Community//

“Your best resource is yourself.” With Beau Henderson & Erin Stokes

Your best resource is yourself. We all have the potential for mindfulness and serenity within us, and it takes work. Some days are better than others. We are all human beings having this human experience, and doing the best we can. We may feel contracted and selfish some days, while other days we feel more […]

Your best resource is yourself. We all have the potential for mindfulness and serenity within us, and it takes work. Some days are better than others. We are all human beings having this human experience, and doing the best we can. We may feel contracted and selfish some days, while other days we feel more expansive and giving. Positive experiences can build on each other, and we start to know what works for us individually to become more mindful. The ideal is to keep trying to be our best and to practice compassion first and foremost for ourselves.


As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erin Stokes, ND and MegaFood Medical Director

Dr. Erin Stokes received her Naturopathic Doctor degree from Bastyr University in 2001 and pursued her passion for education by becoming an instructor at Southwest Acupuncture College shortly after. Erin combines her experience in private practice as a Naturopathic Doctor with an extensive background in the natural products industry. In her role as Medical Director at MegaFood, she has the opportunity to educate on health and wellness topics through several mediums to fulfill her personal mission to provide the inspiration and tools to help people transform their lives.


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?

Igrew up in a “medical family,” as both my dad and grandfather were orthopedic surgeons. I was interested in health from a young age, and also simultaneously drawn towards nature and the healing power of plants. Ultimately, naturopathic medicine was the perfect marriage of nature and medicine in my life. I’ve now been a Naturopathic Doctor for close to 20 years, and my passion is seeing how people can transform their lives when they have access to the tools and knowledge they need and are inspired to change.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I think one of the most interesting aspects of my career trajectory was the timing of when I went into private practice in 2001, less than a month after September 11th. I joined an experienced Naturopathic Doctor, who had a long waitlist of patients, many of whom we hoped would be able to work with me. After September 11th, everything changed everywhere. Specifically in this practice I had just joined, the waitlist disappeared and my practice was much slower than anticipated. Through this turn of events, I found the resilience to expand my career path. I started teaching, and later, doing consultations at an integrative pharmacy, both while continuing to see patients. Although different, the feeling of uncertainty coupled with some of the upheavals in the economy, remind me of the time we are in now, when unexpected roadblocks and detours are coming up for people.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work Culture?

Fantastic work culture is based on bringing true collaboration to life. I believe that people want to feel that they are making a difference and working towards a common goal, so it’s essential to foster an environment where that is real. Also, try to create a place where people are heard, and their opinion is valued. That starts with each one of us. As a leader at MegaFood, I continuously work on attentively listening to people and reading between the lines. There is a lot to learn from listening.

Finally, remember to laugh and celebrate wins. Even during tough times (maybe especially during tough times), we have to remember to keep a sense of humor and lightness around our work. This helps creativity to flourish.

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?

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness In A Changing World. This book is a conversation between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu about finding joy in the face of suffering. I keep it by my bedside and come back to reading short sections again and again. A couple of years ago, I chose it as the book for my monthly book group, and I was a bit nervous about the choice, wondering if it was “too spiritual.” It was an outlier from the type of books we usually read. Making a somewhat risky book choice was all worth it when I saw the profound impact it had on the group. One woman specifically told me about how it had been so helpful as she was going through a tough divorce.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?

Mindfulness is being present in the present moment.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?

When you truly stay in the present moment, you are not able to regret the past or be anxious about the future.

The central question you have facing you is, “What is happening right now?” It helps you tap into experiences that you may have been missing (like the birds chirping outside your window or the dog you’ve been ignoring who is sitting patiently at your feet). I think that kids are naturally better at mindfulness. I’ve learned a lot from my 13-year-old son over the years about simply being in the moment and letting go of what’s already happened.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

  1. Meditate every day first thing in the morning. You can start for just 10 minutes and grow your meditation time from there, or just keep it at 10 minutes. Meditation, simply sitting with yourself and breathing, every morning is a way to reconnect with who you really are.
  2. Yoga is breath training. A key to staying present in this moment is having the ability to breathe right now, and not run away with your thoughts. In my favorite yoga classes, my instructors will continually cue the breath. I also see yoga as a form of “breath training” and come back to it over and over.
  3. Connect with nature. Humans coexisted pretty closely with the natural world until the last 100 years or so. I think we all intuitively know that we feel better after a visit to the woods or a park. Spending time outside together has always been my family’s primary way to both bond with each other, and connect with nature. It’s our “collective go-to” for stress and anxiety. Strong research also exists that spending time in nature reduces our stress response. “Levels of Nature and Stress Response” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5981243/
  4. Be honest. I know that my anxiety is much worse when I hold it all inside and don’t talk about it. Having authentic conversations with others about how you’re feeling can be a big relief. Be sure to talk with friends, family members, or a healthcare professional — and be honest.
  5. Take a news break. Consider “fasting” from the news for an hour, an afternoon, a day — whatever you can manage — and see how differently you feel at the end of the day. News can be a big “anxiety trigger.”

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?

  1. Check in. We are social creatures and rely on social connections to thrive. Especially during uncertain times, it is vital to check in on neighbors, friends, and family members.
  2. Normalize and accept anxiety. In the last few months, many friends and coworkers have confided in me that they are feeling anxious. When I simply listen and accept what they are experiencing, they tell me that alone is calming. It’s a huge step to let the people around us “feel their feelings” without trying to rush in and fix it. That said, if anxiety is overwhelming and constant, that is not normal. It’s vital to reach out for professional help if anxiety is persistent. When in doubt, always reach out.
  3. Be vulnerable with others. This can be so challenging, especially for people who have been taught that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. Being vulnerable is being human. I have a hard time being vulnerable, but I’m taking baby steps in that direction!
  4. Offer to go on a walk. Walking and talking go hand in hand! Most of us have had the experience of a good walk and talk. Walking can increase circulation to the brain and the release of endorphins. Going on a walk with a friend is a great way to offer support. During this time, be mindful to socially distance as needed when out walking.
  5. Listen. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to listen. We all want to be heard and we all want to tell our story.

What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

Your best resource is yourself. We all have the potential for mindfulness and serenity within us, and it takes work. Some days are better than others. We are all human beings having this human experience, and doing the best we can. We may feel contracted and selfish some days, while other days we feel more expansive and giving. Positive experiences can build on each other, and we start to know what works for us individually to become more mindful. The ideal is to keep trying to be our best and to practice compassion first and foremost for ourselves.

Ultimately you will be the one to decide that you want to live your life differently. If you feel inspired to make a change, that will help you stay motivated to embark on daily habits like meditating first thing in the morning for 10 minutes.

For meditation, the hardest part can simply be getting started! If you’re finding it hard to meditate, then a guided meditation can be a great resource. I’ve been using InsightTimer for years, and they offer guided meditations of varying lengths. I know many people like the Calm app too.

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

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”

Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

I love this quote, as I strive to live outside of my comfort zone on a daily basis. I believe that this is the place where we find our true potential. This quote from Pema Chodron reminds me that being “thrown out of the nest” is actually a good thing!

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 would start a movement of “One Good Thing…”

This would get posted publicly (and hopefully go viral). It could be one good thing that happened to me today, or one good thing about my sister, friend, coworker is … , or one good thing I watched happen today.

Why? As humans, we have a “negativity bias.” It’s normal and part of our evolution of needing to look out for threats or danger. In modern times, it’s important to look out for the good, even when there is internal programming to look out for the bad. This mindset can shift our whole reality.

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

Please follow me on Instagram @erinstokesnd and also follow my work with MegaFood at megafood.com

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute!

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