Stance: Studies on the Family

Brigham Young University Student Journal

Category: Self-Improvement (page 2 of 3)

Get Insured: Build Relationships

When I spoke in church on Sunday, and the phrase, “Marriage is the best self-help program,” spilled out of me, I realized how fixated with self-help I really am right now. Yes, as a 21-year-old, I’ve already started reading self-help books for fun. But I believe it’s true—marriage IS the best self-help program. A good marriage. And to extend the statement, I believe that building relationships in general is the best self-help program. Families, by default, are the best self-help programs.

There’s something about warm human interaction that makes us feel better, isn’t there? Look out, reader, I’ve got another Ted talk coming your way! It turns out, Harvard has directed “The Study of Adult Development” for 75 years and has found that the things that make your life not only happy, but also healthy, are warm, meaningful, reliable relationships. Robert Waldinger can tell you all about it.

In the talk, Waldinger says, “Over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships—with family, with friends, with community.”

Then he asks the question, “So what about you? . . . What might leaning into relationships look like?”

To me, building relationships is a type of life insurance: when you start to crumble, the people and communities you’ve invested in are there to build you back up.

I challenge you to make investments in your relationships over the next two weeks. It could be an investment with a family member—sending a text to your sibling or calling a grandparent. Maybe you need to write a card for a parent and tell them how much they mean to you. Perhaps you could babysit a friend’s child. What about surprising your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse with a fun night out or a cozy night in? Maybe you want to ask someone on a date, or talk to the stranger on the elevator, or stay up late with a roommate. Or have a conversation with a child.

By investing in relationships in your life, you’re investing in your own health and happiness.

—Sophia Parry

In two weeks, I plan on writing about overcoming the fear to be creative. Please comment below and request more topics on self-improvement.



Making Friends with Stress

ache-19005_1920Are you stressed yet this semester? Are you stressed because you think you will be stressed this semester? Am I stressing you out?

Whether or not you’re experiencing it at this moment, stress is something we’ll all have to face over and over again in our lives, and if we don’t know how to deal with it, it can be almost crippling.

Personally, stress grips me in the presence of homework, tests, big talks, small talk, finances, papers that need organizing, anything that needs organizing (Don’t even get me started on my closet. Yikes!), and dirty dishes. These things terrify me. And that’s OK. In fact, I’ve realized in my early adult years that most of my fears are normal (although, I have yet to find someone else who’s as terrified of blue whales as I am).

It’s not what we’re afraid of that matters. We can’t permanently prevent events, situations, and obligations that cause us stress. Most of the time, we can’t even prevent the stress response! We can, however, choose how we think about stress and how we act on it.

I’m not going to go over all of the scientific details about how we can change our stress thought process, but I strongly encourage watching this life-changing Ted talk right here by Kelly McGonigal. It’s called, “How to Make Stress Your Friend.”

McGonigal’s research on stress delves into life expectancy and the biology of courage. But what interested me the most was her findings about oxytocin—the “cuddle hormone.” When we feel stressed, our pituitary gland secretes this hormone and causes us to seek support. Being able to talk to people about our troubles doesn’t just help us mentally and emotionally; to our hearts, it’s also physically healing.

So, the next time your heart starts beating fast, and you think you can’t meet the challenge, tell a loved one. Support a loved one. Make a friend, and make friends with stress.

—Sophia Parry

Perfection and Purpose



As students, it is easy to feel inadequate in our studies, social circles, and everyday endeavors here at BYU. No matter how hard we try, sometimes our imperfections are all too clear before us. A few weeks ago, my friend told me about an experience she had that helped her overcome such discouraging thoughts.

While at a women’s conference, my friend was told to pick up a leaf and rate it from one to ten on how perfect it was. She noticed the tattered ends, broken veins, and flimsy stem and rated it as a five. Others around her at the meeting also gave their leaves ratings, resulting in a variety of rankings, some high and others low. Then the person conducting the meeting asked them to rate the leaf on how well it was fulfilling its purpose. After some confusion, the woman teaching the lesson went on to explain what she meant. She spoke of lush green leaves in the summer, absorbing sunlight for the tree. She talked of rich reds and oranges in dying fall leaves and the beauty they bring to the season. She even talked about piles of dead leaves fallen on the ground that gleeful little children throw in the air. In each scenario, the leaf is fulfilling a purpose, just as the leaf in my friend’s hands was fulfilling its purpose in teaching an object lesson.

We may be tattered at the edges, a little aged and worn, and by no means perfect by a worldly standard. However, wherever we are and in whatever condition we may be, we can fulfill our purpose perfectly.


