Whether you’re away at school, you’ve moved to a new place, or you’re just away on a trip, you might experience what’s known as “homesickness.” Homesickness symptoms may vary from person to person, but in general, homesickness can leave you feeling upset, distressed, isolated, or lonely. You might also feel nostalgic for home, even simple things like your old pillow or the smell of your house. Homesickness can affect people of all ages in almost any situation, so don’t be ashamed if you’re longing for home. There are some steps you can take to help you deal with homesickness and learn to love your new environment.
Developing Coping Strategies
1Understand what causes homesickness. Homesickness comes from the human need for connection, love, and security. Despite its name, your feelings of “homesickness” might not have anything to do with your actual home. Anything that is familiar, stable, comfortable, and positive can be a source of homesickness when you’re away from it. Research has even shown that homesickness is a kind of grief for a loss similar to mourning a breakup or death.
- You may even have pre-emptive homesickness, where you develop feelings of anxiety, loss, or obsession about home before you leave because you’re anticipating the separation.
2Recognize homesickness symptoms. Homesickness is much more than just missing “home.” It can cause a variety of feelings and side-effects that can impact your daily functioning. Learning to recognize these symptoms can help you figure out why you’re feeling the way you are and take action to help.
- Nostalgia. Nostalgia is when you frequently think about your home or familiar things and people, usually through an idealized lens. You might feel preoccupied by thoughts about home, or find yourself constantly comparing your new situation unfavorably to your old one.
- Depression. People who suffer from homesickness often experience depression because they lack the social supports they had at home. You might also feel like you have less control over your life, which can worsen depression. Common signs of homesickness-caused depression include feelings of sadness, feeling disoriented or like you “don’t belong,” withdrawing from social activities, academic or work difficulties, feeling helpless or abandoned, experiencing low self-esteem, and changes in your sleeping patterns. Not wanting to do or not enjoying things you used to do is often a sign of depression.
- Anxiety. Anxiety is also a hallmark of homesickness. Anxiety due to homesickness may cause obsessive thoughts, especially about the home or people you miss. You might also have difficulty concentrating or feel extremely stressed without being able to pinpoint a cause. You might get easily irritated or “snap” at people in your new situation. In extreme cases, anxiety can trigger other responses, such as agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) or claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces).
- Abnormal behaviors. Feeling homesick can throw you off your normal routines and change the way you respond to things. For example, if you’re not usually an angry person but you find yourself getting upset or yelling more than you used to, this could be a sign that you’re feeling homesick. You might also eat significantly more or less than you usually do. Other symptoms include frequent headaches or experiencing more pain or illness than usual.
3Keep familiar things around. Having familiar things from “home” can help ease your feelings of homesickness by giving you an “anchor.” Things with high sentimental or cultural value, such as photos of family or an item tied to your cultural identity, can help you feel connected to home even when you’re away.
- Don’t overwhelm your new space with things from home, though. In order to adjust to your new situation it’s important to embrace the changes that you’re experiencing.
4Do some things you loved to do at home. Research shows that doing things you feel nostalgic about can help you feel better. Tradition and rituals can help foster a sense of connectedness to your home even when you’re far away.
- Eat your favorite foods from home. There’s a reason we have the term “comfort food.” Eating familiar foods from your childhood or culture can make you feel happier and more secure in your new environment. Try introducing your favorite foods to new friends to strengthen the connection between familiar sources of comfort and new sources of emotional support.
- Participate in your religious traditions, if you have them. Research has shown that people who have religious or faith traditions feel less homesick when they participate in those traditions in a new place. Finding a place of worship or meditation in your new place, or even finding a group of friends with similar traditions, can help you adjust.
- Find some similar activities to do. If you were in a bowling league or book club at home, don’t be shy. Do your research and see if you can find something similar in your new environment. You’ll be able to do the things you love and meet some new people in the process.
5Talk about your feelings with someone. It’s a common myth that talking about feeling homesick can cause or worsen symptoms of homesickness. Research has shown that this isn’t true. In fact, talking about what you’re feeling and experiencing can help you deal with your homesickness. Not acknowledging your feelings can make them worse.
- Find a trusted person to talk with. A college RA, a guidance counselor, a parent or close friend, or mental health professional can give you a sympathetic ear and, often, advice about how to cope with your feelings.
- Remember that seeking help from someone else doesn’t make you “weak” or “crazy.” Having the strength to admit you need help is a sign of courage and good self-care, not something to be embarrassed about.
