Cooped up by coronavirus? Ex-astronaut José Hernández has NASA-approved tricks to keep sane

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Former NASA astronaut José Hernández is aware of one thing about residing in tight quarters and being fairly remoted — one thing he discovered lengthy earlier than the coronavirus pandemic compelled so many across the globe to just do that.

Hernández, 57, did in 2009 what many dream of doing: He went to area as a mission specialist on the STS-128 Discovery shuttle that flew to the Worldwide Area Station.

He says his coaching for that mission retains him sane and targeted as of late, and it might probably assist others, as properly.

“The lifetime of the astronaut is isolating even for a brief mission of two weeks in area. We have been in medical isolation for weeks prior, since you do not wish to go dwelling after which get sick and danger the mission,” Hernández advised NBC Information. “So we’re properly over a month in isolation, and even earlier than that, you go do lots of workouts in small teams together with your staff.”

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On the brink of go to area included survival coaching, equivalent to learn how to reside within the mountains in the midst of winter. In a forest in Maine, the astronauts-in-training got no meals or water and needed to determine it out. “We needed to see what the forest would give us, so that you do fishing, you go discover water. It was a technique to convey cohesiveness to the group and work collectively,” he says.

One other coaching train concerned residing in a module 60 ft underwater to reflect what it was like being in area.

All that helped him cope and develop a method for being by himself and preserving a constructive perspective.

“It’s a must to have a look at the glass half-full, not half-empty,” he says. Hernandez recollects the time he complained about one thing throughout a coaching session and his commander mentioned “hey, you are considered one of 500 individuals” who ended up with the privilege of going up in area. That, Hernández says, put it in perspective.

Not that the coronavirus is not scary, Hernández says, however you attempt to make one of the best of even a foul scenario.

Talk, preserve a schedule

“The constructive right here is we’re with our households, we’re with our family members,” Hernández says. “You are spending extra time with these you would not ordinarily be with on a regular basis, so make one of the best of it.”

In a confined, crowded atmosphere, as it may be for a lot of who’re quarantining with their households, good communication is essential, notably when stress runs excessive and persistence runs low.

He recommends a method NASA used as a security process: Say one thing greater than as soon as, and get affirmation.

“What I’ve discovered is that it is in all probability good to repeat whenever you talk with others, as a result of it lets you hear what you’ve gotten advised the opposite particular person, and when that different particular person repeats it to you, you hear what you mentioned, and it filters out unreasonable requests, for instance,” Hernández says. “That approach you possibly can defuse conditions that would escalate.”

He makes use of one other NASA approach — making a schedule and sticking to it.

“Even for individuals who usually are not working proper now, having a schedule all the way down to the hour helps quantify your day and lets you have slightly little bit of success and that you simply completed one thing,” he says. “You’ll be able to declare small victories.”

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Hernández acknowledges that not everybody could be with their households and that some are by themselves in the course of the pandemic. Making a concerted effort to be linked, as he did throughout his time at NASA, helps stem the pangs of loneliness and isolation.

“It is arduous to coach to be away out of your family members. However expertise helps,” he says, recalling his many chats together with his household by way of video. “I would entertain my youngsters by floating M&Ms and consuming them, and these days I nonetheless use expertise lots.”

Though Hernández’s mother and father reside solely 10 minutes away, they’re speaking by way of cellphone and laptop video. “Due to their age, I do not wish to danger them getting sick, so we ‘see’ them and speak with them on video. Simply since you’re remoted doesn’t suggest you possibly can’t talk together with your family members.”

Jose Hernandez, left, with Leticia, his sister, and Gil, his brother.Courtesy Jose Hernandez

Hernández, an engineer who left NASA in 2011, is the son of migrant farmworkers from Mexico. Now a marketing consultant and an creator, he has gone again to his farming roots and began a small winery in his hometown, Stockton, California.

When he was rising up, Hernández helped his household choose crops. He has a deep appreciation for agricultural staff out within the fields in the course of the pandemic.

“Because of them I will feed my household throughout this scary scenario,” Hernández says.

U.S. farmworkers are thought of “important staff,” however staff and advocates fear that they are not being sufficiently protected presently.

In Washington state, two unions representing agricultural staff, the United Farm Staff of America and Familias Unidas Por La Justicia AFL-CIO, sued the state (particularly the Well being Division) looking for safer working situations in the course of the disaster.

“We should always ensure that our farmworkers day in and day trip have the correct private safety tools given the situations they’re requested to work in,” Hernández says.

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