Stress and service over the holidays


As finals draw near and anxiety levels rise, engaging in acts of service can be the solution for many students.

The holidays have always been a time for giving back, but according to Casey Peterson, director for BYU’s Center for Service and Learning, giving back can also be a means of relief.

“Service recharges batteries, ” Peterson said. “At this point in the semester we see students stressed with classes and worn down physically, emotionally and spiritually, and service recharges that.”

Aubrey VanLeeuwen, a senior from Sandy, majoring in nursing, understands the stress that accompanies the end of a semester all too well. Like Peterson, she considers giving back a necessity in combating the anxiety many students are currently enduring.

“Service is one of the easiest ways to take the focus off yourself, and give your focus to those in need,” VanLeeuwen said. “I feel that it is important to give back all the time, but the holidays are definitely a great time to engage in service.”

For the past seven years, VanLeeuwen’s family has spent their Thanksgiving at the Salvation Army in Salt Lake City, picking up and delivering meals to families unable to have their own Thanksgiving dinner.

For Christmas, the VanLeeuwens find a family in need and provide them with a Christmas the family wouldn’t have had otherwise.

“I really love bringing other people joy, love and happiness,” VanLeeuwen said. “I mean, when was the last time you weren’t smiling after you served others? Giving back is just part of the holiday spirit.”

Ivy Hazlett, a junior from Moab, also finds joy in giving back over the holidays and said service doesn’t necessarily require extreme effort or a lot of money.

“Last year my best friend and I decided that instead of giving gifts to each other, we would give a gift to our community,” Hazlett said. “We set up and served food at our community Christmas dinner that feeds the elderly, homeless and families in need. Every little bit counts.”

Katie Lowrey, a program director for BYU’s Stop and Serve, agrees service doesn’t always have to be something extraordinary and major.

“Our vision for Stop and Serve is to provide easy activities that students can do to help others,” Lowrey said. “It doesn’t have to take a lot, we want them to realize that service can be done in small acts of kindness.”

Stop and Serve, located in room 2330 of the Wilkinson Center,  currently offers a project where students can paint crafts to be delivered to a local preschool at the end of the month. For December’s service project, Stop and Serve plans on making Christmas stockings for nursing homes and those who will be spending the holidays in the hospital. Students can come by Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to “recharge” and engage in these small acts of service over the holidays.

Stop and Serve is one of 59 programs that Y Serve offers to students. A list of programs and service opportunities can be found on the Y Serve website at

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