Homesickness is a very real and common emotional experience. At some point in life, we leave our homes and families to pursue a new challenge by moving or traveling somewhere far away. For many, the first time is when they move to college. For others, it may be when they move to a new city or abroad for new job opportunities or for a marriage. In recent years, it may be more difficult to pay a visit back home with the pandemic traveling restrictions.
The deep anxiety of longing and missing home are very real emotions. Why does it happen and how can we cope with these feelings?
Why Do We Feel Homesick?
As we grow, we naturally create attachments to things specifically available to that environment. Homesickness happens when we are displaced from a familiar environment and are forced disconnected from what we are used to. This causes anxiety and emotional distress.
It can be a challenge to adjust to a new environment, culture, language, social networks, etc. The initial culture shock and lack of control over what happens around you can cause confusion, loneliness, and anxiety. Our fight-or-flight alarm system can also trigger the body to respond in various ways.
The consequences of homesickness can manifest as mild to severe symptoms. There is a potentially incapacitating impact on physical, cognitive, and psychological functioning, which can affect anyone no matter what culture, race, age, and context.
Here are some of the typical symptoms caused by homesickness:
・Disruption of sleep and appetite
・Increased risk of infection and gastrointestinal issues
・High arousal which may lead to physical ailments such as headaches or dizziness
・Hormonal changes that suppress the immune system
・The pervasive desire to return home and pessimistic views about the new environment impacts the person’s general behavior and psychological functioning
The symptoms come as a complex mix of psychological, cognitive, and physical, so it can be difficult to fully recognize that being homesick is the cause of reason.
If you are reading this in preparation for making the move, the post below may help you with what to expect when you go through the change.
4 Ways to Cope With Homesickness
The science on homesickness is typically focused on the cause and symptoms, and there aren’t many documented studies on coping strategies. However, research suggests that mental health counseling, social connections, and achieving a sense of belonging in a new environment, are crucial ingredients in overcoming homesickness.
Here are a few coping ideas that could help this process.
1. Explore Your New Home Area
Staying still will give room for the brain to lament all the wonderful memories back home. So, try to get moving and feed your brain with exciting new information. No matter how much you think you’ve already explored your new home area, there is always more to find. Stay open about it with a fresh mind.
Look up places you’ve never been to or wander around and see where you’re drawn to. Even more, bring a camera to see if you can look at things from a different angle. The stimulation you get from traveling is known to relieve stress, and there’s always a way to find new stimulations as if you were a tourist. Try to go out with a fresh perspective and an adventurous mindset so that you can land upon pleasant surprises and new encounters in the area!
It’s time to start finding things that you love about your new home!
2. A Deeper Connection With Existing Relationships
Moving to a new area doesn’t mean you become estranged from your friends and family. In fact, it can make you closer.
Sure, the relationship you had won’t be the same in the way you communicate because there is distance. However, this is a great time to connect deeper with your loved ones.
You can exchange care packages that consist of pictures and local products gathered while you explored. Long heartfelt hand-written letters and quality phone conversations are highly appreciated in this day and age where loose and impersonal connectivity through social media has become the main way we connect.
Take this as an opportunity to form authentic connections with the people you love, but don’t dwell and spend too much time on your relationships back at home. Set a time to bond with your existing relationships, but at the same time, don’t forget to create a new life that’s based on your local reality.
3. Work on Self-Care and Mental Health
The isolation you feel when you move to a new place can be used to your advantage. It’s an excellent opportunity to work on yourself when there is alone time.
Moving to a new place means that you can rewrite expectations of who you want to become. Try to form reflective habits like journaling or meditating every day. If health is your concern, exercise and practice a healthy balanced diet. On the other hand, daily reading is a great way to nurture knowledge and relax. Perhaps this is the opportunity to invest in a skill you want to learn. So, take the time to create habits that shape the life you want to form.
If homesickness is mentally getting to you, this is a great time to exercise habits that help you achieve mental strength.
Science suggests that mental health counseling is also helpful in combating homesickness. If you need someone to walk through the problems with you, an AI (Artificial Intelligence) can help without any restrictions on time, schedule, or location. It’s an affordable alternative counseling method with a free trial period. Give it a try!
4. Build A Connection With People in Your Area
Social connections help us feel fulfilled in our life. As much as you may miss your connections at home, it is important to work towards building a new social landscape.
Try to actively go out and meet new people in your area. If you’re really homesick, it may help to find others who also miss home or are originally from the same area as you. Volunteering, online social platforms, hobby communities, and educational classes are all great places to meet like-minded people. Getting to know someone takes time, so stay optimistic even if you can’t find someone you connect with right away.
As you meet new people, try to keep a record of all the fun things via photos and journaling. It is important to see the progression of the great memories you build to acknowledge the growth you’re going through.
Good Things Take Time
Don’t get discouraged if you can’t meet the right people or can’t adjust to the new lifestyle right away. We all start somewhere to create an environment that we can call our new home. It takes time to learn and adjust to the new culture, people, food, and ways of things.
Try to enjoy the excitement of feeling like an explorer or a newcomer. This is the time to embrace fresh perspectives and inspirations that flow in as an outsider, and to create a new life that we desire!
Reference:Ferrara, T. (2020). Understanding Homesickness: A Review of the Literature. Journal for Leadership and Instructions, 8–15. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1255848.pdf
Southwick, N. (2021, June 22). 26 Ways to Reduce Homesickness Abroad. Go Overseas. https://www.gooverseas.com/blog/ways-reduce-homesickness-abroad