Homesickness is a very real affliction, and in its extreme form can be debilitating. Fortunately, for most of us, our experiences with homesickness tend to be brief. A video chat with family can be just what is needed, normally. However, homesickness for some of us can manifest itself in surprising and occasionally destructive ways.
Homesickness, in essence is an acute anxiety brought about by a drastic change in location, culture or lifestyle and is often experienced by expats. The good thing is, the feeling is usually only temporary and there are lots of things you can do to combat the feeling of homesickness and to ease the transition into your new life.
Since there is no medical treatment for homesickness, you can’t simply go to your new doctors’ office and pick up a prescription (although you may be issued with anxiety medication in a severe case). Don’t worry – there are several coping mechanisms you can employ to help ease the extremities of homesickness:
Starting things off small after your big move could mean the difference betweeen whether you sink or swim. Whether it’s exploring your new city, decorating your home or testing out your knowledge of the local language, by starting off small you can really reduce the impact of stress and make your transition a lot more bearable.
For example, instead of walking straight into the city centre to explore, take a walk around your immediate neighbouthood first. Or instead of furnishing your home all in one go, prioritize what you need and buy them over a few months. These are only small changes but they can really reduce the feeling of overburden upon arrival.
Your daily routine is an important aspect of your life, providing you with framework and structure in which to plan the day’s activities. More often than not, an international move can really upset the fine balance of a family routine. By retaining certain aspects of your routine and incorporating them into your new lifestyle, it can provide you with some much needed familiarity in an unfamiliar environment.
Culture shock can be quite a disorienting part of moving abroad and can affect you so much so that you may not want to explore your new culture and surroundings. Fear not though as experiencing culture shock can actually be pretty good for you psychologically!
It goes without saying that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and forcing yourself into slightly uncomfortable situations will actually improve your mood (rewarding you with happy brain chemicals), improve your ability to cope with situations and generally put you in a better mindset about kick starting your new life abroad!
The first few months of expat life can be pretty lonely, especially if you’re going solo. A great way to cope with the isolation is to network with other English speakers in your area and blogging is a great way to do this.
Browsing other expat blogs and forums to read about the experiences of other expats can be a brilliant way to relieve some of that re-location anxiety. I mean who better to take advice from than people who have been in the very same boat as you at one point!
Starting your own blog can be a challenge with minimal technological know how. Fortunately, there are many easy, code-free blog websites out there that make it ridiculously simple, so it’s definitely something to consider. A lot of expats keep a blog for the sake of friends and family back home, and to keep them updated on family happenings in their new home.
The chances are, (unless you’ve moved somewhere incredibly rural) there will be other expats in your local area. Discovering these people is no longer as difficult as it once was, thanks to the power of the internet. Use a search engine, and/or social media, to find expat forums in your new local area. This will help you to get connected with others, and you will probably find they hold social events, meaning you can get out of the house and meet some new people!
Chances are, staying connected with ‘home’ will be top priority for many people, and for some, the separation anxiety is so strong that tearing themselves away from connecting with friends and family can be a whole other challenge in itself.
Believe it or not, a great tip to reduce anxiety is to limit the amount of contact you have with family and friends back home. For some, this sounds too unbearable to even comprehend but hear it out: limiting contact with friends and family and putting yourself out of your comfort zone can make you realize that you’ve been overestimating your anxiety and can actually cope better than you initially thought. It is wise to point out here that although this may work for most people, this may not work for everyone.
A positive attitude to your situation is above all the best coping mechanism you can use to combat homesickness! Just remember, being in an unfarmiliar place IS scary, and every day will bring you a different set of challenges and obstacles to overcome, so it’s always helpful to maintain a positive outlook on your new life, especially when things go south!
My fellow expats: is there anything that has helped you combat homesickness?
This is a collaborative post not written by The Rachael Way.