also apply to our current pandemic. Take good care of yourself if you are a caregiver to someone. It is the only way that your care receiver will be safe and the only way that you will be safe.
Take care of yourselves…be kind to yourselves. We will all look back on this someday soon, and I believe we will be impressed with how much real humanity emerged in a time of potential crisis.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.