Seeing Light at the End of the Tunnel: 5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis, With Shandee Chernow

Dr. Ely Weinschneider, Psy.D.
Authority Magazine
Published in
6 min readMar 25, 2020


Everyone handles anxiety a bit differently and it manifests in its own way for each person. For me, knowing that I’m not alone in those feelings is definitely helpful. I’ve been doing yoga a lot of days which helps me to remember to be thankful and centered.

As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shandee Chernow the Founder and CEO of CertiStar, a company on a mission to improve the dining out experiences of men, women or children vulnerable to food allergies and intolerances. With a three-second search, the software allows a restaurant to identify food allergy threats for their customers.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I started CertiStar two and a half years ago when I got tired of battling every restaurant and hotel about my food allergies while I was traveling and entertaining for business meetings. I really felt like there must be a better way than the long, painful and vulnerable conversations that always ensued, and trying to hide those from my customers and work colleagues. My background is in big data and it turns out to be a super useful skill set when dealing with myriad allergies and all of the ingredients and components on restaurant menus. Put it all together and we’ve ended up with a bit of magical menu work to help both restaurants and their guests have an easier time.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

This question is so hard for me. My office is literally library walls and I love to read! I think I have to go with Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy. If you make me pick one, it would be the first — A Discovery of Witches. It’s all about how the main character, Diana Bishop, has no idea of the powers she was born with and kind of fights against embracing them and re-learns to navigate the world with the real, more authentic version of her. I think we all have so much more that we’re capable of and yet change and growth can be incredibly scary. Learning to face those fears and push through can create incredible outcomes for the world. In this particularly scary time, I think (and hope) we will see some new and unexpected champions rise.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

I wanted to include my team here so, here’s some things that “Team CertiStar” contributed to Light at the End of the Tunnel… The overarching theme here seems to be that people are reaching within themselves and giving away what they find. Love, kindness, humanity, vulnerability, things, experiences and more.

The good news coming out of China, the good news out of South Korea and all the humanitarian acts that people are doing now. There was a story of a young man in Costco who helped an elderly couple. They hadn’t been able to find bread and he gave them not only his bread but offered anything else from his cart that they’d like.

That JoAnn Fabrics is handing out the materials to sew masks and the number of volunteers doing mask sewing and donations.

The websites that are setting up tools empowering home schooling and distance learning for kids like zoos, museums and aquariums.

Everybody is taking time to evaluate current process and trying to improve it. People are open to working together even when they can’t be together. It feels like there is an undercurrent of help. A lot of people are giving away information and content and people are looking at their own gifts and offering them to help others.

More quality family time too!

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I have been trying to listen to how people are feeling, especially when they come to me want to talk about those feelings. I’ve been trying to be reassuring without too many platitudes. Remembering that everyone is going through some tough stuff right now and that their tone or actions may be reflective of that larger environment rather than the situation you may be in with them in that moment. Encourage people to talk about what helps them and then encourage them to do those things and take the outlets that are still available to them. Maybe that’s creative like art, or physical like exercise. Whatever works is the thing to do right now I think. Finally, to remember to be grateful for the positives of this current scenario — the time we’re able to spend with our immediate family and that we’re able to (hopefully) stay safe and healthy while doing it. Focusing only on the negative will certainly not bring positive feelings. I don’t mean to be all Pollyanna, but maintaining the ability to smile each day is important!

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

Everyone handles anxiety a bit differently and it manifests in its own way for each person. For me, knowing that I’m not alone in those feelings is definitely helpful. I’ve been doing yoga a lot of days which helps me to remember to be thankful and centered. It also helps me to breathe. Any other physical exercise is a great outlet for me. I have a bike and a treadmill here and I also walk around while I’m on the phone. None of those are the ultimate solution for anyone, but it helps me to take the edge off of those worried feelings. I’m also seeing a lot of online resources for talk and other types of therapy.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” ―Denis Waitley

I think that this quote is relevant to everyone. For me, starting this business was very risky. I quit a great job, with a great company to go out and try to help people lead more confident, more full lives. It’s hard and the road is super windy. And every day is an opportunity to be creative and change things and to not do nothing.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I don’t know that I’m going to be particularly original here, but the thing I’d like to see is kindness from those who have the most and from corporations. There is so much money in the world that to see people suffering from this health pandemic without access to the full breadth of the healthcare resources is super frustrating. Give and pay forward. It will come back to you in the long term.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

@certistar on all the major social platforms or at

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!