Essential tips to cope with homesickness

We gathered a few psychologist-backed tips to help ease homesickness. Check them out.

Homesickness can arise from a number of different factors; difficulty adjusting to a new environment, feeling lonely or cut off from your regular support system, confusion or problems understanding a new environment/culture/language, a perceived lack of control over what's happening around you, culture shock, and the list goes on.

Along with feelings of insecurity, loss of control and nervousness, physical effects, including sleep issues, fatigue and loss of appetite, have been reported when feeling homesick. Here are a few psychologist-backed tips to help ease homesickness. Check them out below:

1. Overexpose yourself: If there are issues that are causing homesickness, consider over-exposing yourself to them until you've habituated to what they feel like - for example, if crowded markets are overwhelming, then spend a lot of time there until you feel more relaxed. Especially if you're in a rural area, it will have the double effect of exposing you to your surroundings while letting your surroundings know who you are too!

2. Realize that feeling homesick is 100 percent normal: Almost everyone experiences homesickness when moving to a new place; some people might just be better at hiding it. Being homesick is not a sign of personal shortcoming, realizing that homesickness is a normal and evolutionarily healthy reaction won’t make it go away, but it eliminates the self-criticism that people heap on themselves for not being able to handle the separation.

3. Keep up your habits Lots of things change when you move abroad, but everything doesn't have to change. If you were part of an activity, group or team at home, it's understandable that you'll miss that part of your social life, so why not try to find a version of it in your new location? Maintaining a favorite sport or activity helps bring balance and routine back to your daily life and can make new spaces feel a little more familiar and welcoming. Keeping up with a book club, going rock climbing, attending yoga classes, practicing with a band - if activities like these are an important part of your normal life, don't feel like you have to give them up. There are probably people doing the same activities in your new location - do a little research to find them, and you might even end up making some new friends.

4. Create a routine: Figure out what you're going to do as a daily and weekly routine. This means not just waking up at the same time and cooking yourself a great breakfast, but also incorporating something fun or interactive, like going to a nearby market for your groceries, or meeting your friends for drinks or a sports game on Thursdays. Research shows that those that feel they're in more control suffer from less homesickness stress.

5. Practice self-compassion: This point is crucial and also one of the hardest to accomplish. Self-compassion is defined as treating oneself with the same kind of caring, concern and kindness that one conveys to loved ones who are facing difficult life situations. In other words, self-compassion is loving yourself just as you love the ones you care about. This kind of unadulterated self-love is so important and effective that it’s commonly used as a counseling technique and psychotherapy, Leary explained.
The most important step in practicing self-compassion is substituting negative, critical and, sometimes, automatic thoughts about yourself with thoughts that are more supportive and kind. Whenever you catch yourself expressing self-critical thoughts, ask yourself: “What would I say to and how would I treat a friend or loved one who was going through this situation?” After you have your answer, try to talk to and treat yourself the same way.

6. Keep healthy: Exercise is a crucial coping tool. Not only will it help you combat homesickness, but it will also keep you healthy and in shape while you're abroad; both of which are important for anyone who's a bit down in the dumps. Conversely, eating badly and being inactive can make you feel lethargic and bring down your mood, which isn't helpful if you already feel less than great. Go for daily runs, commute to class by bike or just try to walk as much as possible, whatever you prefer, but make an effort to create healthy habits. Your body will be happier, and endorphins are biologically programmed to make you feel better!

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