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Future Normal


A cordoned off Main beach in Laguna Beach CA. Iconic lighthouse, American flag, empty benches, and caution tape.

Over the past month, my colleagues have shared information about cleaning your fruits and veg, leaning on DinnerTime to help plan meals and make grocery shopping easier, and creating routines to help keep sane during this stay-at-home period. Last week, we lightened up the mood with some fun food poetry to celebrate Poetry Month.

This week, I was asked to share how I’m coping with this experience of living in a COVID-19 world. And I’ve been thinking about what  “normal” will mean when we come out on the other side of this pandemic, and also how to feel less stressful right now.

Our lives are not going to whoosh back to exactly the world we were experiencing in February 2020. There’s going to be a “future-normal.”


It’s been over a month since my town entered lockdown mode. Laguna Beach is a pretty resort town with 23,000 residents and millions of visitors every year. Now the beaches, trails, art galleries, and boutiques are all closed. A few of the restaurants are holding on by offering takeout and delivery. Some are supplementing their income selling ingredients like eggs, milk, and fresh produce. My friend posted a video about our newly empty town.

Empty sidewalk with Laguna Cinema marquee showing "stay safe, stay home"Walking along the Pacific Coast Highway is surreal. No crowds and the beaches are closed. I feel such grief as I take my daily walk with my dog, Maggie May, on the empty streets, pulling up my mask and giving a wide berth as I pass others.

Stressed Out?

Remember when?

Even before the pandemic, over two-thirds of Americans expressed anxiety over keeping their family safe and healthy. Now everyone I know is feeling stressed. It’s manifesting differently in everyone. Depression, anxiety, anger, and sorrow. I haven’t slept a full night in weeks and I have friends that are sleeping twelve hours at a time. The thought of sitting in a crowded restaurant appears to be a thing of the past, at least for now. Many people living alone are suffering from isolation. For instance, my friend Linda really misses physical contact and looks forward to a time when she can hug her friends and family.

I’m really grateful for the brave people working every day so our world keeps spinning: janitors at the hospitals, people delivering packages and grocery store clerks. My friend works at Whole Foods and every day since this started, someone has either yelled at him or broken-down sobbing in the checkout line. Many people are suffering from severe financial hardships that no one saw coming.

Yet, I am allowed to go outside and walk my dog, And I haven’t lost my job. But I am still feeling sad. Everyone has been affected by this unprecedented global disease, and everybody is grieving.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to not feel okay.


Great Loss

After attending an online wine-tasting seminar last week, the scientist in me was struck by the parallel between our current crisis and the devastation caused by the grapevine parasite phylloxera 150 years ago.  Phylloxera is a tiny aphid that feeds on the roots and leaves of grapevines and it destroyed half of the vineyards across Europe in the late 1800s.  Phylloxera was so devastating because it’s microscopic,  it easily spreads, and crops don’t die for 3 for 5 years, allowing the phylloxera to infiltrate new areas before it’s detected. Phylloxera became a global problem after the invention of the steamship, allowing relatively quick travel among continents. It’s endemic in the US and American grapevines are immune. However, legacy American vines didn’t produce tasty wine. Americans and Europeans traded grapevines and the phylloxera traveled in the soil to Europe.

The good news is that vintners figured out that they could graft European vines to American vines and these hybrids can survive phylloxera.  A majority of the wines we drink today are hybrids of European and American vines. So, the growers had to create a “new-normal” for growing wine grapes. This made me contemplate what my new-normal will look like. Maybe I’ll call it “future-normal.”

Is There a Silver Lining?

So please – take a deep breath… let it go… and contemplate your life today. What will you take with you into the “future-normal”?  Think of new healthy habits that you’ve acquired. Are you working from home and taking breaks to walk your dog? Maybe you can continue to take work breaks when you’re back in the office. Are you preparing more meals at home and gathering together to eat? This is such a beneficial habit. Meals made at home are healthier than eating out and children that eat meals with their family do better academically and are happier.

Thinking and planning the activities that you’ll take with you once you leave the current situation can be a source of hope. What new healthy habits will you carry with you?

What does your future-normal look like?

I’ve loved working from home for the past seven years. I have my routines and my schedule. My husband is now working from home so there have been some adjustments! The nicest one is that he doesn’t have to rush to the office in the morning. So, he joins Maggie May and me on our morning walk. It speeds up our pace, which is good, and I really enjoy starting the day with him this way. I hope we’ll be able to continue this habit when the world opens up enough for him to go back to the office. I saw my neighbors riding bikes with their tween children. What a terrific new habit to keep.

Along with making conscious decisions about what will work in our new world, remember to give yourself a break during the current crisis.

What will you bring with you?

1. Learn to say no. Before 2020 people were already over-committing. Many people are getting burned out today by attending video meetings during the day for work and then they feel they have to attend every event they’re invited to at night. I understand – it’s difficult to come up with excuses because many of us are at home. However, you can say, “I’m not going to attend. I’m taking a break from zoom.”

brown dog sniffing flowers

2. Continue to walk outside! Breathe deeply and enjoy the sights and sounds of a world with diminished human activity. Take a break from your computer. Stretch your legs, smell the flowers, feel the sun on your face, and enjoy. Take a walk outside and appreciate the world anew.

 2. Eat well. Continue making the majority of your meals at home for good health. Limit simple carbs that spike your blood sugar. Snacking on raw carrots and celery actually helps relieve the tension of a clenched jaw. Here are some more foods to help you de-stress.

3. Make a new dish. Social media is full of beautiful success stories of sourdough bread and hilarious photos of epic kitchen fails! But people are taking the time to stretch their culinary skills.  Try making Linguine with Asparagus and Pine Nuts or Tuscan Butter Salmon. Or search in the DinnerTime Recipe Box for a dish that you’ve always wanted to make.

4. Give your kids new responsibilities. Teach them to make their beds and do the laundry. You can show them how to use DinnerTime and your kid can choose dinner and help you make it. We’ve had good luck getting kids into the joy of cooking with this Manicotti recipe or Baked Chicken Fingers.

5. Make lemonade out of lemons – picnic! Throw a blanket down in your backyard or on your front porch and enjoy the sun and fresh air. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, have a carpet picnic inside on the floor. Throw together this Italian Pasta Veggie Salad or Grilled Vegetables Focaccia Sandwich.

6. Accomplish something. This can be as ambitious as learning a new language or as simple as cleaning out your hall closet. My husband cleaned out three drawers in our office hutch and now I have enough pens for the rest of my life!

lots of pens

7. Set yourself up for success. Go through your cupboards and reorganize them. Use DinnerTime’s Pantry Manager to stay organized once we move to our “future-normal.” You’ll be amazed at how helpful this will be.

8. Meditate. Find a way to calm your mind. Take a break and breathe. Many of us are suffering from insomnia due to the changes and uncertainty we’re currently facing. Lying with your eyes closed and breathing deeply will give you some of the benefits felt by a good night’s sleep. There are several guided meditations available on YouTube. The free meditation app, Insight Timer, is available for both iPhone and Android phones. Let us know your favorites at

~Angela M Jansen MHS, PhD, VP, Analytics & Population Health

Have you tried a new recipe lately?

So many great recipes to choose!
You can search for an ingredient (e.g. eggplant, etc) the name or part of the name of a recipe (lasagna), a cuisine (Italian), type of dish (e.g. soup), an occasion (Thanksgiving, breakfast, tailgating, etc).  in your  DinnerTime Recipe Box.

Ready in under 25 minutes and so flavorful!

Perfect for leftover chicken tossed with an easy-to-make vinaigrette.

Get the kids to help make this favorite dish.