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Leaving your friends and family to live independently can really be overwhelming at first. But in search of a greener pasture, you have to know how to combat homesickness. How to deal with homesickness?

These negative feelings of homesickness are experienced mainly by people who spend their time working or studying abroad. Trying to adjust to a new environment while being separated from the people you love can cause emotional distress.

This article will teach you how to deal with homesickness effectively. Know the different ways to cope with the homesick feelings that prevent you from enjoying a new experience.

What Is Homesickness?

Homesickness is the overall feeling of emotional sadness and distress when living away from your loved ones and in a new environment. A person who experiences an intense feeling of loneliness and longing due to being separated from their home environment is homesick.

Some people are obliged to live away from their homes for reasons such as work opportunities, continuing education, immigration, career, and more.

Homesickness is a natural response to loss and adjustment during a period of environmental change. Adjusting to new surroundings may take time because humans naturally tend to defy change, especially when attached to a familiar environment.

If homesickness is not dealt with properly, it can affect us physically and mentally. The time needed to adjust to a new environment may differ for every person. But some ways can help you adapt to your new location while you deal with those mixed emotions that come with it.

Homesickness And College Students

In the US, there are more than 15 million college students living away from home. Homesickness leaves them feeling anxious, withdrawn, and depressed.

Anyone can experience homesickness, but college students are the most susceptible to it. Studies show that being homesick can affect a student’s adjustment period during the first semester. It is also closely associated with poor social outcomes due to a decreased person-to-person interaction.

Research shows that most college students who experience homesickness have poor retention and academic performance. These students experience a strong sense of displacement due to their familiar environment’s sudden change. The psychological symptoms of homesickness can produce negative intellectual and social consequences.

For international and domestic university students, homesickness can be severely problematic. It can exacerbate pre-existing anxiety disorders that can develop into other physical and mental health issues. Proper treatment and prevention can result in a healthy and productive educational experience.

Why Do you Feel Homesick?

There are a lot of factors that can cause homesickness. It is a normal emotional response that you experience when transitioning from familiar to unfamiliar surroundings.

We all miss something about our home when we move to a new location. It can be our old friends, the familiar food or our family. However, homesickness is just a temporary phase. It will start to fade as soon as you have adjusted to your new home. Here are some of the reasons why you feel homesick:

Cultural Distance

Traveling to a new place can be very exciting and difficult at the same time. You will need time to adapt and get used to it. The cultural shock could be one of the reasons why you will feel lonely and homesick.

The differences between the culture of your home and your new environment can make you feel isolated and depressed after the initial stage of excitement. You will then experience the low times where you miss home. Learning how to adjust to the new culture and environment slowly will need time.

Give yourself a few weeks to learn the ways of the local culture and try to meet new friends to help you. Then, stop looking at the larger picture and deal with homesickness in smaller steps. Take it one day at a time.

Lifestyle Disruption

Yes, your daily routines and lifestyle may change when you move away from home. You have to fit in the new culture, try new routines and meet new faces. For some, this major adjustment in their daily lives causes distress and anxiety. In addition, uncertainty from a new and unfamiliar surroundings can trigger emotional responses that cause anxiety disorders.

When your new environment is entirely different from what you were used to, you feel uncomfortable. Uncertainty can diminish how you can effectively and efficiently prepare for your future, leading to mental stress.

Struggling to Adapt

Studies show that homesickness can negatively affect a person’s ability to adjust to a new environment. When we grieve for the loss of the familiar, we fail to function normally like we used to.

The feeling of being an anonymous person living in a new community tends to make us feel insecure and unsure. But humans can naturally adapt to a new situation with time. You must know that homesickness is a process and that you need time to overcome the negative feelings.

Signs Of Homesickness

You can not defeat homesickness overnight; you have to learn how to ride it out. The first thing to do is to acknowledge the feelings of homesickness. Recognize symptoms and try to prepare yourself mentally for them.

Symptoms of homesickness can be classified into physical, behavioral, mental, and emotional categories.

