While I didnt ask this question to other missionaries, for me personally it was harder to come home from the mission than it was to start it. I had tried to prepare myself for the differences but things that I hadnt expected to be hard were harder than the things that I had expected. For me, the hardest thing was leaving the missionary culture. In the mission world you are surrounded by people trying to use the Atonement every given moment of every day. You pretty much only hear and talk about spiritual experiences and things that you have learned to become a better person. When you come home, you step out of a world where you are constantly drawing closer to Christ in exchange for short lived entertainment via facebook, youtube, movies, books, etc. Everyone expects you to change and adapt so you are more worldly and comfortable in such a sin filled existence. People often ask you if you have adapted yet, but I remember a quote (not exactly sure from where) that said to the effect that "why would you ever ask someone who has changed to build a strong relationship with Christ, to return to the world and try to lose even an ounce of that marvelous change wrought upon them?" With that said, I think it important that we strive to keep the full change, which is why I asked other missionaries their advice to return missionaries.
1. ATTEND THE TEMPLE. Try to go at least once a week if you can.
2. Work your personal study into your new schedule. You may not be able to do it in the morning, but find the time to do it.
3. Keep doing service.
4. Take control of your life. Work on acting and not being acted upon.
5. Make goals again. This one is important especially for those who arent going to school right away. I will talk about this one more later.
6. Keep yourself busy.
7. Avoid worldly things (videos, etc)
I know that most RMs will have already considered many of these, so it may not be anything new, but it is a starting ground. Before I go any further I would like to address number 5 on the list: make goals again. When I came home, I couldn't attend school right away and was thrown into the stresses of the world with so much extra time to worry and think about the details of my situation. From that experience, I found that I needed to have a plan, try and execute that plan, then leave the rest to the Lord. Obviously we learn that in the mission, but it took me a while to figure out how to apply it to real life worries. You will find that without a plan on how to fill your time, you end up wasting a lot of it and getting a little depressed because of that. One of the other sisters I talked to said that she had been moping around, then decided that it wasn't going to do her any good, so she took control and changed. The Lord wants us to feel the spirit just as much, and grow every day. We taught so often that baptism was the beginning for the investigators; I think that this is the beginning for us. We have been in the fiery furnace for a year and a half or two years. Why not keep your diamond shiny and ready for the Lord to use? Plan on keeping it shiny and act on the knowledge you have attained.
You are not alone if you are struggling with returning to old habits or just returning to the person you were before the mission. The more you hang around people who knew you before and treat you like they did before, the harder it is to keep any changes. You will learn little by little (if you fight tooth and nail) how to tweak your previous self into who God really wants you to be. I personally learned that PG-13 movies destroyed my thoughts (even some PG ones do) and made it a rule for myself not to watch them. Everyone is different so just be aware of how you respond to specific things. The amount of change you will keep all depends on how you value that change and how much you are willing to give up to keep it.
A word to those who are expecting an RM or currently have one: please be understanding and don't throw your personal expectations on us. Honestly, it would be best to just not have expectations. Every single person is different and when they come back, they are going to be different than when they left (they should be anyway). The things they say will be different and so will their attitudes. It is super hard to be treated like you havent changed. Please be understanding that we are not the person you once knew. Some of us may even try to help change things in you, but it is never meant in a mean or condescending way. We have been counseling people for the past year and a half (or 2) on how they can improve their relationship with Heavenly Father; it is possible that we will do the same for you. Some of us may even have the naive idea that we can fix everything wrong, but it will wear off, so just be patient. Helping us fill our time is awesome (and encouraged), but also allow us to have personal time to study and figure things out.
In ending this already long blog post, I would like to offer some talks that RMs would like. I am a huge talk buff, so if you have any suggestions on amazing talks, I'm all ears. I would love your suggestions, and I hope that maybe you have felt some inspiration through what has been said. His promptings are a lot better than anything I could ever say.
David O. McKay’s 10 Rules For Happiness
1. Develop yourself by self discipline.
2. Joy comes through creation—sorrow through destruction. Every living thing can grow; use the world wisely to realize soul growth.
3. Do things that are hard to do.
4. Entertain up building thoughts. What you think about when you do not have to think about shows what you really are.
5. Do your best this hour, and you will do better the next.
6. Be true to those who trust you.
7. Pray for wisdom, courage, and a kind heart.
8. Give heed to God’s messages through inspiration. If self-indulgence, jealousy, avarice, or worry have deadened your response, pray to the Lord to wipe out these impediments.
9. True friends enrich life. If you would have a friend, be one.
10. Faith is the foundation of all things—including happiness.
The Returned Missionary by L. Tom Perry
What Are the Blessings of a Mission? Can Ye Tell? by Vaughn J. Featherstone
Look Forward with an Eye of Faith by
And if you haven't read The Continuous Atonement by Brad Wilcox, it will change your life and I HIGHLY recommend it.