20 Astronaut Tips to Avoid Going Crazy (And Be Productive) on Lockdown

Didn’t know that Big Bang Theory actors qualify as astronauts.

Hello, survivor!

There are tons of to-do lists, health tips and isolation activities around – but often the first step is the most challenging one, which is to get in the mood to actually do it instead of just lounge all day scratching your belly and alternating between the thoughts of Armageddon and the need for more toilet paper. We know how difficult it can be to get out of that loop, so we’ve gathered some expert tips to help put you in shape to take action.

Following on our advice for isolation from cloistered nuns, we’re bringing some more expert advice here to survive isolation – without going nuts and even being productive! This time it comes from astronauts, some of which have spent months isolated in the International Space Station, apart from actual medical quarantine periods before boarding the spaceship – so they might know a bit about this. We have compiled input from a number of these space explorers, including Chris Hatfield, Tim Peake, Anousheh Ansari, Nicole Stott, Tom Jones, Rusty Schweikart, Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu, Scott Kelly, Peggy Whitson and Anne McLain. If they made it in space, you can make it at home!

1. Keep the bigger goal in mind

Stock yourself with the purpose of this whole coronavirus pandemic isolation. We’re saving lives. It is estimated in the thousands already for individual countries – if you want to be more precise, find a calculator here. When you find yourself desperate, remember that this effort you’re making is part of a team that is actually achieving things and saving people from death.

2. Communicate effectively

Everything is better with puffins.

If you’re sharing your space with someone, it is very important that you communicate clearly – as well as listen. Little quirks that are OK for you e.g. putting your feet on the table, might turn others crazy – and vice versa. If you’ve ever had a flatmate, you know what that means. Now it is especially important to pay attention and clarify any possible issues as early as possible, as there is plenty of time for them to build up and turn into tension or fights.
If you live alone, it’s equally important to communicate with yourself – not meaning that you should have conversations with household items. Rather than speaking to the lamp, listen to yourself: is it working for you?

3. Take care of yourself and those around you

Following on the point above, it’s important that you keep yourself functioning: eat healthy, do some exercise, keep your mind busy and healthy too. And do the same with your family and those around you. This maintenance will allow you to have the strength to tackle all the other challenges. Keep this purpose in mind when you feel lazy about doing these things.

4. Understand the problem you’re facing

True, I used to fear spiders until I went to Australia. Now European spiders seem like ladybugs.

Chris Hadfield, the man who commanded the ISS, has a great way to face his fears – become an expert about it. Breaking down the fear into the actual risks and evaluating them, we often discover that the fear is not proportional to the actual risk – and also, we build an action plan for the actual dangers. So if you haven’t yet, learn what Coronavirus is and how it is transmitted, from trusted sources – official advice: US/UK. That will help you prevent it and fight it. See the video above for some great inspiration – and a pinch of David Bowie 🙂

5. Choose your goals

Following on Chris Hadfield’s system, the next step is to choose your goals. Get your ducks in a row. If you need inspiration you can check our list. Be ambitious, but realistic. Learning to play violin from scratch might be slightly too far (and a bit painful for the neighbours too), but maybe it’s the perfect moment for reading that book in your list. Or to make your own face mask. This is your chance – what would you like to achieve?

6. Examine the constraints

Once you have chosen your goals, what’s in the way? Say you want to have an indoor garden, but you killed the last poor cactus you had. Well, do a bit of research and find exactly what you need. Maybe you need a planter; you can order online, or find tutorials about how to make them from recycled containers. Maybe you tend to water it too much; track how often you do it and place a Don’t drown me post-it on the pot. Every hurdle can be matched to a solution that works for you. Also, this breakdown of challenges will allow you to face pretty much anything in life.

7. Take action

No spoilers.

Divide and conquer all over again. Plan your hours, day, week, month, break down your list of actions from the point above. Organise your routine to make sure you achieve everything you want, but leave room for changes as you go along. Start ASAP. Get an easy task first just to put you in the flow, and feel the achievement, then face bigger tasks first and after that everything will look easy 🙂

8. Build a routine

You’d be surprised how silly animals of habit we are. Our brain falls on what we’re used to, by default. If you arrived home and fall on the sofa every single evening, your autopilot would take you there again and again with no effort. Breaking with that routine is an opportunity then – we just need to build healthy habits. Start your day in a different way than you used to, and set a repetitive plan to work on your goals: set a place, a time, and all the props you need. Try to be smart about it – if the place is bed and the prop is your pillow, the conflict with sleeping won’t make you very productive (or your sleep very restful). Suit it to yourself: are you an early bird or a night owl? In any case, after a few days of your new routine, your brain will take you there by default.

