So you’ve just arrived home after 18 or 24 months of serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in what was undoubtedly the most incredible experience of your life. You probably don’t really know what to do as you begin to transition back to “normal” life, but this list with tips from other returned missionaries should help.
1. Take some time to rest. The time you spent on your mission was spiritually rewarding and uplifting in many ways, but it was also an experience that took a lot of energy – physically, spiritually and emotionally. You have been working non-stop in the Lord’s service, and whether you think you need it or not, you should try to rest the first few days after you get home. As it says in Mosiah 4:27, “It is not requisite that a man (or woman) should run faster than he (or she) has strength.”
2. Spend time with your family. Of all the people from whom you have been absent, your family has missed you the most. They want to spend time with you in person and hear about your experiences. Take advantage of this first week home to spend as much time with them as you can (especially if you have family visiting from out of town or taking off work so they can spend time with you).
3. Reconnect with old friends — especially those who aren't LDS! The first few weeks after you get home are also a great time to reconnect with your friends from before the mission. You have great opportunities for missionary work with your friends of other faiths, who are probably wondering what you’ve been doing this whole time. Reach out to them so you can continue to help spread the gospel.
4. Ease into — don’t dive into — old hobbies and media habits. Re-entering the world of movies, music, social media and your favorite hobbies from before the mission can be a strange and even intimidating experience. Don’t let other people force you into these things if you don’t feel comfortable with them. I felt uncomfortable watching "Toy Story 3" a few days after I got home because it felt wrong to be watching a movie. One of my close friends said that the reason he took a long time to return to his favorite hobby of playing bass guitar was because it was the thing that was hardest for him to let go of when he left for his mission. As a result, it was the activity he felt needed the most time before he started doing it again. Don’t feel obligated to dive into these old activities. Ease in as you get more comfortable with them.
5. Go to the temple. Depending on where you served, there’s a good chance you did not get to attend the temple after you left the MTC. Even if your mission did have a temple, you may not have been able to attend as regularly as you would have liked. Visiting your nearest temple provides a great opportunity to reflect on your mission experience, as well as to seek guidance if you have doubts as to what you need to do now that your full-time missionary service is over.
6. Don’t be idle. After your first few days of rest, it’s important to not just sit around doing nothing. For many people this means going to school. Because I arrived home three months before I would be able to return to school, this meant getting a job. Whatever your situation is, find ways to fill your time with productive, useful activities that will keep you from being idle.
7. Set meaningful goals for yourself. Just like you learned during your mission, setting meaningful, achievable goals can make a big difference in your ability to be productive and effective in reaching your desires. Set goals for things you can actually control (such as how you wish to perform in school, keeping up spiritual habits such as prayer and scripture study, how regularly you will attend the temple, etc.) so you can start working toward them.
8. Eat your favorite meal from home. This may sound a bit silly, but you probably didn’t have very many (if any) opportunities to eat your favorite meal while serving your mission. During your first week back, your parents will be more than happy to provide that for you, whether it is something homemade or just a favorite dish at a restaurant. So eat up.
9. Visit the dentist and doctor. Even though this isn’t the most fun thing to do, you probably need to go. Most missionaries that I talked to did not have a checkup with a dentist or doctor throughout their entire mission (even those who served stateside), so you should take care of this as soon as possible after you arrive home. The sooner you go, the better.
10. Take advantage of chances to share your mission experiences. Sure, you will be sharing mission stories when you give your homecoming talk, but look for other opportunities to share your stories as well. The first few weeks after you return home are the time when people are most interested in hearing about your cool/funny/uplifting/sad experiences. Sharing your mission stories can also be a great missionary tool in itself. Take advantage of it, and share these stories while people are still interested in hearing them. Do it now, because the more time that passes, the less interested others will become.