It’s that time of year when we leave home and head off to exciting new opportunities. College. Internships. Study abroad.
Those first few weeks are a refreshing and invigorating whirlwind. New friends and experiences. A chance to discover something new about the world and yourself.
But then eventually, whether it be four days or four weeks, you’ll have that moment when you realize that none of this is familiar. None of these faces have seen you grow up. This dorm food is great, but it isn’t from your kitchen. Every place you go and every person you meet is new, and that requires a certain amount of energy and exhaustion. You feel so alone.
Homesickness has been around forever and it plagues even the best of us.
But these days it’s getting a lot more attention and a lot more clear. The obsessive feelings of loneliness, anxiety and sadness do not actually come from missing home but our need for protection, comfort, and love, which as you can guess we primarily find in your home. In a CNN article by Derrick Ho on the issue, Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama’s School of Public Health explained, “You’re not literally just missing your house. You’re missing what’s normal, what is routine, the larger sense of social space because those are the things that help us survive,” Klapow said.
So with that in mind, here are ten ways to beat homesickness…
1. Fess Up.
We often associate homesickness with introverts and homebodies and refuse to believe that an extroverted social butterfly could ever feel the pains of missing home. But this just isn’t true. Feeling homesick isn’t a sign of failure or weakness, and it doesn’t mean that you aren’t cut out to leave home and explore the world. It just means that you are a normal person going through an adjustment phase and emotion, and in order to beat it the first step is to admit that it’s happening.
2. Hit The Kitchen.
It’s no mystery that food has major sentimental and comfort power, and it is worth the time and effort to bring your favorite comfort food into your new lifestyle. So if you are from a part of the world that has a certain food that you miss, don’t feel guilty spending the extra money to buy it. Or if your mom makes the best mac n cheese, have an intense Skype session to write down instructions, practice cooking it vigorously when visiting home, or even take some leftovers back home with you.
3. Care Packages, Please.
There is something still so exciting about receiving a care package in the mail. Opening a box full of funny trinkets, useful school supplies, photos, or even just a classic letter is a sure way to smile. We recommend that you give as well as receive. It’ll keep the exchange going and you’ll reap the positive benefits of generosity.
4. Look At These Photographs.
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways to beat homesickness is to display meaningful photos in your room (or wallet or cell phone). It will provide the sense of security that you crave, and while you are at, make your living space as comfortable as possible. Part of the homesickness equation is a lack of the security and comfort you once had, so making your own space you own private haven is a sure way to recoup.
5. Open Up.
At home, everyone knows your backstory. They know how many siblings you have. What a terrible haircut you had in fifth grade. Which street your house is on. And then you come to a new place and you’re a stranger and your story is blank. This can be an exciting time to reinvent yourself, but at the same time, can be a frustrating experience and feel like you are just a blank face with no history. So it’s up to you to make it known. When talking to friends, bring up friends and family from home. Show a photo of the terrible haircut. Talk about your crazy cousin. By opening up and sharing your backstory, you’ll have a new support system of friends that seems as if they knew you during, and before, your major move.
6. Plan Ahead.
Even if something is far on the horizon, at least it is still there. Plan out exciting excursions to see friends and family or even exciting activities and trips in advance and then pencil them in somewhere visible. Even if your friend just comes and visits you, you’ll get to show her around your new spot and will come to appreciate the change from the eyes of someone familiar. Anytime you’re feeling down, you’ll be reminded that you have an amazing just around the corner. Need ideas? Start with these road trips.
7. Find Your Niche.
Those first few weeks you’ll want to explore like crazy. Every single day you’ll find something new to enjoy or a new person to talk to. But after a bit, you’ll want to become a local, not a tourist. Find your niche of friends or your favorite coffee shop and become a regular. This will give you a new sense of home and belonging where you can feel permanent, not temporary.
8. Back Off The Tech.
FOMO is for real, and it sucks. So if you feel a drop in the pit of your stomach every time you see a photo of friends from home hanging out, maybe it is time to back off and put the phone down for the bit. Go make your own memories. Even more so, it can be a reflex to fall into 3-hour Skype sessions with your parents every day to combat homesickness, but don’t let that be a crutch. Balance those Skype sessions by getting out of your comfort zone.
9. Maintain Your Habits.
Just because you are in an entirely new place, doesn’t mean you need entirely new habits. For instance, say you went for a jog in the park every Saturday at home, find a new park and keep up with that routine. Different place, same old thing–the perfect combination for transitioning. You’ll experience your new environment while still maintaining some balance and similarity from home.
10. Document The Positive Moments.
When you are feeling down and out, it’s easy to just notice the negative moments in life. That’s why you should make a conscious effort to document the positive ones, no matter how small. You can journal about what you are thankful for at night. Carry a pocket notebook and write as they come. Or even just be proactive about snapping spur-of-the-moment photos of moments and places that make you smile. The more you notice these moments, the more they will happen.
Image Courtesy of Irena Puchkiva