—Jessica Olsen, Editor, Stance

Life’s Dark Trails

The trail was very dark, the sky lit with stars. With a small silver flashlight in hand, I could only see two or three steps in front of me, but well enough to know I was quickly falling behind the very fast and fit group of hikers whom I had come with. I had hiked Mt. Timpanogos before, when I was younger, but never with a group of complete strangers and at the very late (or early) hour of midnight. My quick and jagged breaths made futile any intentions I had of talking to the cute boy behind me, and I quickly regretted not having slept more in preparation for this feat.

It was quite an experience being on a trail in the pitch black of night not knowing how far I had nor how much farther I still had to go. Here I was, surrounded by people I did not know, except for my roommate who had invited me, unable to speak and too afraid to be the one who asked for a break. So I moved forward, with no view of where I was going and only my thoughts to keep me company.

Self ImprovementThere’s something eerily similar between midnight hikes and life. In this world we are shrouded in darkness with only a vague idea of how far we’ve come and little to no understanding of what’s to come. Our perceptions are often warped, thinking we have come five miles when really we’ve only gone three. Yet we continue onward with the sunrise in our sights. It’s much like faith: we do not see the sunrise; we have not experienced it for ourself yet, but we know it will come. The question is, will we come? Will we continue on this difficult journey with only small stars of light and little flashlights to guide us?

Truly, the sun has already risen. Coming down the trail, I saw all I had traversed. All this time, I had been surrounded by exquisite creations and views. The journey was beautiful; I just couldn’t see it at the time. Someday we will be able to see our lives with the glory and vision of the sunrise. We will see how truly wonderful this world is and what marvelous plans Heavenly Father has made for us. We will understand the beauty of the trail in it’s fullest, made possible by the sacrifice of One.


—Jessica Olsen, Editor, Stance



“Honestly, I just love how you…you…” –I couldn’t quite think of what it was—“ you live so unapologetically. Yes, you are so unapologetically yourself.” I didn’t realize it was this, all along, that had drawn me to one of my best friends. We were sitting in my kitchen, all of us girls, chatting about boys. Invariably, the conversation had led to us to one of those chick-flick worthy heart-to-hearts, building each other up after a confusing day with our crushes. I remembered the first time I had met this friend, the one who lived unapologetically. I had been somewhat skeptical of her bubbliness and kindness and ability to open up people so swiftly and easily. I learned very quickly this was no façade, but just an incredible, high-spirited girl.

And it was true; she was unapologetically herself. People couldn’t help but gravitate towards her confidence and sincerity. Yet, I couldn’t help but be skeptical of the idea. Live unapologetically? I mean, it’s a nice idea, but I have flaws—imperfections— parts of me others might find rather annoying. From what I understood, to live unapologetically meant to embrace all of those things. All throughout childhood I was told to be aware of my shortcomings, change my bad habits, and become a better person, which ultimately meant abandoning the person I am now and striving to be another. How could I truly embrace myself if “myself” was always in a working state of change?

It didn’t help that saying sorry was a bad habit of mine. It was like one of those automatic responses people give even when it doesn’t make sense, like when someone says “Happy birthday!” and the other responds “You too.” I apologized for everything: in the middle of conversations when I felt like I was talking to much, when I tripped up the stairs (when no one was there), and even when people complimented me. I was the epitome of living apologetically, and though I wasn’t happy, I still wasn’t satisfied with the idea of fully embracing myself—imperfections and all—quite yet.

I couldn’t quite understand this concept until the understanding of my identity—true identity—shifted. To live unapologetically means to embrace our truest selves, and we are, in the truest sense, sons and daughters of God with a divine nature and divine potential. We are not our imperfections, nor are we our mistakes. We are defined by our ability to change. We are a work in progress, and we need not apologize for this fact.

Jessica Olsen, Editor, Stance

Sharing Hope

Heather Von St. Clair

Heather Von St. James

“I thought it was all post-partum symptoms,” Heather said about her cancer signs. Three months after giving birth to her daughter, Lily, Heather Von St. James was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a relatively rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Heather’s exposure came from the coating of asbestos dust on her father’s work coat. Particles settled in the lining of her lungs, called the pleura, causing a tumor to grow. She experienced extreme fatigue, coughing, and shortness of breath, and she was losing weight rapidly—five to seven pounds a week.

“I didn’t know any different since Lily was my first baby. But when I passed out on the sofa one morning after bringing laundry up from the basement, I knew it was more.”