Here are some of the common signs that will tell you that you’re experiencing homesickness:

Physical Symptoms
  • Panic attacks
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns
  • Stomach pains and headaches
  • Feeling lethargic or extreme tiredness
  • Unable to focus on simple tasks
  • Loss of appetite
  • Losing weight
  • Difficulty concentrating
Behavioral Symptoms
  • Seeking attention
  • Social withdrawal or the inability to commit to social gatherings
  • Avoiding exercise or other physical activity
  • Not able to enjoy things fully
  • Self-isolation
Mental Symptoms
  • Feeling lonely, sad, and depressed
  • Missing home, your family, and old life a lot
  • The feeling that you are not in your safe space
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • lack of interest in everything
  • Anxiety attack
  • Thoughts about going home that you can not control
  • Negative thoughts about your new friends or place
Emotional Symptoms
  • You feel depressed every time you see or hear something familiar
  • Feelings of not being in control of your emotions
  • Feeling of loneliness

These symptoms will eventually fade away over time, but it is still normal to feel like you’re missing home once in a while. This can usually be felt during the quieter parts of the day, like when you are reading a book, listening to music, or before going to bed.

Risk Factors Of Homesickness

The risk factors for homesickness are divided into four categories: personality, experience, attitude, and family.

Personality Factors

Research shows that personal attributes and characteristics can greatly impact the way homesickness can affect a person. People with an “anxious ambivalent” type of attachment are most likely to experience homesickness when being separated from home.

Negative personality factors such as neuroticism can increase the possibility of an individual experiencing homesickness. Positive personality factors, on the other hand, like those who are being open to new experiences, can protect a person during their psychosocial adaptation to their new life.

Experience Factors

People who have little to no experience of being away from home when they were young are most likely to suffer the negative effects of homesickness.

Being able to experience living away from their parents for a short time during a summer camp or when they were sent to a boarding school at a young age will already give them an idea of what to expect. Their previous experience can act as a protective factor in helping them adjust easily to the new place.

Attitude Factors

In some cases, your attitude towards looking at things can impact how your mind reacts to the situation. Expecting an intense feeling of homesickness after leaving home can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.

Creating a belief that can prepare you to expect the worst that could happen could be the protective factor that could easily help you recover from the emotional misery since you have already mentally prepared yourself for it.

Family Factors

When the parents try to force a child into studying abroad or going into a boarding school, the child is stripped of their ability to make decisions. As a result, they will be more likely to feel homesick during the separation. If a child is given a chance to process their emotions and thought regarding a recent life event that has affected them negatively, they could be saved from being at risk for homesickness.

How To Handle Homesickness?

Feeling Homesick Is Normal

Homesickness can affect anybody. Whether you’re living abroad or a student going to college, away from your friends and family. Acknowledge and accept that you are feeling homesick. Do to try to avoid the feelings and hold your emotions back. Cry if you feel like crying. Beating yourself up because you’re missing home can affect coping strategies that can help you get through it.

Major life transitions can make you feel nervous and anxious. Homesick students will experience a roller coaster ride of emotions before starting to settle in the new place. Some will have difficulty sleeping. Some will feel that they are isolated and lonely. But you have to learn how to embrace these emotions for you to conquer them.

Overcoming homesickness is a gradual process. It would help if you committed your time and effort to move forward and adjust to the new surroundings.

Go Out And Get A Life

Find new ways to keep yourself busy to keep your mind off your current emotional situation. Right now, all you can think of is to stay in your room and wallow in your misery. But that is not a good idea. It will only make homesickness worse.

Go out and talk to other students and start making friends. You can also learn new skills, attend a cooking class or join a book club. These activities will lighten up your mood and help you find a social support system that can help you in moving forward.

Trying to keep yourself busy will shorten the time you spend thinking about what you’re missing from your home country. It can also speed up the adjustment phase and help you settle faster. So get out from your room and see what the surrounding community has to offer.

Stay Connected To Your Home

You can keep in touch with your friends and family back home through social media, video chat, or a phone call. Technology has presented us with more than one way of communicating with our loved ones. Of course, you can always call them twice or three times a week.

But you have to remember that you still need to strike a balance between missing home and settling down in your new place. Learn how to limit your phone calls.

Having regular contact with your loved one is fine, but you have to know that you also need to entail yourself some time to focus on your new life. Calling them when you’re feeling sad can also make you feel far away from them, which can worsen homesickness.

Positive Thinking

Negative thoughts are normal when you are feeling homesick. However, learning how to think positively can help you combat homesickness.

Focus more on your thoughts by writing a journal. Jot down what you are thinking every day. Keeping a record of your thoughts helps you process your current situation.

Write down what you feel, your new experiences, and what you enjoy about your new place. It is best when you focus more on the positive ones. Reflecting on the things that make you smile can provide emotional relief from homesickness.

Find Opportunities To Adjust to Your New Environment

The main reason we feel homesick is that we are in an unfamiliar place. Then take time to familiarize the place!

