Nursing Department Chair
Erin Bennion began her education in the nursing program at Ricks College. After graduating, she worked as a nurse for ten years before returning to school. She received a master’s degree in sports conditioning and performance from Southern Utah University and a PhD in nursing at the University of Phoenix. Before her employment at BYU-Idaho, Erin taught at Southern Utah University while also working at the hospital. She has been a nurse for 20 years and has gained experience in many areas, especially labor and delivery.
She and her husband, Dan, met while attending school at Ricks College. Together they have three children, one of whom is currently a student at BYU-Idaho. In her free time, Erin enjoys spending time with her family, having outdoor adventures, and being physically active.
Please respond to the question below on the devotional discussion board:
When you are having a rough time, what is your best form of self-help?
Nine years ago I was invited to train at a camp with Navy Seals. This camp was meant to prepare individuals for entering BUDS, military ventures, or test one’s mental or physical ability. It was 50 hours of hard physical work and no sleep. Going into the event, I greatly underestimated how tough it would be. I should have known it was going to be hard when they measured it in hours. We began with 40 participants; I was one of 4 females to participate and was the oldest participant there. If you quit or didn’t pass any component, you were put in a cab and sent home immediately.
It began with a physical test each individual had to pass before being allowed to stay. We then faced a lot of running with heavy ruck sacks filled with sand, carrying heavy logs miles down to the beach, and more physical training than I could ever have imagined doing at one time. No requirement deference was given for age or gender. We all wore heavy boots and combat pants that easily held a lot of sand and water. As night came we once again ran with our heavy ruck sacks down to the beach. We each carried a large pipe filled with sand to simulate carrying a weapon. After getting wet and sandy for what seemed the hundredth time, our commander pointed off into the distance at a very small red flashing light. He said, “You see that light in the distance? We are going to run to that light.” I could barely pick out what light he was talking about and thought he must be joking. That had to be more than 20 miles away. How could I run to that light in the sand, with my heavy ruck, and holding this ever-increasingly heavy pipe? But we started off. Every 15 minutes or so they yelled at us to run into the surf and get “wet and sandy.” My clothes were heavy with salt water and the skin on my legs and back were being worn off by the abrasive sand. Already almost 25% of the participants had quit or failed the training. The group of about 30 had roughly formed into 3 groups as we ran along the beach. I found myself in the middle group and I was mentally struggling with why I was there. My mind was giving me every excuse to quit. “I was too old for this. Why am I carrying the same weight as that college linebacker who is 10 years younger than me? These pants can’t hold much more sand or water.” And the list went on. As hours passed, I realized that the commander was not lying; we really were running to that red light. My heart sank. It was not getting any closer! I couldn’t bring myself to fall to the last group. I knew that if I did, I would fall behind and quit. I was miserable! At a really low point, I looked around at all the other people and found that the person next to me was really struggling too. I made my way closer to this person and we began to talk. He told me his back was cramping up and he was considering walking. I knew if he did that, he would be done. I told the person to rest their pipe on mine as we ran. I began to look for small milestones we could check off. I gave tips I had learned and pep talks when he wanted to stop. The run didn’t seem so bad to me anymore. We began to pass a lot of other people. We began to work together and enjoy ourselves. As the daylight drew near, I realized that we had finished. We made it to the red light! We went on to do much harder things in the subsequent hours, but I never again in that 50 hours doubted myself or why I was there. I learned a valuable lesson in my dark moment: if I was going to survive, I needed to help those around me.
This lesson is not unique to me. Nor is it just a feel-good message given to you in Sunday School. Researchers have begun to scientifically establish that helping others really is the key to improving yourself. In 2017, Carolyn Swartz, a researcher from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, was conducting research on peer-to-peer support. The research involved individuals with multiple sclerosis calling others on the phone with the same disease to offer support. While those receiving the phone calls experienced some small improvements, surprisingly, the real benefits came to those offering their support. These individuals experienced substantial improvements in their quality of life, much more than those they were helping. These findings were an unexpected surprise of the research. After this discovery, Dr. Swartz went on to research over 2,000 Presbyterian regular church attenders. She discovered that those that volunteered and helped others were less depressed and happier than those that were not involved in helping others. This helped to establish her research findings that those who offer help and support experience positive mental and physical health benefits.