“It was a very scary time,” Heather admitted. Mesothelioma doesn’t manifest itself until years after exposure, so most patients don’t live more than 15 months after diagnosis. Heather’s first fear was “that I would die and leave my husband and baby. Other fears and concerns were all the financial ones. Would we lose our home? Everything we had worked so hard for? None of it mattered if we could find a way to save my life.”

Despite the exhaustion and the worries, Heather found pockets of hope throughout that time. Her specialist in Boston, Dr. David Sugarbaker, said he would do everything he could for her. “Dr. Sugarbaker gave us the hope that we so desperately needed in facing this disease,” she said.

Another small blessing: “No hair loss! I was pretty happy about that one,” Heather exclaimed.

Other blessings came from her family, who acted as her support system throughout that time. Before her diagnosis, Heather’s parents, brother, and sister-in-law came to stay with her. And when she and Cam made the decision to go to Boston, where she was given chemotherapy, radiation, and an extra pleural pneumonectomy, they left Lily with Heather’s parents.

Heather, Cam, and Lily

Heather, Cam, and Lily

After surgery, Heather went home to her parents and Lily while Cam worked in Minnesota. Living apart from Cam was hard for both of them, but the support from her family helped everyone.

“It was just what we had to do to get through,” Heather explained. “We knew that. Knowing Lily was going to have consistent care and love by my parents was exactly the peace of mind I needed to make it through surgery. Then, going to live with them after and have the help with Lily was such a weight lifted. It was a huge part of my recovery.”

Even Lily played her part. “All I had to do was look at my daughter,” Heather said. “That sweet little face with those big eyes was all the motivation I needed to keep going in my darkest times. When I wanted to throw in the towel, I would cry out to God, and He carried me through by showing me my daughter.”

To those who know someone struggling with mesothelioma, Heather councils: “There is so much out there that dashes the hopes of people, so being a support and an information gatherer is a great help. Offer to clean, grocery shop, watch kids, or just be with the patient. Be careful of what you say. Think before you ask personal questions, especially about finances. A great way to help is to organize a benefit. I can’t stress how much that helped us with expenses. Praying is always a good thing too. And one last thing . . . stay positive.”

Now, ten years later, Heather is a healthy survivor and an active patient advocate in the mesothelioma community. Her voice reaches out to those looking for answers and encouragement. Mesothelioma brings uncertainty and fear, but Heather’s message offers hope to patients and their families. “If one person is inspired and gets hope and help from my story, I’m happy.”

To learn more about Heather’s story with mesothelioma, please visit her blog at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

—Sarah Perkins, Senior Editor, Stance

Sabbath Message: Whom Will Ye Serve?

“[C]hoose you this day whom ye will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).family-walking-along-beach-1117003-print

I’m not sharing this scripture because it is my favorite, or because it changed my life when I memorized it in Seminary. I think this is one of my dad’s favorite scriptures, and I remember enjoying it when I read it for the first time in Seminary. But it’s never been one of those scriptures that stuck with me. It’s never been my go-to

Although it has never been that scripture for me, someday I want it to be one of the most applicable and meaningful scriptures in my repertoire. Someday, when I have a family with little children who depend on me for so much—I will want this scripture to have meaning. When I have a family I will teach my children the gospel of Christ. I will teach them right from wrong. I will train and guide them in all that they need to know. I will teach them who to serve. When I have a family, we will serve the Lord.

—Shelby Olsen, Stance

Feel the Savior’s Love

Did you have a good weekend? I did. I’m one of those crazy people who actually enjoys Valentine’s Day. Weird, right? It’s because of my mom.

Growing up, my mom made sure that we knew that she loved us on Valentine’s Day. Every February 14th we ran down the stairs to the kitchen table almost as excitedly as we did on Christmas morning. Without fail a candy bar or tiny heart-shaped box of chocolates was a personalized gift sitting atop a bright red tablecloth at each of our places at the table. It wasn’t big, but we knew we could count on Mom being our valentine. I understand that not everyone feels loved all the time, and during holidays, it is hard to feel happy when you don’t have someone special to share it with. For us, Valentine’s Day wasn’t a romantic holiday, but just a time for my mom to reaffirm how much she cared about us.

One of my favorite Primary songs has been running through my head for the last week. “I Feel My Savior’s Love” gives me a chance to remember why Valentine’s Day has survived as a holiday.

Jesus comforting

  1. I feel my Savior’s love

In all the world around me.

His Spirit warms my soul

Through ev’rything I see.



He knows I will follow him,

Give all my life to him.

I feel my Savior’s love,

The love he freely gives me.


