After publishing two articles, How to Enjoy the Temple If You Have Anxiety and How to Enjoy Church If You Have Anxiety, we received many requests to continue the series and discuss other aspects of Church life. Today, we want to help those who may be struggling to do their visiting teaching because of their mental illness.
Visiting teaching is the program set up by the Relief Society to ensure all sisters are served and taken care of. Each sister is placed in a companionship and that companionship is directed to visit and teach their assigned sisters at least once a month. For those with anxiety, such social interactions and expectations can be overwhelming. Jesus Christ understands our limitations and has a desire to strengthen us so we can serve our sisters with joy. We hope some of these ideas will help you get started.
Talk to Your Leaders About Your Specific Needs
We can advocate for ourselves as we communicate with our Church leaders. Remember, an informed leader is an inspired leader. By going to your visiting teaching supervisor, Relief Society president, or bishop, you can help them understand your needs. As your needs are met, you can then more effective in serving others. Ponder on what would help you complete your visiting teaching. Discuss your feelings openly and be patient as others try to understand you. The solution may be as simple as having you visit teach someone you’re already close to or getting you a companion you feel comfortable with.
Make a Plan With Your Companion
Work together with your companion to come up a plan of action each time you go visiting teaching. You can prepare your lesson ahead of time so you know exactly when you need to speak. You can be put in charge of asking how your sisters are doing and focusing on getting to know them while your companion teaches the lesson. If needed, you can simply bear your testimony before you leave. Your companion can be the one in charge of setting up visits. By talking to your companion ahead of time, you can discover how most effectively to meet with your sisters and remain involved.
Also be willing to share with your companion how your anxiety affects your life. Helping them understand what it is like to have a mental illness will make it easier for them to work and show kindness to your limitations. Prayerfully consider how you can help your companion if you need her to do a lot of the talking and contacting.
Ask for a Letter-Writing Route
Many wards have a list of sisters who do not want to be visited in person, but who will accept letters. See if there is a “letter writing route” available in your ward. If there isn’t one and you feel unable to visit teach anyone in person, ask if one can be created. Writing letters can be done from the comfort of your own home, on your own, and at a pace that works for you. It also lets you be creative and personal. Write letters as you would a pen-pal. Send your sisters a copy of visiting teaching method. There are a lot of visiting teaching printables you can get here with beautiful word art of the scriptures and quotes. Send packages for their birthday or for holidays.
Even if you don’t have a letter writing route, writing a letter is a great option for when your anxiety sneaks up on you and you are unable to get through a visit one month.
Make a Schedule
Just contacting your sisters and trying to set up a visit can be the hardest part. Make yourself a contacting and visiting schedule as much as you are able. If possible, you can try and set aside the same day and week every month to visit your sisters, such as the second Sunday or the third Thursday evening. You can also commit to sending an email or text on the first day of every month to ask when they are free for a visit. It is the first time that is often the hardest. Build up some consistency and you may find it getting easier and easier to do your visiting teaching.
Come Bearing Gifts
Bringing over a treat or printable is an easy way to break the ice if you feel small talk or social situations are hard for you. You can talk about the recipe, why you love it, and how you made it. It can also be a nice way to serve if you are unable to stay and talk for long. If you’ve asked your companion to contact your sisters and be in charge of the lesson or thought, you can commit to bring the treat every time or bring something you can leave behind as a reminder of your love. Pour genuine love into whatever you bring. Pray for your sisters as you bake or create.
Invite Them to a Safe Space
Bring your sister to your own turf to lessen anxiety. Invite them to your house for brunch or another meal. Depending on their time availability, bring them on walks or meet in the foyer after church. Find a space that makes you feel more comfortable and confident and invite them to those places.
Find Anxiety-Free Ways to Serve
Visiting teaching isn’t just about going to someone’s house once a month, sharing a short message, and leaving. It is about serving as Christ would serve and building lasting friendships based on shared testimonies and experiences. Pray to be a true friend. Pray for your sisters by name. Ask what you can pray for. There are so many different ways to serve and love that are as unique as you and your sisters. God wants you to serve as you. He wants to use your special talents and abilities to do as he would do. So, don’t put yourself in a box and try to meet the expectations of others. Find how you can serve with less anxiety and go for it with all of your heart.
What have you done to enjoy visiting teaching when you have anxiety or another mental illness?
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.