Think about a time that you were feeling down, anxious, frustrated, or depressed. I enjoyed your comments on the discussion board about what you do when you have these feelings. Often we feel like closing the blinds and going to bed. Healthcare professionals will often prescribe medication or therapy. What if we could look outside of ourselves to others? Would that really work? The National Academy of Science examined participant brains with MRI. This occurred while participants were making different decisions. When participants were helping others in such acts as donating to charity, the mesolimbic system of the brain was activated. This is the part of the brain that is often referred to as the reward pathway. It is a pathway that is fueled by dopamine. This pathway plays a role in pleasure, oftentimes looking for motivation or reward from an action. So it does make sense that helping others is the action, and the brain rewards the body with a sense of accomplishment or feeling good. This idea is built into the human body as a way to survive, making, the act of helping others a basic component of our human make up. Dr. Stephen Post from Case Western Reserve University notes the evolutionary requirement of helping others when “Group selection played a strong role in human evolution. If something like helping benefits the group, it will be associated with pleasure and happiness.” He goes on to state, “When you’re experiencing compassion, benevolence, and kindness, they push aside the negative emotions. One of the best ways to overcome stress is to do something to help someone else.”  What a great idea! Helping others is one of the best physiological ways to reduce your own stress and increase your own happiness.
What scientists are just figuring out, the gospel has been telling us for millennia. The Lord speaking to Isaiah taught him about the benefits of reaching out and helping others.
Isaiah 58:10 reads, “And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday.”  What an amazing promise! As we reach out to those that are struggling around us, we will be lifted and not just a little bit, but we will be brought from darkness to be in the light of the noonday.
Early in President Gordon B. Hinkley’s life he experienced much tragedy. He was living in the midst of the Great Depression when few young men were serving missions. His mother had died 3 years earlier of cancer, and the family was experiencing a lot of hardship not only financially but in every other way President Hinkley recalled. His father and brother promised to support his efforts to serve a mission, and they found a small savings account from their mother. The funding that supported his mission was sacred to him. He left for his mission to England in the summer of 1933. When he got there, Elder Hinkley experienced a lot of discouragement and failure. He was feeling miserable and, I imagine, a bit guilty for what he felt like was wasting sacred money. He wrote home to his father stating, “I’m not doing any good here. I am just wasting my time and your money. I don’t see any point in staying here.” His father wisely knew how to respond. He wrote back, “Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work. With love, Your Father.” These words weren’t meant to patronize or scold. Elder Hinkley’s father must have known the value in getting out of your own head and helping others. The next day Elder Hinkley pondered the response from his father and while reading his scriptures came across this statement:
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. 
This hit Elder Hinkley like a load of bricks. He prayed to his Heavenly Father that he would give himself over to the Lord. He states that “the whole world changed. The fog lifted. The sun began to shine in my life.”  This sounds exactly like the promise from Isaiah: “Then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday.”  There it is. President Hinkley experienced it on his mission: the joy of looking beyond yourself and helping others.
Elder Quentin L. Cook in last week’s devotional reflected on his dear wife’s example. Growing up, Sister Mary Cook didn’t have a lot of worldly wealth and at times had an unstable home, but that did not prevent her from being friendly and reaching out to others, trying to be a light. Elder Cook referred to it as living “on the sunny side of the street.”  Even in her hard times, Sister Cook was able to be a light to those around her by helping others and not dwelling on her own hardships.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared, “As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness,”  when our Savior taught us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  I have often interpreted this as giving for the sake of blessing others and with no thought as to the effects on myself. But why not? Why not give and help others, knowing that part of that blessing is making me a happier and better person? Service is often times looked at as a commandment to us to help others, something we are supposed to do. But really, serving others is the greatest self-help.
Katie is a friend in my ward and is one of the happiest people I know. She has the biggest smile, and I love being around her. She is fun, energetic, and is so kind! If you were to visit her social media account, here are some of the things you would find.
