Some of us have been running our business from home offices for years, but for many this is a new experience, and we are finding it can entail a good degree of isolation.

We spoke yesterday with a woman who works for a large insurer. She was optimistic when she first heard her team would be working from home. “No boss looking over my shoulder or co-workers interrupting,” she said. “How bad can that be?” It didn’t take long, however, for an extrovert like her to begin feeling lonely.

Such feelings can be exacerbated for those who live alone or are self-quarantined. Many will go entire days without speaking with another human being. Left unaddressed, feelings of isolation like that can fester and even lead to burnout. 

We’ve found it’s important to be deliberate each day to avoid the challenges found in working from home. Here are a few tactics we’ve seen used to good effect:

1. Create your own social community.

Just hours into this current crisis, our good friend and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith sent out a daily meeting invite to his 100 Coaches Cohort. Every morning now we join an hourlong Zoom call with Marshall and business leaders from around the world. It helps us stay in touch and learn what’s happening in Europe or Silicon Valley.

If you aren’t part of such a group of like-minded people, then start your own regular call with colleagues in your organization or those from your online community who have similar interests. Share news and thoughts on how to survive and thrive. Our team at The Culture Works uses a Slack channel, and we are on there all day long sharing ideas and chatting—recreating the connected feeling we got by standing around the water cooler back in the day.Article continues below

2. Enjoy a virtual coffee.

Meet for a few minutes on a Zoom or Skype call with a cup of coffee (or your favorite beverage) and a group of friends. Social interactions, even when digital, can help us feel more connected. And good friends can provide support and help you see glimmers of hope in times of trouble. As such, limit your stories of doom and gloom to the first few minutes and then spend the rest of the time lifting each other. 

3. Get outside.

While still maintaining social distancing, it’s usually possible to work for an hour a day on your balcony, porch, or even a folding chair in your yard. Weather-permitting, getting out and giving yourself a new perspective is crucial for well-being, and a change of scenery can get your creative juices flowing. If Mother Nature won’t cooperate, find a new room in your house to work for a block of time or even a new window to look out of.

4. Invest in yourself.

With no commute and fewer face-to-face meetings, you’ll probably end up with more time than normal to focus on personal growth and development. It’s a good idea to limit exposure to the news (catch up once or twice a day) and instead read or listen to a book on a subject that will help you grow in your career. We are going to get through this, and won’t it be better to come out on the other side stronger, more capable, and better educated?

To that end, be intentional and disciplined. At the end of your workday, map out your next day, keep your calendar full (even if you block it with time to work), and set goals every day to push yourself.

5. Be more grateful.

Expression of gratitude for those who help you in your daily work at home can be huge motivation and productivity boosters to those around you. Gratitude is also really good for us. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude brings a lift to our psyches and even our health, is a bulwark against depression, boosts satisfaction with life overall, and leads to better sleep. Write a thank-you note, send a video of thanks, or call someone out of the blue to say why you appreciate them. The more gratitude we offer to others during tough times, the happier and more resilient we will be.

The bottom line.

Working from home doesn’t have to be lonesome. A few positive habits can help you feel more connected and reduce your risk of burnout.



By now, you’ve probably started to adapt to cooking from your pantry, but limiting your shopping trips may mean you’ve been eating less fresh produce than you’d like. This doesn’t have to mean that the nutrition of your meals goes by the wayside though. We spoke to dietitians about their favorite strategies and meal ideas to boost the nutrition of anything you eat—even in isolation.

1. Add greens powder to…anything, really.

The great thing about a greens powder is it’s easy to add to anything, at any time of day. Breakfast? Add it to a morning smoothie, made with frozen produce and shelf-stable nut milk. Afternoon snack? Sprinkle it on some popcorn. Lunch and dinner? Mix it into beans, soup, stews, or add it to a sauce or salad dressing. Look for one with a mild flavor and for even more nutrition, find one boosted by organic sea veggies, which will add hard-to-find essential nutrients including magnesium, calcium, iron, and vitamin C.

2. Think about dried options other than beans and grains.

You’ve probably got canned and frozen veggies on the brain, but what about dried ones? The world of dried fruits and veggies isn’t just for snacking or oatmeal-raisin cookies—it’s a great place to seek out more flavor for your favorite meals.

“One pantry item I’ve been loving is sun-dried tomatoes,” said Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN. “I love the flavor and texture. I’ve been throwing them in my veggie egg scrambles, using them in paninis, and adding to some pasta salads.”

3. Get roasting.

Now is a good time to undertake some more time-consuming cooking methods, like roasting vegetables. It’s also a great way to take your frozen vegetables and make them something tasty—but it’s a little different from roasting fresh vegetables. Knudsen shared her strategy for getting crisp, flavorful veggies in the oven, even from frozen options.

“As always preheat your oven to the desired temperature,” she told mindbodygreen, “But instead of throwing the frozen veggies directly on the pan and putting it right in the oven, heat up the pan with the cooking oil in the oven first. Once that’s nice and toasty, take it out, toss the veggies on it, and then put the pan back in the oven to cook. This should help the texture of the vegetables be more crispy than soggy.”

4. Cook to eat, not to meal prep.

One routine you may want to break is your Sunday meal prep date. According to Abby Cannon, J.D., R.D., CDN, “For all veggies and food, for maximum nutrient retention, it’s best to eat soon after cooking.” If you are batch cooking, she recommends stopping just short of fully cooking vegetables to retain more of their nutritional value, even with reheating them.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t do any prep at all, though. “Having lots of vegetables that are ready to eat increases the chances that my family and I will actually eat them,” Cannon shared. So when you do have a chance to get fresh produce, consider chopping it up and portioning it so you’re more likely to eat it, as a snack or part of a meal.

