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Astronaut Scott Kelly shares tips on how to handle self isolation

Scott Kelly spent nearly a year in space, so he knows quite a lot about what it's like to be in isolation.

If you're going stir crazy after a week or two of social distancing and self quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, try being in Scott Kelly's shoes. 

The retired NASA astronaut spent almost a year living in the International Space Station. He recently wrote a column for the New York Times giving tips on how to stay strong during prolonged periods of self isolation.

Kelly explained in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday that self isolation is "not easy," but having the "right expectations" helped him prepare for nearly a year of isolation in space. Kelly knew how long he would be in the station before he would come back to Earth. For most individuals staying home because of the coronavirus pandemic, the uncertainty of not knowing when it will end is a source of stress. 

"We can get through this if we work together, if we support together, if we stay connected," Kelly said. He urged everyone to take self-quarantining seriously and to look at it as the "new reality." 

In his column, Kelly recommended following a schedule. He said pacing was important, stressing that you should schedule time to work as well as time to have fun. Having a consistent bedtime scheduled is also essential. 

One thing Kelly missed most while on the International Space Station was the ability to go outside. In space, going outside was a "dangerous undertaking that requires days of preparation," but individuals who are self-quarantining may still be able to step outside if they practice safe social distancing.

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"You don’t need to work out two and a half hours a day, as astronauts on the space station do, but getting moving once a day should be part of your quarantine schedule (just stay at least six feet away from others)," Kelly wrote. 

This period of social distancing is also the perfect time to pick up a hobby, new or old, according to Kelly. He brought books with him to the space station. Learning a new instrument or taking up a new craft are also good options. 

According to Kelly, NASA's studies of the effects of isolation on humans revealed that keeping a journal could have a big impact. 

"You put your feelings in a journal," Kelly told "Good Morning America," "If you're feeling a certain way, writing it down, being honest with yourself about it is the best possible thing you can do. 

Credit: AP
In this July 12, 2015 photo, Astronaut Scott Kelly takes a photo of himself inside the Cupola, a special module of the International Space Station which provides a 360-degree viewing of the Earth and the station.

"When this is all over someday, we can look back at this time--one of the most challenging times in our country--and you can have a record of what it was like for you," he added.

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Above all, Kelly stressed staying connected. Studies have shown isolation affects both mental and physical health. Luckily, there is plenty of technology today that let's people connect with their loved ones virtually, whether it's through conference calls on Skype or movie nights with Netflix Party. 

"Understand that we're all in this together. If you're feeling stressed, talk about it. And that's how we work through these things," Kelly said.

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