Katie loves kindness and spreads it everywhere she goes. She has a thing called “Kindness Thursdays” where she looks for something kind to do for someone else. For her 30 th birthday she wanted to capture 30 acts of kindness. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Katie is one of the happiest people I know. Nor is it a surprise that she is someone people love to be around. One of the things I love most about these acts of kindness is that they are obtainable, real examples of someone looking for ways to get out and help someone else. Not only is Katie helping those around her, but her acts of kindness make her such a fun and happy person. Wouldn’t it be great if we all joined in on Kindness Thursdays? I think we would have a lot of happy people.
If helping others is a source of man’s greatest happiness, then why is it so hard for us? Often we can be easily bogged down in the mire of our own busyness or worries to lift our heads up and see that there are people around us that need our help. I have found myself in this situation many times telling myself that I am far too busy to help or things are too hard to help right now. Let me share with you an example.
Early on in my marriage, when all 3 of my kids were very young, I was working the night shift as a nurse, and my husband was beginning a new career. As happy as we were, things were also very tight. Time and money were things we seemed to never have enough of. One day, I was contacted by a distant friend, saying that someone in their ward was coming to the university in our town. He had been in a terrible accident a couple of years earlier that left him a quadriplegic. He had limited use in his shoulders, but nothing else. He was a fiercely independent kid and wanted to get a college education and learn to live on his own. Naturally, his parents were extremely worried and wanted to find a nurse to help care for him. I had been a nurse for a long time and knew how much work taking care of someone with this disability was. I couldn’t imagine taking on more work and responsibility in my life. l felt like I had all the work I could manage at the time. I was not interested. I dodged this friend many times, until I finally agreed to meet with the parents. I told her that I would see if I could find someone else to help their son. After meeting with these amazing parents and hearing a mother plead with me for help, I couldn’t say no. It was hard work. I would work my 12-hour night shift from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and then go straight to this student’s dorm and work for several more hours. However, I found that my labor became lighter than it should have been. I never left his dorm in a bad mood. I found myself with a new friendship. This kid was amazing! His positive outlook on life was contagious. He was funny and energetic. His family was loving and generous. He ran into a lot of struggles that semester and was able to laugh about it and rise above his challenges. I was amazed at his resiliency and motivation. I look back on those years and feel like I was the one who was blessed. When our washer and dryer gave out, we could pay cash for a new one. Car repairs weren’t life-altering anymore. Christmases were paid for without financial struggle. We had room to breathe in an otherwise very tight budget. But it was more than a financial blessing. I was able to look outside myself and my current struggles and realize how precious life is. This friend taught me that my life is not defined by my struggles. In fact, struggles were a part of life. I would see this kid maneuvering his wheelchair in the cold and snow, with only small amount of shoulder muscle, and still he had a great perspective on life. He constantly looked for what he could do and could become. I came to embrace that life for everyone is filled with ups and downs. Sometimes those downs can be really hard. It is not about avoiding or dodging the downs, but when I am down, picking others up will help me to get up with far more ease and resiliency. I learned that reaching out of my own bubble helps me to see the beauty of life. I am then able to rise above the drudgery of day-to-day life and troubles and find real joy and happiness. I am so grateful that I didn’t miss that opportunity to help someone else. I wasn’t too busy. I needed that opportunity to help someone else. I needed the light in my life that helping others brings.
Today I would like to challenge each of you to look outside your current struggles and difficulties. Tell yourself that you are not too busy to help someone. Find someone to help, even if it is a small effort or act of kindness. In exchange, you have been promised that you will be lifted and not just a little bit, but you will be brought from darkness to be in the light of the noonday.
 Stephen Post.
 Isaiah 58:10.
 See Matthew 16:25.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, in “His Mission to England Was a Life-Changing Experience,” Deseret Morning News, Jan. 28, 2008, 11.
 Isaiah 58:10.
 Quentin L. Cook, “The Sunny Side of the Street,” BYU-Idaho devotional, Jan. 26, 2021.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Happiness, Your Heritage,” Ensign, Nov. 2008.
 Acts 20:35.