Homesickness is a very common phenomenon. It affects almost everyone who moves away from where they grew up. Our homes embodies safety, familiarity, warmth and love and moving away from this comfortable environment may possibly lead to a state of psychological discomfort. It is likely that this is caused by the feeling of being socially and emotionally isolated.
This discomfort can have many aspects to it- physical, behavioral and cognitive. A representative (but non-exhaustive) examples of these aspects would include:
Since we’re all so different, our experience of homesickness, too, is unique to all of us. The presence/absence of support in the new place dramatically changes the experience of homesickness. That’s why it’s critical for us to have dependable support systems of our own. Here’s how to cope with the all-new environment, and how to build a support system while you settle in.
1. Eat well and focus on your nutrition.
Moving out of home can be overwhelming. While trying to get used to new timelines and routines, we tend to pay less attention to the food we’re eating. As a result, we tend to end up eating fast food and junk, because it’s pocket-friendly and easily accessible. Since fast food isn’t particularly nourishing, this may take a toll on our body eventually in the form of fatigue, fever, tummy upsets, and vitamin deficiencies. Focus on eating nutritious food, and maybe even start cooking (if you don’t already), because it’s a great way to unwind, and be the boss of what you eat!
Homesickness can keep you up at night. Homesick or not, it’s critical to sleep well and give our physical body the rest it deserves to nourish and heal itself. Find ways to unwind after a day of work/studies, and build a routine that makes you sleep-ready when you hit the sack. Think reading, herbal teas, and maybe even a workout routine.
3. Establish Connect:
a) Connecting with nature: Connecting with nature can be a beautiful grounding experience. Through the process we can help ourselves calm down and develop a state of inner peace - a walk in a nearby park can help.
b) Connecting with causes: Joining an organization or movement that exists for a cause. Is there a cause you’re passionate about? It’s quite fulfilling to be able to offer your hours to it by volunteering. By being able to help others, we all experience a deep sense of purpose and happiness.Bonus: You’ll meet like-minded people who could very well become your friends.
c) Connect with yourself through art and/or hobbies: Engage yourself in the things that you enjoy doing. Be it painting, drawing, dancing, singing, playing instruments etc. Some people find writing and maintaining a journal to be very helpful as well. If you haven’t got a hobby (yet), consider embarking on the search for something new. Join a class, even if it’s online.
d) Deep Breathing: Deep breathing helps us calm down from any anxious and nervous thoughts that we may experience. Here’s how to do it right - Take a deep breath in through your nose. Release from your mouth very slowly and completely. Repeat this for at least 15-20 counts with your eyes closed.
Re-connect with your family/relatives and friends. We’re blessed to be in an age where this is easier than ever. Make video/voice calls every now and then with family/friends from back home. Make it a routine to connect with at least one person you connect and share a warm relationship with, daily. Share with them all sides of your experience - the good ones and the struggles too. A familiar voice is always a good thing!
5. Explore the new place:
Be open to exploration! This will help you familiarize yourself with your new home, and that’s important not only to make you more comfortable, but for your safety as well. Find all the shortcuts, grocery stores, and quiet spots. You may choose to do this solo, or with your new friends/colleagues. There are also plenty of tourism groups which take people around for treks and explorations within the city.
We know, we know. It’s all easier said than done. We’ve been there! Here’s how to get through this transitional phase, while incorporating all the suggestions we just offered:
Take every day as it comes: We didn’t want to state the obvious, but it’s important! Instead of focusing on how you would manage to live in the new place for the required time period you are there, focus on managing just one day at a time. Take it as it comes - it helps to fill your days up with things you enjoy doing, or making a schedule to stick by for work/college.
Never underestimate the power of small things: Set small, achievable targets for yourself every day. When we keep unrealistically high targets for ourselves, we are likely to fail in executing it, leading to dejection and low motivation. It’s okay to start small.
Develop the practice of being grateful: There’s a lot of research that confirms that gratitude increases wellness. By developing the habit of finding little things to be thankful for, we alter our worldview, and show ourselves that we can be happy and content. Make it a point to incorporate this into your routine. Maybe set aside a few minutes each morning/night and list 5 things you’re grateful for, just to yourself. A gratitude journal is a lovely way to go about this, too.
Treat yourself with love and care, and be patient with yourself: Believe and accept that you are doing the best you are capable of. If it requires you to be extra kind to yourself or treat yourself on some days. Love yourself unconditionally, and remind yourself you deserve the best.
If it is more than you can manage, counselling may help you with this transition. :)