  1. I feel my Savior’s love;

Its gentleness enfolds me,

And when I kneel to pray,

My heart is filled with peace.

  1. I feel my Savior’s love

And know that he will bless me.

I offer him my heart;

My shepherd he will be.


  1. I’ll share my Savior’s love

By serving others freely.

In serving I am blessed.

In giving I receive.


I know I’m crazy, but do you see what I’m getting at? Even when there aren’t any chocolates sitting on a brightly-colored tablecloth, when kind valentines expressing affection or gratitude do not await you, and when no one is physically present to say “I love you,” you can still feel our Savior’s love. It will warm your soul, enfold you in gentleness, fill your heart with peace. No matter what holiday it is, whether Christmas, Easter, or Valentine’s Day, the important thing is knowing that the Savior loves you. And like my mom, His love is freely given.

—Ariel Peterson, Stance

I Feel My Savior’s Love

Words: Ralph Rodgers Jr., 1936-1996; K. Newell Dayley, b. 1939; and Laurie Huffman, b. 1948

Music: K. Newell Dayley, b. 1939

(c) 1978, 1979 by K. Newell Dayley. Used by permission.

Valentines Day is For Lovers…Or Not

Today is the day—St. Valentine’s Day, that is!

Whether you love it, despise it, are indifferent to it—it is here and we might as well live it.

Many people think of Valentine’s Day in the romantic sense. I think that’s why so many people are bitter about the hearts and the chocolate. I remember sitting in my dorm room my freshman year of college. My roommates and friends had boyfriends and were out, it was my first year away from home, and I was sitting all alone thinking, “This. Stinks.”

Planning to mope the rest of the night, I heard a knock at my door around 8pm. When I opened the door, something amazing happened. Prince Charming on his horse came riding by! Well… no. When I opened the door, there was a girl who Helping hands, helping heartslived next door in standing there in her pjs.

“Any plans tonight?” she asked. “No… I feel like everyone’s gone,” I replied. “Well let’s do something,” she said. “I’m tired of waiting around.” I hardly knew her, but we decided we should watch a fun movie. We knocked on the other apartment next to mine. Then the one next to theirs. Then the next one. Pretty soon, there was a whole group of us who had been thinking everyone else was out but us! We had an awesome, fun-filled night with movies, popcorn, chocolate and more. All because one person decided to look outside of themselves. She was the reason that we all had a great Valentine’s Day. And we all became great friends after that!

I have reflected back on this experience many times. It wasn’t so much that that girl was looking for some fun and needed me. It was that I was moping around and needed her. And I am so grateful that she decided to do that!

So what is Valentine’s Day really celebrating? It’s celebrating LOVE! And in my opinion, that’s worth the celebration. Whether it’s getting your friends together for a fun night out (or in), meeting your family for brunch, heart attacking your friends with nice notes, giving a stranger a nice treat—that is what it’s all about. Connecting with one another, being there for each other, and spreading the love.

So what are you going to do this Valentine’s Day to show your love? It’s not too late! After all, my entire day was made on a lonely night at 8pm.

Happy Valentines Day!!

-Emmaline Frost, Blog Editor

4 Tips to Stress Less

Serving a Mission

I recently returned home from a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On a mission, one is constantly on the go. There is always something that can or should be done, and there are always people to see or things to study. As I was coming home and trying to get back into the swing of things, I half expected the transition to be easier. I mean how much harder can it be? It’s actually a lot harder than I expected.

The Article

In a recent article by Chisanga Mukuka entitled “How to Stress Less and Love More,” I found a few helpful reminders of how to lower my stress levels and enjoy my life. These tips are all things I learned while serving a mission, so if you have served a mission, you will find these tips familiar. If you have not, you will find these tips just as helpful. No matter your life experiences, I hope you will be able to apply these simple things in your life to help avoid stressing and improve living.

image from here

 4 Tips to Stress Less

  1. Plan. Make an outline of things you need to do for the day, things you would like to do for the day and a few back up plans. Remember to prioritize them because there simply are things that must get done.

    image from here

  2. Exercise. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you are active and enjoying it.

    image from here

  3. Serve. Look outside of yourself and your problems. Even if you are only able to do little things here and there, do things to help those around you.

    image from here

  4. Meditate and breathe. Life really is busy and goes by quickly. It will fly by even faster unless you take the time to appreciate it. Set aside at least five minutes each day to relax, reflect and be grateful for what you have.

    image from here


Remember, enjoy your life and help others enjoy theirs. Life is a gift; don’t waste it.

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