Public speaking isn’t easy for many people, but it is especially difficult for those who struggle with mental health challenges such as anxiety.
You fear you will be judged. You don’t have the words to say. Accompanying the mental terror is the physiological reaction that may leave you paralyzed in your pew.
Bearing your testimony is meant to be a sacred and safe experience. Here are a few ideas on how to bear your testimony if you struggle with anxiety and other related mental illnesses.
Come to fast and testimony meeting prepared by practicing what you would like to say beforehand. In the week leading up to fast and testimony Sunday, write down your thoughts in the journal. Read them over and over. Don’t just think about it in your mind. Say it out loud.
Keep It Short
Do worry about putting together an elaborate story or speech for your testimony. It can be short and sweet. Focus on a single principle or a single experience that brought you closer to Christ. Remember these words from Brigham Young on hearing a simple testimony:
If all the talent, tact, wisdom and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared, in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by learning, and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like the smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence, or talents for public speaking, who could only say, “I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of the Lord,” the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true.
Make Sure to Breathe
Practice mindfulness and breathing before you give your testimony. Take in a deep breath through your nose until your lungs are full. Hold for seven seconds. Exhale for at least seven seconds.
Build Up to Testimony Meeting
Look for other opportunities to practice bearing your testimony. Write it first in your journal. You can then share it online in a post or message to a friend. Bear your testimony in a family home evening setting or even just to a trusted friend. Many Relief Society and Priesthood meetings leave time for testimonies on Fast Sunday. Try sharing in that setting first.
Pray for Strength
The Lord loves your testimony. It is precious to him and he wants you to shine as the light on the hill. Pray for strength to bear your testimony. Pray for inspiration on what you can do to overcome your challenges. Accept your weaknesses in speaking and do not focus on how you want to present yourself. Rather, focus on sharing what you know about Christ.