Homesickness can strike like a dark knight in even the most beautiful corners of the world, whether you’re settling into college life a few hours away from your hometown or living in a new city halfway around the globe. It isn’t rare—50 to 75 percent of people report having experienced homesickness at least once [PDF].
Everyone experiences this phenomenon in their own way, but common symptoms include anxiety, sadness, depression, anger, or even apathy. Some people may even deal with physical effects like nausea and headaches. What’s important to remember is that you’re not alone in feeling homesick, and that there are a number of different techniques you can use to cope.
1. Give Yourself Some Structure
Boredom makes it really easy to focus on all the things you miss about home. One way to overcome this particular issue is to create some structure by establishing a routine. Give yourself places to be at a specific time, such as going to the same coffee shop for breakfast each morning or attending a certain yoga class every week. This gives you reasons to get out of the house—and your mind—making the homesickness haunt you less.
2. Talk About Your Homesickness With Someone
It’s not always possible to call home when you’re homesick. There could be a big time difference between where you are and where your loved ones live, or your friends at home may not always be readily available. But it can be helpful to talk to someone about how you feel. Try to make a friend in the same time zone, and when you get the chance, check in with your loved ones back home to let them know how you’re doing. This helps to create a sense of belonging even when you’re struggling to fully integrate yourself into your current location.
3. Pack a Few Photos of Your Loved Ones
Photographs and other memorabilia from home can go a long way when it comes to self-soothing—and they often don’t take up very much space during your travels. Photographs can be kept in discreet places like your wallet or in a book; other pieces of home, like a treasured trinket, might find a place in your suitcase. You might also want to bring a taste of home with you. Pack some of your favorite snacks and drinks, and for longer trips, you can even arrange for someone to send care packages.
4. Use Available Mental Health Resources
If you’re studying abroad or you’re expecting to be away for a long period of time, it might be helpful to connect with a counselor in the area (or if you have a therapist back home, see if you can schedule some video or phone appointments with them). It’s completely normal to go through a period or several periods of homesickness while away, and it’s OK to ask for help. A good counselor may be able to help you to better understand and manage your homesickness.
5. Spend Some Time Focusing on Self-Care
Self-care goes a long way while you’re experiencing a bout of homesickness. This might look like anything from taking a long bubble bath to hitting the gym or going for a walk and treating yourself to a healthy meal. Because self-care is often the first thing we lose when under heightened stress, it’s important to prioritize it while you’re homesick.
6. Explore Your New Home
In the same way that building a routine can get your mind off of your homesickness, so can exploration. Consider heading out for a local hike, trying a new restaurant in the area, or wandering the city streets to raise your spirits. Building a sense of awe is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself—and it might be just what you need to forget about homesickness for a while.