5. Soak your grains.

Grains are a great base for many pantry-sourced dishes, but now’s the time to make sure you’re making the most of their nutritional value. Plus, you’ve probably got the time to add this practice to your cooking routine now.

“When cooking grains, it’s best to soak them in water overnight,” said Cannon. “Soaking grains enhances the bioavailability/absorption of certain nutrients, including vitamins C and A, B vitamins and iron, calcium, and zinc.” As a bonus, soaking grains can also help with digestion. Set them up with enough water that there’s just about an inch over the top, and leave them for at least eight hours before rinsing them to cook.

6. If you can get fresh produce, do—and then freeze some.

It seems like while some stores are cleared out of canned and frozen goods, others are lacking in fresh produce. If you are able to get fresh produce, it’s always a good option to freeze it yourself rather than buying it frozen. Plus, it’ll free up space in your probably crowded fridge.

“My goal is to always get in a least one to two servings of vegetables for lunch,” said Knudsen, “and even more at dinner. I’ve been buying a lot of fresh produce that I know I can freeze for later if I can’t get to eating it all when it’s fresh.”

7. If you buy canned foods, this is what to look for.

If your local shop is one that’s lacking in fresh produce, there’s no reason frozen and canned options can’t be healthy. “Always look for unseasoned and unsalted options and add your own flavoring at home,” said Knudsen.

Cannon recommended also soaking your beans, canned ones included, overnight, before storing them in BPA-free containers of your own to pair with whole grains and nuts or seeds. “With all these ingredients on hand, it’s much easier to whip up a nutritious meal,” she said.

If it’s inspiration you need for meals while staying home, we’ve also consulted dietitians about their favorite ways to use their canned goods—everything from fish to beans to veggies. And if it feels like you need more simple things (with fewer ingredients), these recipes come together with only six ingredients—or less.


P eter Yellowlees, chief wellness officer at UC Davis Health and a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, sent this letter to the Sacramento campus today (March 12):

It has been amazing to watch how incredibly professional and caring all UC Davis Health staff have been over the past two weeks since the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak, and our intimate involvement.

Peter Yellowlees

Thank you to everyone. From the clinical teams in intensive care, to the many clinical and administrative staff in the emergency department and our multiple outpatient clinics, to all of those who keep our health system running by providing support, nourishment and hotel services for our staff and patients. Thank you all.

Remember that the majority of our public health and individual efforts are being made in order to “flatten the curve” of new infections, so that the impact on health care capacity (mainly intensive care beds, ventilators and us (as a limited supply of critical staff) is spread over time and is more manageable. So canceled or reduced outpatient appointments and increased use of video and other technologies, when possible, is good for all of us.

While all of the cancellations and disruptions we are hearing about in the news may also seem unsettling, these are all actually good news for those of us in health care, so that infection spread slows, and that health care resources are better able to manage patients who become critical.

Anxiety and fear are normal responses

Having said that, not surprisingly, the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic makes all of us anxious and afraid. This is a normal human response. It is normal to become hypervigilant, especially with our nonstop media. It is normal to be concerned when we feel out of control, and when we are hearing about a possible future catastrophe, especially when fed with differing sets of information from multiple sources and countries. Not being anxious or afraid is actually the abnormal response to this situation.

So what can we all do to help better manage our anxiety and fears? Here are some straightforward tips that I am using, and which I hope are helpful for you:

  • Try to make sure that you are getting good information about the situation. Now is not the time to get all your information from social media. Read the updates on The Insider here for reliable local information and data, and try to listen to professional news organizations, local and national. Obviously, follow all infection control protocols, and help each other understand these requirements as they will inevitably change over time.
  • Take action and practice social distancing so that you remain as much in control as you can. Do little things regularly. This will make you feel psychologically better and safer, as well as reduce the risk of transmission. Take the essential precautionary measures we are all being asked to take. Wash your hands. Do not shake hands. Clean shared items. Do not go to large public gatherings. Minimize large group travel as much as you can. Use video to see your patients or your own doctor. Make your individual actions count, and contribute through them to making us all safer.
  • Connect and reconnect with people you trust and love. See your family, your partner, your children, your friends. Speak to them on the phone and nourish those relationships. See how they feel and care for each other. They will be worried about you. Reassure them. Be in the moment with them and use the importance of these relationships to give yourself a chance not to overthink any fears you might have.
  • Look after yourself physically. Physical fitness is good for your mental health. Go to the gym (with some wipes!), enjoy long walks, do some active group outdoor activities, take the weekend off and don’t work excessively. Sleep well — at least seven to eight hours. Try to get away from work. Yoga or tai chi are great for relaxation, as are some apps. One that I use personally is CBT-I Coach — a free app made by the VA for veterans, which has a series of really excellent meditation and relaxation tools.
  • Be careful with any large decisions you are making that may affect the lives of yourself and your loved ones. Don’t panic or let panic excessively influence or take over any decision-making that you have. Think about your decisions and try to take the long view. Check out any big decisions with your spouse, partner or a close friend. This is not a time to be making sudden big decisions that may be being driven unconsciously, in part at least, by your fear and anxiety.
  • Realize that all of these “societal disruptions” are actually good for us in health care — and help your family and friends to understand the importance of slowing the disease’s spread. That’s good for health care, and good for everyone.

And, finally, if you are really getting distressed, remember that there are many resources available for you here, and helpful supports available through the university system regarding your finances, legal issues or almost any other concerns you have.

Remember, to quote Dr. Kirk: “This is what we do.” We should all be proud of our work and our caring. And we all need to look after ourselves and each other. So, if there is anyone that you are worried about, please pass this message on.

My best wishes to everyone, and thank you for all that you do.

Peter Yellowlees
Chief Wellness Officer, UC Davis Health


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