9. Be patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day; and you can’t turn yourself from a sack of potatoes into a healthy, fit, artist, influencer, multilingual and philosopher in a day. Remember the breakdown of tasks and just keep going one step at a time, without missing any steps. This is especially important in the first days, when you’re setting up your new routine. And be aware that whenever you start something, you feel completely useless. It’s part of the learning process. Actually, the worse you start, the more difference you will notice as you grow – keep a record. Stay patient and eventually you’ll see the results.

10. Vary your activities

The whole point of this is to not get bored, so make sure you include variety in your plan. I remember a friend I used to live with, a medicine student, speaking about her stressful vocation:

So when you choose to study Medicine, it’s like – ok, I like mac&cheese, I’m going for it. You’re happy and everyone is for you. But then you go and find a whole swimming pool full of mac&cheese and you have to jump in it and eat the whole thing NOW. And that’s today, tomorrow, and every day of your life for at least the 6 years you’re studying.

Espe, my flatmate – now a Pediatrician

Don’t force yourself into something if you don’t have to. Set your goals but, include some creative activities, exercise, time for friends and family, and to try new things. What would you like to try?

11. Connect to family and friends

It’s easier to forget if you’re an introvert, and more challenging if you live alone, but it’s essential to keep your human connections and your mind healthy. Make sure you get face time, even if it’s a video call, with your loved ones. If any of your loved ones is a drama queen (that happens, you’re not alone), you might need to manage how much you let that influence you, but don’t cut the line. The patience you build to deal with them will be useful for you too. It’ll all help you and them stay sane.

12. Stay fit

I’ve mentioned the gravity field of the sofa before. Don’t let yourself fall in this black hole! You need to move, and though the first try might be literally painful if you haven’t done anything in a long time, it’ll all pay off. Be sensible, build up. Yoga for example can go from relaxing beginner stretches to challenges that would take you years to accomplish. Remember that a small but constant effort is what really counts over time. Listen to your body, get some research: what’s your thing? Then DO it, get over the initial piece of rotten wood feeling and repeat until you realise you actually feel much better 🙂 It’ll help you clear your mind and give you more energy to face any other challenges, as well.

13. Take time for fun

You’ll need an outlet that is neither work/productivity nor maintenance; reserve some time for fun. Series, games, chatting with friends; with moderation, it’s essential to stop you from going nuts.

14. Be creative

Take this time as a chance to see thing from a different perspective, to create something; to paint, DIY, learn music, even rearrange your living room or turn empty beer cans into an opera concert. Being creative is fun and it gives you a purpose. Don’t be afraid to be silly, you can get great things from that.

15. Educate yourself

This is the best possible time for isolation is now. You’ve got all the knowledge in the world at the reach of your hands. You can learn languages, read thousands of books, get lost in Wikipedia, learn about your next trip; there are tutorials for pretty much anything, even virtual visits to museums. Take advantage of this and feed your mind too – there’s life beyond memes. Think of what you’d like to learn and go for it!

16. Monitor how things go

Monitor the global situation, to know how it’s evolving and how it affects your plans (maybe that trip you had in mind?), also to give you a push for any good news that come (e.g. countries that are flattening the curve). Monitor yourself too; see if you feel well, if you need anything, if you’re bored, etc so you can react accordingly. Successful people dedicate some time every morning to ask themselves : is this the right route? And if not, make any necessary amends.

17. Be positive

(Except for the COVID-19 test)

There is a silver lining to all this. A clear one is how people are coming together despite the distance: people singing in the balconies, offering help to others, cheering for health professionals, and how these professionals are pushing beyond their strength to save lives. All this shows a beautiful side of humanity that we’ll want to keep – maybe we’re not as crap as we thought.
Look into yourself as well and find the opportunities this brings to you, such as spending more time with your family or having more time for yourself and the things you always wanted to do.

18. Be aware of your own influence

We used to be part of a hustle and bustle where we feel like a speck of dust. Being at home, in a smaller environment where you are a very significant part of it, can be a chance to evaluate your individual impact. Your impact in yourself, your life, your house and your family, how you make a difference – and then extrapolate that to the bigger picture of us all. We’ve seen, for example, how these individual actions are changing the trend on the coronavirus expansion, and how it has greatly reduced the pollution levels. It’s a great moment to acknowledge that your grain of sand counts.

19. Get some perspective

Getting out of our usual routine is a great chance to step back and reevaluate things. We are discovering how human, and how fragile we can be. We are surviving without many of the things we used to have – were they all necessary then? Can you make your life simpler? Also, we have understood how we’re all connected – keep the bigger picture.

20. Hang on to the lessons learnt

Never let a good crisis go to waste.

