If Social Distancing Were a Sport…

Many people enjoy putting stickers on the roof carrier boxes they use to transport skis. The stickers typically signal where the intrepid travellers have explored. They showcase their worldliness and adventures by the stickers. Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Whistler, BC. Heavenly Valley, California. Lake Tahoe. Mammoth Mountain. Vail. Tremblant, Quebec. These lucky souls have travelled the Powder Highway far and wide. Our family used to enjoy poking fun at the inverse relationship between the quality of the vehicle and the number of stickers. The crummier the car, the more miles it had travelled. Then, we stumbled across a sticker we found amusing some years ago that was counter to bragging about where we’ve been. It read, “Been Nowhere, Done Nothing.” We bought this and brandished it on a desk at home. We put it on the desk as it wasn’t travelling anywhere and further emphasized that point.

As we continue to hunker down during this COVID mess, we’re all feeling like we’ve been nowhere and done nothing for too long. As we struggle with finding ways to occupy ourselves while we’re inmates in our own homes, our frustrations may be rising. Parents of little ones are perturbed that playgrounds are off limits in many areas now. It’s bad enough being miserable ourselves, but now our ability to entertain our little ones and cut them loose to blow off steam constructively is less and less. Trying to contain teenagers from visiting friends is getting harder as well. All of a sudden those that were content staring at their screens all day, now want to get out and about.

Some of us have been preparing for this moment our entire lives. A little part of me is enjoying the down time. If social distancing were a sport, who would be amongst our world class Olympians? Perhaps, those that have trained as astronauts are best equipped to teach us a thing or two about self-isolating.

Working in space can’t be easy. If you’re frustrated with your job or your boss, you can’t just walk out the door and quit. You are more than a little bit committed. Even if you’re lucky enough to be located on the International Space Station, you’re with only a handful of people with which you have as many differences as you do things in common. When frustrated, you can’t get in your car and drive away to blow off steam. You can neither run nor hide from problems or personal conflict. You must ride it out. We can’t think of a group that is better able to help us understand how we now find ourselves spending our time. A great, short article from the New York times written by retired astronaut, Scott Kelly, offers some great tips.

A few of his tips developed from spending a year on the International Space Station include:

Set a Schedule. Creating structure to our days prevents us from wandering down the wormhole of worry. A schedule can be our saving grace. Setting a time to get up and a task list of things to do will send us on our way daily. This is useful for everyone else in the household as well.

Pace Yourself. As the nursery rhyme says, all work and no play makes jack a dull boy. Yes, we want to do some work. Yes, we want to be responsible and help service our clients and employer. Kelly encourages us to set a limit of when we’ll turn the laptop off, put the phone down, stop checking emails and focus on the family and ourselves.

Go Outside. We’re not in space and most of us aren’t completely under house arrest just yet. Going out on a deck, back yard, front lawn, or better yet a few steps into nature helps. The fresh air feels good. Moving feels better. Being stuck inside sends us stir crazy.

You Need a Hobby. Linking to Kelly’s second recommendation, he encourages as to have some fun, once we’ve set aside our work. Find something constructive in which to engage. Reading, writing, or music are great go-tos. Games, puzzles, and other interactive activities work well too. Idle hands are the devil’s best friend so find something to do that you enjoy.

When this began just a few short weeks ago, I thought the way to calm concern was to cultivate curiosity. Dig in and try to learn about the virus and make personal assessments. This couldn’t have been worse advice to undertake or offer. The influx of information is too much and seems to breed more uncertainty as opposed to offering answers. We’re best to turn things off completely. At the entrance to Terrain Parks at many ski hills are warning signs which suggest “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Make sure the environment is safe prior to proceeding. This is good advice. Check out of “news”. Check out of online activity as best we can. Check yourself out of the barrage of negative information before you wreck yourself. Check in to something new. Check in to something you want to learn and explore that is fun and offers a respite for our restlessness.

Kelly offers additional advice in the article which is worth reading. If our Astronauts can last a year or more in space, we can, hopefully, find a way to make the most of where we find ourselves for the next few months.