Published: April 14, 2020

Tips for staying well while social distancing

Contact(s): Meredith Mescher University Communications

Osama Alian is a doctoral candidate in MSU’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics who studies the origins of life from the depths of the ocean to deep space.

Recently, he and three other crew members participated in a simulated isolation exercise as part of NASA’s Human Exploration Research Analog, or Project HERA. Their experience inside a windowless capsule at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, provided vital data that will help NASA prepare crews for future missions to Mars. It also gave him perspective on living in isolation. Here are his tips for staying well in similar situations.

1. Give structure to your day. This means having regular wake up and sleep times and regular mealtimes even if you’re bored. This will make sure that you have adequate rest, keeping your stress down.

2. Even though it sounds like a good idea, do not binge on streaming services. They will become boring very quickly. Break things up — I enjoyed reading books for the first part of the day until lunch and then transition to screen time the second half of the day.

3. Incorporate goal-directed activities into your day and make them regular and structured like your own school day. Pick up a new skill, brush up on old ones, or even study a topic or field you’re interested in. But don’t overdo it so you don’t burn out.

4. Sharing small spaces with other humans is a challenge — practice not only respecting physical space but psychological space as well. Interactions are great, but it’s also okay to have long periods of silence. It’s not personal when someone doesn’t necessarily want to talk.

5. Mealtimes are great points of communal activity. Play a board game, pick a movie or show and share in the time. It balances out “me time” so that you’re not isolated from your housemates or family.

6. Exercise! You can do a lot of exercise in 30 mins or more... bodyweight exercises, yoga, cycling/running are all great and consistency will have awesome results. More importantly, you don’t necessarily need to go to a gym for it... right now, less is more.

7. Regularly text/email/call friends and loved ones that you are distant from. Even just the acknowledgment of thinking of them will stave off the feelings of loneliness.

8. Ration your news and social media intake: 95% is information repackaged and recycled. The news will not change drastically from one hour to the next. Once a day is enough to get caught up.

9. Most importantly, take your precautions and take the social distancing seriously. If you’re healthy and not an at-risk demographic that’s awesome. However, you can be a carrier and harm those at risk. Let’s pull together and #FlattenTheCurve.

Read his full conversation about his experience