Whether you’ve moved away to school, relocated for work, or are travelling abroad, homesickness happens. No matter how old you are or what the situation is, feelings of nostalgic melancholy can crop up and make you long for home.
Everyone experiences homesickness differently but it tends to cause depression, anxiety, loneliness and isolation. In an unfamiliar setting, being away from the people and places we love can leave you feeling like you’re going through breakup or mourning a death.
In reality, it’s all about our innate desire for security, stability, safety and love—feelings we usually associate with home. Yet, these are such instinctive needs and automatic connections that even people with an unhappy home life can still find themselves feeling homesick.
Thankfully, homesickness doesn’t tend to last, though it may ebb and flow. Whatever emotions you’re experiencing will pass as you get adjusted to your new environment, but don’t be surprised if they return once you settle in.
If you’re struggling with homesickness, it may take some time to feel better but there are definitely some things you can do to speed up the process.
1. Give yourself time to wallow
Since homesickness can often mimic the pain of a breakup, give yourself 24 hours to treat it that way. Let yourself cry into a tub of ice cream while you look at family photos. Stay in bed and binge watch your BFF’s favorite TV show. Homesickness is completely normal and you should allow yourself time to process it—just don’t let the mourning period go on for too long.
2. Make your surroundings feel like home
A new place doesn’t have to feel strange and unfamiliar. Decorate your space with things that give you warm and fuzzy feelings of home, like sentimental keepsakes, cultural or religious items, photographs, or even the blanket you’ve been sleeping with since childhood.
3. Get outside
If homesickness has you feeling depressed, you probably want to isolate yourself. Your new room or home may be a safe retreat but hiding away by yourself will only make the feelings worse. You’ve let yourself wallow, right? Now it’s time to move on, find things to do and keep your mind and body active. Not sure where to start? Try sightseeing in your new locale!
4. Don’t forget your hobbies
Just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean you have to leave your hobbies and favorite activities behind. If you played in a sports league at home, find one in your new city to join. If you visited your local comic book shop on a weekly basis, find one where you are now to go to. A fresh start also gives you ample opportunity to try something new, even if it’s scary or out of character for you. Now is the time to drum up a little courage. Plus, keeping up with the activities you loved at home or finding new hobbies, is also a great way to meet new people.
5. Keep in touch (but not too much)
Chatting with friends and family at home can be painful—it may just serve as a reminder that you really miss them—but connectedness is what you’re craving at the moment. Don’t let your relationships at home go ignored. Instead, text your mom, call your BFF or email your grandpa. Chances are, they miss you too! However, don’t spend so much time in touch with your people at home that you ignore opportunities to meet new people and enjoy the experiences around you.
6. Talk about it
You’re not alone. While it’s more common among children and teens, homesickness can happen can to anyone at any time. Don’t feel ashamed to talk about it. If you’re away at school or travelling, the people around you have likely experienced similar feelings. Find a person you can trust—a dorm RA, a new friend, someone back home, a spiritual advisor, or professional counsellor—and tell them what’s on your mind.