Being away from home causes a series of cognitive conditions which can be stressful and at times debilitating. Expatriates, immigrants and many travelers are chronic sufferers of this human phenomenon. Homesickness causes anxiety, introversion, inability to focus and depression. Thankfully, this diagnosis has been thoroughly studies, and a variety of coping behaviors can be implemented.
Distraction through activity.
The first and most common coping technique for homesickness is staying active. If you are away from home, it is common for this to be a result of work or school. In these cases, the cause for your absence from home does not last an entire day, and you will probably be finished with the activity by the afternoon.
Do not allow your days to be empty. Do some research ahead of time and plan activities that will occupy your day. Homesickness is most active when the mind is absent of focus, and is given time to dwell. Fill your days with any activity at all. Even if you find yourself alone, go to the movies, exercise, check out the local attractions, etc.… The key is to forget that homesickness even exists.
The social connection.
For many people, homesickness is a direct result from loneliness. The depression you might encounter at home, if you have no one to connect with, can transfer and become what we call homesickness in a foreign location. For such a situation, what you want to do is connect.
This day and age we might think that we are constantly connected due to social media and other global platforms. This is not enough for most of the population. You don’t necessarily miss the people you left behind, you miss people, period. For such a situation, attend social events in your new home. Go to a public event, get a gym membership and attend group classes. The goal is to make new connections. If you are a student living abroad, connect with your classmates for afterschool activities.
Keep a connection with home.
New connections and distractions are important. But completely blocking thoughts of home is not recommended. If you do not dwell and overthink, having someone or something connecting you to your old, or previous world can help satisfy the cognitive itch to return.
It is not healthy to constantly skype with people from your home, or have your face stuck in social media platforms seeing everything everyone is doing every minute of the day. Instead, consider writing letters home, and receiving them. Something you can engage with for a short time and then leave behind while you concentrate on making your current situation the focus of your attention.
Re-framing your thoughts.
Remember, millions of people have made these changes before you. The key is to think positive. Do not countdown your days abroad. Instead, think of how your length of stay will make you a more well-rounded person. If you do not speak the language of your current location, even better! There is no better way to learn a language than to immerse yourself in a culture. Rather than counting down the days until you are home, count the few days you have to learn more. This re-framing will not only make time go faster, but it will literally keep you healthy as anxiety can be detrimental in a variety of physical ways. Always keep in mind that homesickness is normal. Do not try to keep it at bay, let it inhabit your mind and let it go. Resistance to it will just keep it active, and you will spend much needed energy fighting it, rather than letting it run its course.
The term “think positive” might be a cliché, but it is a useful one. Make time every day to think about how lucky you are to experience a new world. If this is a permanent situation, then think of it as a fresh new start. If the change is temporary, think of it as a fantastic learning experience.