6Keep a journal. Keeping a journal will help you get in touch with your thoughts and process everything that is happening in your new environment. Whether you’re studying abroad, in college, at summer camp, or just moved to a new city, you will likely be experiencing many new and unfamiliar sensations, and keeping a journal can help you keep track of your thoughts. Research has shown that keeping a journal where you reflect on your experiences and how they made you feel can help relieve feelings of homesickness.
- Try to keep your focus positive. While it’s normal to feel lonely and homesick, it’s important to look at the good side of your new experiences. Think about the fun things you’re doing, or think about how something new reminds you of something wonderful from home. If you only journal about how miserable you’re feeling, you may make your homesickness worse.
- Make sure your journal is more than a list of negative feelings and events. When you do list a negative experience, take some time to think and write about why it made you feel that way. Thi is called “narrative reflection,” and it serves a therapeutic purpose.
7Get plenty of exercise. Research has shown that exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins can help fight anxiety and depression, which are both common side-effects of homesickness. If you can, exercise with others. This will give you the chance to socialize and meet new people.
- Exercise can also boost your immune system. Homesickness may manifest as increased feelings of sickness (e.g., frequent headaches or colds).
8Talk with friends and family back home. Talking with your loved ones back home can help you feel supported and connected, which is important for adjusting to a new place. 
- You need to develop a sense of self-confidence and self-reliance to combat homesickness effectively. Don’t let yourself focus so much on your loved ones in another place that you don’t learn how to manage on your own.
- Talking to friends and family can make homesickness worse for very young children or for people who are away from home for a very short time.
- You can also spend a bit of time on social networking sites to connect with friends and see what they’re up to. Don’t focus so much on your old friends that you don’t have time to make new ones, though.
9Avoid obsessing over your old home. While connecting to people back home can be a great coping strategy, it can also become a crutch. Don’t let your attempts to remind yourself of home take over your life. If you find yourself staying in to talk to your mom for the third time that day rather than grab a coffee with a new friend, consider adjusting the amount of time you spend on connecting with new people.
- Schedule your phone calls home. Set limits for how often and for how long you’ll talk to friends and family back home. You could even try writing old-fashioned “snail mail” letters. These are great ways to stay connected to people back home without letting your nostalgia for the past keep you from experiencing the present.
Reaching Out to Others
1Make a list of what you miss about home. It’s very common to miss your loved ones when you’re away from them. Make a list of the people you miss and what they brought to your life. What memories do you cherish? What things did you do together? What aspects of their personalities did you love? Finding new friends who are similar to those you left behind can help you feel emotionally supported. It can also help you adjust to a new place or situation.
- Look for ways in which your new environment is like what you miss. Research on homesickness has showed that when you can find aspects of the familiar in your new situation, you are less likely to stay homesick because you are focused on something positive.
2Get involved. It’s easy to say that you need to make new friends, but actually doing that can be hard in a new place. The best way to develop a strong social support network is to put yourself into situations where you’ll meet new people, especially if you have similar interests. Getting involved with new activities can also help distract you from your feelings of homesickness.
- For example, if you’re away at school or college, there are a variety of clubs, sports, activities, and student government bodies you could join. These can help you connect with other people, many of whom are probably experiencing homesickness too!
- If you’re at a new job or in a new city, it can be hard to make new friends. Research has shown that you may find it harder to make friends after you leave college. Consistency is key: joining a group that meets frequently, such as a book club or workshop, is likely to help you make friends because you’ll see the same people on a regular basis.
3Share what you love about home with others. One of the most important things you can do to fight homesickness is to make new friends. Having a strong support network makes you less likely to have problems coping with homesickness, even if you feel it. Sharing your positive memories about home will help lift your spirits and make you feel more comfortable talking about home.
- Have a party where you share your cuisine and customs with new friends or acquaintances. Whether you’re studying abroad or just going to college a few hours away, sharing your favorite foods from home with others can make you feel better. You can have a party where you teach a few friends to make the foods you love most from home, or just invite some people over to enjoy your favorite local snacks.
- Share your favorite music with others. If you’re from a place that loves country music, have a small get-together where people play board games, get to know each other, and listen to your favorite tunes. If you loved listening to jazz at home, play some jazz. The music doesn’t have to directly relate to your home as long as it reminds you of being home.
- Tell funny stories about being at home. Though you may be feeling too mopey to laugh, try sharing some funny anecdotes about what you loved most about being at home. Talking about fond memories can strengthen your connection to home and to new friends.
- If you’re living in a place with a different native language from yours, try teaching some people a few key phrases in your language. This will be fun, distracting, and educational for your friends.