Winston Churchill

You’ve probably heard from the 2008 crisis that in Chinese, the word for ‘crisis’ is also used for ‘opportunity’. Crisis revolve everything and when the dust settles, things are not like they were before. Take that chance to put yourself in a better place. Keep what you have learnt about the world, about the new perspective gained about humanity, how we can come and act together, how we can overcome difficult situations. Also, anything you have discovered about yourself, any useful new routine you have acquired. What are you learning from this? Have you learnt to appreciate what’s really important? Have you realised your life can be simpler? Hold on to any lessons and let them help you through the rest of your life.

Sources: Business Insider, Euronews, BBC

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10 Photos of Ghost London with Social Distancing [Before and After]

When a man is tired of London,
He is tired of life.

Samuel Johnson

London can be as tiring as life is sometimes. Everything used to happen here – concerts, shows, events of all kind, hordes of tourists sweeping the streets, startups creating and reinventing in Shoreditch, bankers juggling with the world’s economy. All in the same place at the same time – it’s impossible to get everything; because we can only physically be in one place at a time, and also because for any good weekend plan there’s a limited capacity and millions more thinking about that great idea. Hustle and bustle is an essential part of some places in London and so, its absence these days is a symptom that something is happening. The photos below show clearly how coronavirus COVID-19 isolation has changed how we live our lives.

If that makes you anxious, I would like to offer you the chance to give it a twist. Think of it as a breathing exercise. Look at one crowded photo, picture yourself in the middle of the crowd. Imagine the selfie sticks, the chitchat in multiple languages; or the silent but relentless army-like procession of people in station rush hours. Feel the stress and yourself moving along with it in the direction you’d be heading. Breathe in for a few seconds in this feeling. Then hold your breath for a couple seconds while you move to the next (empty) photo. Feel the peace and quiet while you breath out slowly. It seems silly, but I’m sure you’ll feel better after it.

  1. Buckingham Palace
©PA Media/BBC
©PA Media/BBC

2. Trafalgar Square

© Evening Standard
© Andy Parsons

3. Leicester Square

©Paul Chambers

4. Piccadilly Circus

© Stephanographie
© Andy Parsons

5. London Eye

© E.Kaspersky
© Twitter

6. Liverpool Street Station

© David Peters

4. Chinatown

© Oast House Archive

5. King’s Cross station

© Unknown
© Twitter

3. Oxford Street

© Giulio Jiang
© Andy Parsons

3. The Underground

©Evening Standard

Hope you enjoyed the photos. Please feel free to share and comment =)

Stay home, stay safe, stay sane!

Lockdown Resolutions: Things To Do At Home

Hello, survivor! Missed the 2020 New Year Resolutions? No worries, you get a second chance now. We have some serious home time coming – which may sound like desperately boring to some, but it can actually be a great opportunity. If you’re wondering what to do at home all this time, keep reading to get some ideas:

1. Save money!

Yes, it’s a perfect time to save in travel, commute, eating out… If you live in places like London or New York, you know that even breathing outside your house is expensive. Take advantage of staying home and save some money – just remember to keep your sanity and not screw it by panic buying, ordering too much take away, getting too many new subscriptions, etc. See here an example list of what you need and what you don’t for groceries. Try to use Amazon ‘Add to Wishlist’ rather than ‘Buy now’ so you can see all your potential spending together and sort out what you really need – a.k.a. the Marie Kondo shopping; but be careful with the ‘spark of joy’, everything sparks when you don’t have it yet.

Keep track of your new expenses and ensure they make sense with the recommended couple week supply and with your savings – remember that it’s not the end of civilisation, and most services will still be running. It might be a good time to educate yourself in personal finance or to set a home accounting system.

Furthermore, we’re not expecting all banks to collapse anytime soon, so no need to rush to get cash out of your account and put it under your mattress. With the right systems in place, bank staff and clients can operate from home; also, electronic payments are free of physical contact, and therefore, free of virus transmission risk 🙂

2. Get Ripped

Yes, I know the sofa is tempting (I believe they have their own gravity field, but that’s a theory for another day), but there’s a lot you can do at home to stay fit. Starting with eating properly – which may help you with #1, Save Money) and then to yoga, crossfit, etc. There are tons of free resources online with routines that you can make at home. Just get a yoga/exercise mat, adjust the furniture to leave some exercise space a couple times a week. My experience: I manage with a space of around 2 m by 1.5 m and I’m 1.76 m tall, though if you have more you’ll be more comfortable – in nonsensical imperial units that should be about 6ft 6″ x 5ft for a 5ft 9″ person.

Youtube, Vimeo etc are full of free videos that you can follow. Cast the video to your TV, or place your laptop/phone where you can see it in different positions (sitting, standing, laying down – or at least that you can hear it from every position). I recommend picking some videos that you like, up to five, and repeating them along your sessions e.g. two or three a week. When you’re more familiar with a video, you won’t need to look at the screen so often and you’ll be able to focus better on exercising properly. If you don’t have equipment at home (dumbbells, yoga straps, bricks etc) don’t worry it’s not essential – you’d be surprised how much you can get knackered with just your own weight. Don’t make it an excuse!