Explore the new space or the new country. Go out and try their local cuisine, visit their famous tourist spots and meet new friends. Use this time to discover new places that can be near your new homes, such as the nearest fish market, library, or coffee shops.

Making a bucket list of things you can do in your new country can be fun and give you something to look forward to during your stay. In addition, getting involved with your local community will give you the chance to meet and talk with interesting people that can help expand your horizon.

Go out of your comfort zone and find students who share similar interests with you by joining social gatherings or student groups. Meeting new people is an important step when trying to settle in a new place.

Keep a Little Bit Of Home

Keep familiar items from homes like a teddy bear, a photo of your family, or a blanket close to you. It could give you comfort while you adjust.

Decorating your room with sentimental items that reminds you of home can ease the shock of a new surrounding. Having these things around in your living space can aid you in facilitating a more fluid transition. Stop making your apartment look like your home and be open to new things.

Stay Away From Social Media

When you are away from your hometown, you try to rely on your social media accounts for updates. You don’t want to be the last to know or miss out on everything that’s happening back home. But constantly checking for updates could actually do you more harm than good.

Most of us use these social platforms to connect with people from a distance. But constantly checking on these platforms will make it difficult for you to detach yourself from the things that make you miss home. It could just exacerbate the negative feelings of homesickness that you already have.

Talk To Other People

Find someone with whom you could talk and share your feelings. It can be a friend, another homesick student, a therapist, a counselor, or a partner who can give you a sympathetic ear while you ramble about what’s on your mind.

When you feel sad and depressed, you need someone who can serve as an outlet for your pent-up feelings. Talking it out is a healthy way of coping with mental distress, which can be good for your mental health.

Focus on Self Care

Schedule a “me” time for yourself. Find a space in your room where you can lie, relax and take a break from all the stress that you have been battling through lately.

Take care of yourself because no one will do it for you since you are away from the people who care about you. Get enough sleep, develop healthy habits of coping, and exercise. Don’t let homesickness put you down.

Image from Pixabay by JESHOOTS-com

Negative Effects Of Homesickness

Homesickness can affect the different areas of our psychological functioning negatively. It is characterized by consistently having negative thoughts about your new place due to the obsessive preoccupation with your original home. The symptoms mainly include anxiety and depression, but it could later result in psychosomatic disorders if it is not addressed properly.

The psychological distress brought by being homesick can directly affect a person’s sleeping pattern. Adjusting to the difficulties of living in new surroundings can cause distress and change your habits and lifestyle, thus contributing to your sleep difficulties.

How To Prevent Homesickness

The functional impairment brought about by the anxiety of being separated from home, friends, and family can be experienced by anyone. Health care professionals and pediatricians have suggested techniques that can be done to help prevent the negative effects of homesickness. If in case the separation is planned, such as summer camp or going to a boarding school, these steps could help you ease through the adjustment phase.

  • Make a new home for yourself. Convert your new space into your “own” living space. You don’t have to make it look like your home, but you can arrange your furniture in a way that you feel comfortable. You will spend a lot of time staying in that place; you might as well like to make it feel like home. Turn your room into a cozy nest that will make you feel safe.
  • Get organized. You must know that the first few weeks will be the most depressing period. Prepare yourself by sorting out activities that you can do with a timetable. This can also give you a sense of control over what will happen.
  • Join in. Be a member of a club or a society with which you share a common interest. It can give you something to focus on to take your mind off the feelings of homesickness, plus you get to meet new friends along the way.
  • Look after yourself. Now that you are living independently try to enjoy your independence and newfound freedom. You can now do whatever you want and make decisions for yourself
  • Start talking to people. This can be difficult for some people who hate small talks or being around unfamiliar people, but you have to try. Especially if you live in a shared dorm or an apartment, you have to learn how to get along with your housemates. You have to understand that some of them are also feeling homesick and are in the same position as you are. Talking to each other can lessen the burden of homesickness.

Takeaways

Homesickness is a normal emotional response when you are being separated from a place you call home. Transitioning to a new and unfamiliar place can bring about excitement. Still, the thought of leaving the people you loved behind can leave you with an ambiguous feeling of loneliness, sadness, and anxiety.

Overcoming the negative feelings of homesickness is a gradual process that takes time and effort. However, if you still think you need help, you can always book an appointment with us at Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC). We have a team of mental health professionals and counselors with specialized training to deal with these kinds of mental issues. You can schedule an appointment with us through our KCC Direct Services.

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