When a sister or elder receives a mission call, it’s both joyful and a bit scary. Both the future missionary and the proud parents are probably going to have to work through some nerves in the months ahead.
It’s okay to be anxious. You’re stepping out of comfort zone, and even though you’re grateful for the opportunity to serve, you know there will be challenges to overcome.
One day, you’ll look back on your mission with joy, and perhaps even remember it as one of the greatest experiences of your life.
If you’re an elder, sister, or parent who feels a little apprehensive about an upcoming mission, here are some strategies to help you feel more comfortable and ready.
How to Get Over Pre-mission Nerves
No matter how much you prepare, you’re never going to completely eliminate your pre-mission nerves.
Remember that courage doesn’t mean that you don’t feel afraid – it means that you take action through the fear. Going on a mission or sending your child on a mission takes a certain amount of courage.
To help you conquer your anxiety and feel more prepared for the upcoming mission, here are the best tips from the Preserve a Mission team.
To conquer fear of the unknown, increase the known. You’ll feel far more confident if you have a good idea about who you’ll be serving on your mission.
Whether your mission is foreign or stateside, you’re likely to be around people who think and behave differently than you’re used to. There may even be a bit of a language barrier to overcome. As soon as you’re able, start learning about local customs and culture.
Learning more about the type of people you’ll encounter on your mission also helps you get out of your own head, enabling you to focus more firmly on those you’re going to serve.
It also reduces the fear of the unknown, as you at least know a little about what to expect.
Get a Checkup
To have a safe and healthy mission, it helps if you’re in good physical and mental shape. Schedule a checkup with your family physician to identify any issues that may affect your mission.
Any health problems, either mental or physical, are likely to be aggravated by the inherent stress of your mission.
For one thing, missions often involve plenty of physical activity, especially walking. Beginning with good health reduces your risk of injury or strain, so if you’re not in great shape, ask your doctor about starting a fitness regimen to get ready for your mission.
The same is true for psychological strain; mission stressors can turn previously minor issues into major challenges. If you’re concerned about your ability to mentally handle stress, talk to a mental health professional for advice.
Learn New Stress Management Activities
During your mission, many of the things you do now to blow off steam, like listening to your favorite music, going for a solo jog, or playing team sports, will not be available. Managing your stress in a productive way will make your mission far more pleasant and healthy.
Mission rules vary a little from location to location, so you may be able to adopt an artistic hobby such as sketching or pen and ink drawing. That may not be an option on your mission, though.
Exercise is always encouraged. There may be a gym in your building, or you might rely mostly on cardio and bodyweight exercises.
You’ll also have time for journaling, which is a very effective stress management technique. Using journaling to process your thoughts and emotions is a cathartic experience, though it’s also a new skill that you’ll want to learn. Start journaling before your mission to learn how to use it effectively.
Spend Time Away From Home
If your mission is your first time being away from your family and home, you’re likely to have a more difficult time than you would if you had already spent time away.
Once you’ve received your mission call, it’s probably a little late to sign up for a summer camp.
LDS parents are wise to encourage their kids to take overnight trips with friends, attend sleep-away camps, or participate in other programs that give them a chance to spend time away without parents.
If homesickness has been a problem in the past, you may want to work through some of those concerns before your mission.
Talk to RMs
Your siblings, your parents, and other members of your church have likely been on missions, too. If you’re working through your pre-mission nerves, those people will be happy to talk with you about their experiences.
Sometimes, just knowing that everyone feels nervous about their mission can help.
Ask RMs about their favorite mission stories, or talk to them about how their mission made a positive impact. Remember, too, that no mission goes perfectly the way you’d like. It’s okay if you don’t have the best mission ever.
Accept Your Anxiety
Nerves are completely normal.
Nobody else expects you to go into your mission with utter fearlessness, and you shouldn’t expect that of yourself, either.
It can be frustrating to feel out of control of your situation, and as much as you’d like to be confident in your ability to serve effectively, you know that things won’t always go the way you’d like.
You don’t have to always be happy and serene. Feeling emotions like anxiety and reluctance doesn’t mean you’re failing at anything – it means you’re an intelligent person with reasonable concerns about your future. As long as you’re still making smart choices, there’s no reason to be ashamed of your nerves.
Parents: Adopt a Positive Practice
While your missionary is out serving, many parents feel more connected by adopting a positive practice for the extent of the mission.
Individuals or families might give up a favorite junk food or stop going to the movies on weekends, participating in a small sacrifice. That activity or treat is then replaced with a positive practice, such as putting a dollar in a jar to use when your missionary returns, or praying for your missionary each time you have a craving.
Alternatively, you can adopt a positive practice without also giving something up. Perhaps you spend a certain amount of time each week volunteering, or you start a project you’ve been thinking about for a long time.
Choose a practice that makes you feel closer to your missionary. There’s no one right answer.
Our Pre-Mission Stories
In preparing for this post, the Preserve a Mission team started sharing their own pre-mission stories. We talked a lot about how our parents reacted when we accepted our mission calls.
Here are some of the highlights:
My mom was so anxious when I left that she got shingles. I’m the oldest son, so I was the first mission, but I was only going to Kentucky! Obviously, I’m her favorite.
Not all moms had so much trouble, though.
My mom doubled her daily supply of Dr. Pepper.
And moms aren’t the only ones affected.
Both of my parents started taking anxiety medication when I left for my mission. They’re very practical people.
Parents have a hard time, but the bottom line is this:
Oh, man! My mom cried her eyes out, and my dad went into a funk. I was the second in my family to go, and they were still a mess. But, the thing is, both were extremely proud and glad for my decision.
What about you? How did you react when your children left for their missions? Did your parents have a hard time when you left for your own? Share your stories in the comments.