Also, if you’re not a youngster anymore and you’re not in great shape, there are still some light exercises you can do – and for you it is especially important to stay active. This kind of routine – Exercise for Older Adults – will help you stay healthy.


If you have never done it before, give it a go. It’s a very complete exercise that builds strength, flexibility and also improves your mental health. Don’t expect to match the moves of the instructor in your first try – feeling useless at the beginning is part of the process. Just do what you can and at the end, enjoy the relaxing shavasana pose (a.k.a. lay on your back doing nothing)

As an example, I do some routines from Cat Meffan – many options and different levels available, also, she explains how to make an easier or more challenging version of most exercises, so you can repeat the same video and take new challenges as you see yourself improving. If you have any other videos that you like, don’t hesitate to speak up in the comments!


If you want something with more cardio, this is for you: a combination of strenght, speed and stamina exercises that if you do properly, it will leave you knackered. A couple warnings – you may need to jump, so watch the hours and neighbours underneath; also, ensure you have space around, as you may need to run a couple steps to the sides/front.

If you’re serious about getting ripped, there are some high intensity workout programs such as Insanity. Warning: not quite a walk in the park! Otherwise you may take it easy and find some free online video routines (for example) to do at home and get in shape little by little.

Any other ideas? Let me know in the comments.

3. Productive Hobby #1: Cooking

Cooking is a win-win in this kind of situation. This activity can save you money, keep you healthy, and strengthen bonds with family, kids and those at your home, if you do it together (and you don’t argue too much about it). Find what kind of food you like and balance it with your cooking level and kitchen tools (e.g. you may love wood-fired pizza, but if you don’t have that kind of oven, you’ll have to find alternatives). You could start by searching for easy at home recipes.

Also, it is a great way to keep a lively social network feed – your instagram will be happy! Just try to go more towards colourful salads that sparkly bakery – a batch of cupcakes won’t do much good to your health if you can’t take the spare ones to the office and have to eat them all yourself.

4. Productive Hobby #2: Arts and Crafts

Did you always have some craft learning in your bucket list? It’s the moment to do it! Drawing, painting, origami, calligraphy… The list is endless. Obviously, different crafts have different requirements: Oil painting or sculpture, for example, will probably require a space for it and specialised material, especially if you work with larger format – and it will get messy; drawing, however, can be done with a pen and a notebook. Origami can be done with spare paper – some even with that toilet paper you’ve been hoarding. Take a look at Pinterest/Instagram for some inspiration and find what kind of material you need. With a bit of love, you may be able to make your own gifts, cards, etc – having fun and saving some money on the way 🙂


Origami is a very satisfying hobby if you have patience and spare paper around. If you’re a beginner, avoid diagrams – they can be difficult to understand. Go for videos instead, where you can see the folding process and repeat some step if you need. I recommend you to try modular origami – which is, folding paper to make repetitive components (modules) that you can group in many different ways. Sonobe module, for example, is great for that – you learn to make a 1 minute piece, repeat it many times (you can get your family/housemates to participate) and assemble, disassemble and reassemble as you get more modules. There are many different modules around – for example, with enough patience you can do beautiful things like this swan.


Why do we stop drawing when we grow up? To be honest, I don’t know. But this may be a chance to get back to that. Charcoal is very good for quick expressive sketches. You can also get some brown/coloured paper (my favourite!) and make very expressive drawings with chalk and charcoal. If you can’t get any of this, don’t worry – you only need paper and something that leaves a trace on it – pencil, pen, anything. It is not so much about learning to draw as about learning to see – avoid your preconceptions and seeing only what you have in front of you, light and proportion – or just unleash your creativity and do something different!

5. Meditation

Meditation is a very undervalued exercise that you can do anywhere, especially at home. Some people say… ‘I can’t meditate! My thoughts are constantly bothering me – it would just make me worse to be alone with them!’ Well, meditation is just the opposite – taking your mind away from that. You just think about breathing, and release everything else – it helps develop focus and control of your thoughts and emotions in your day to day life. Try short exercises and see how it feels. The Headspace app, for example, is great for that – and no, you don’t need the yoga pose to do it.

6. Reach your loved ones

Yes, it’s a pandemic, but it’s not the Black Death. Apart from being 20 times less deadly, these Coronavirus times are not medieval anymore – we all have phone, Whatsapp, Skype, and social networks to reach all our loved ones regardless of which part of the globe they’re sitting in.

So… Use them! Stay in touch, ask how their day was, and take advantage of the moment to recover contact with those you haven’t talked in a while to ask how they are. This is especially important if you or them live alone – you will really help them stay happy and take care of themselves.

{This post is under construction and open to any ideas – share your own in the comments below!}

Stay safe, stay sane!