I was eight when I first went away without my parents. I had done the odd night at another relative’s house but that was about it. When the opportunity to go to a children’s activity centre for a weeks stay came up, I begged my parents to let me go. They agreed and I spent the week with a handful of other kids from my school, sleeping in dorms, learning archery, and riding quad bikes (most of which would terrify me now).
The first day was great, everyone was having loads of fun. Until the sunset that is, that is when my campmates started dropping like flies. As the tears started, they became contagious, culminating in two girls leaving because they hated being away from home so much. Of course, I felt sorry for my friends who were missing their families but I was also pretty baffled. We were away from home doing all these new and exciting things, what was there to be upset about!?
As someone with the emotional capacity of a teaspoon, filled entirely with initial enthusiasm and predictions of doom, I guess I never had room for homesickness as well. Despite this, I’ve had my fair share of exposure to those that do and I think I’ve become pretty good at recognising the best cures. From what I have seen, the biggest barrier to conquering homesickness isn’t not knowing how to deal with it but instead, the counterproductive coping mechanisms that people use. Here I’ve discussed some of the most common strategies for dealing with homesickness and whether or not they are actually useful.
Kill or cure?
Communicating with those at home
This is a great way of easing homesickness. With technology being as advanced as it is, it is easy to reach people from anywhere in the world. When I was living away in China, I loved using Skype to stay in touch and found that the distance made me value interactions with my family and friends even more. We should all work hard to bridge the gaps in geography as the benefits for both parties are huge.
Doing some exercise
They say that physical wellbeing is the key to a happy mind. I wholeheartedly agree with this. By making time to invest in yourself through exercise, you give yourself both a goal and a distraction. The best thing about exercise is that it gets the adrenaline pumping too, hello endorphins!
Reminiscing about home life
This one is a bit of a double-edged sword and the most likely to hold people back from recovery. Reminiscing when you’re with your new pals can be a good way of bonding with them and sharing your experiences. However, far too many people believe thinking about home makes them happy when it doesn’t. It causes nostalgia which is easy to wallow in. A lot of people suffering from homesickness can’t differentiate between the two, so approach reminiscence with caution.
Keeping familiar things around
It is inevitable that you will have some days when you’re abroad where you just feel completely drained and separated from your experience. You will yearn for the simpler days of home and all it takes is a photo or a book to brighten your day. Having some sentimental mementoes close to hand is a great way to bring comfort. Don’t get stuck in the past though, it is important to move forward.
Keeping a journal
I have heard many people say that they find keeping a diary useful when it comes to tackling homesickness. Whilst you might not notice small changes to your overall health and wellbeing to start with, having these changes documented in writing over a period of time makes it much easier to track your progress. Once you see how far you’ve already come in dealing with the symptoms of home withdrawal, it becomes much easier to manage in the long run.
Having some alone time
In my opinion, this is the worst thing you can do if you are having a bad day due to homesickness. If you isolate yourself, you are not doing yourself any favours. One of the most common side effects of homesickness is loneliness. By socially removing yourself to think about everything you’re missing out on at home, you are actually achieving nothing but missing out on your new environment too.
Getting out of your comfort zone
Now, this is something I know a fair bit about! Doing something scary is all-consuming, so why not use it as a way to tackle the negative feelings that homesickness can bring on? Not only is doing something completely new for the first time a distraction, but the feeling of accomplishment releases endorphins and gives our brains a nice little rush. Good feelings all round!
Socialising with new friends
When we are at a low point in life, the number one thing that keeps most of us going is our support network. The most crippling thing about homesickness is that it leaves you feeling alone but that doesn’t have to be the case. Spend time with new people and do stuff together that you all enjoy. They probably need you just as much as you need them!
Booking a trip home
Depending on your personality, this can be a great method to combat homesickness or a terrible one. For some people knowing that they will see their family and friends soon can be a great motivator and remove a lot of anxiety. For other’s, the countdown until they go home can become an obsession and mean they forget to enjoy the trip as they are worrying about having to return. I have seen both of these realities play out in front of me and sometimes it’s not pretty. This one can be great, but don’t forget to live in the now.
So there it is. This is everything I have learned from speaking to and observing those who suffer from homesickness. As someone who finds this difficult to relate to, I struggle to understand it. I do think though, that this distance enables me to look at the subject more objectively. If you’ve read this article (firstly, thank you) and think it’s a load of bull, please get involved in the discussion. Chances are you’re more qualified to speak about this than me!
What are your top tips for beating homesickness?
Just so I don’t seem like such an ice queen… I did cry once during my first ever week away, it was just when I had to come home.
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