4Be brave. Feeling shy, awkward, or vulnerable is a common side-effect of homesickness. If you don’t take any risks, you will miss out on experiences that could help you adjust to your new situation. Try accepting invitations, even if you won’t know many people at whatever you’ll be doing. You don’t need to be the life of the party! Just being present and listening to others is a good step.
- If you’re shy, give yourself a manageable goal: meet and talk to just one new person. You’ll probably become more comfortable socializing as time goes on. Focus on listening to the other person, which is the easiest way to make a connection.
- Even if you end up not making friends at that particular party or event, you will have proved to yourself that you can handle doing new, unfamiliar things, and that can boost your self-confidence.
5Get out of your comfort zone. Doing the same familiar things may feel comfortable, but it’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone to grow and change. Research has shown that a moderate level of anxiety, such as that experienced when you’re learning a new skill, can improve your performance in intellectual and interpersonal tasks. Feeling too comfortable can keep you from adjusting to your new environment.
- Start with small steps. Trying to face your biggest fear all at once could be counter-productive. Trying to throw yourself into something completely foreign could leave you feeling overwhelmed. Give yourself small, manageable goals that challenge you a little bit at a time.
- Try a new restaurant in your new town. Offer to sit with a stranger at the cafeteria. Ask someone in your class to start a study group with you. Invite a co-worker to get drinks after work.
Connecting With Your New Situation
1Enjoy the unique aspects of your new environment. Finding ways to meet your needs in a new environment can be challenging, but it’s also helpful in fighting homesickness. Connecting with what is new and exciting about your new situation may help you feel more attached to it.
- For example, if you’re studying or living abroad, check out all of the museums, palaces, local restaurants, and cultural traditions that make the country unique. Get out your tour book and make a goal of doing something cultural at least once a week.
- Immerse yourself in the culture. Even if you’ve just moved to a different place in your home country, you might find that the local culture is quite different from what you’re used to. Learn the local expressions, try out new cuisine, and check out local bars and pubs. Take a cooking class that focuses on local ingredients. Join a local dance club. Increasing your intercultural communication skills can help you feel more at home in a new place.
- Ask the locals about their favorite things to do. You may get an excellent recommendation for finding the best burrito of your life, or you could get directions to a gorgeous off-the-radar lake.
2Learn the language. If you’ve moved to a new country, not being able to speak the language can be a huge barrier to feeling like you belong. Learn the language as quickly as you can; take classes, chat with locals, and practice your new skills. You’ll feel more confident and in control once you’re able to communicate with the people in your new environment.
3Get out of the house. Getting out of the house is half the battle to beating homesickness. Of course you’ll be homesick if you spend eight hours in a day watching reruns of The Office in the near-dark. Instead, make a goal of spending a lot of your time out of the house, whether it’s just to read the same book you were going to read at home in a sunny park, or to take a long walk with a good friend instead of doing sit-ups in your room.
- Work or study out of the house. Go to a coffee shop or park and do the same work you were going to do at home. Just being around people may help you feel less alone.
4Pick up a new interest. Finding something new to do on your own can help you find your passion. It can give you a positive, productive activity to focus your energy on and can distract you from feeling sad or lonely. Learning a new skill can also help you break out of your comfort zone.
- Try finding a hobby that’s related to your new environment. See whether there are any biking or hiking clubs in your area. Join a local art class. Find a writers’ workshop. If you can socialize while developing a new skill, that will help you feel more connected to your new place.
5Give it time. Don’t be disappointed in yourself if you’re not in love with your new environment right away. Many people around you may have embraced their new surroundings more quickly, but that doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you; in fact, many people who may look like they’re having a great time may in fact be feeling incredibly homesick. Have patience and know that with a bit of perseverance, you’ll be able to make it work.
Why do I start crying when talking to people from home on the phone?
This means that you probably miss them a lot, and associate their voice with ‘home’. Remember that you don’t need your family to have a good time but do see if you can meet up in person some time soon. Be gentle on yourself too — it takes time to get into a new rhythm of being by yourself and not with family anymore. Find a good friend or two to spend more time with, to ease the loneliness.
What should I do if I am a child and on a school trip and I do not have a phone or any electronics?
Relax and know that at some point the trip will be over and you will be home safe with whoever you are missing.
How do I overcome a fear of independent living?
Slowly ease yourself into it. Spend a few nights away from home at first, then a few weeks, then perhaps a month. By then, you will be used to being away from home for long periods of time and will have an easier time transitioning to independent living.
I am going on a school camping trip, but last time I went somewhere overnight, I cried! How can I prevent a recurrence?
Just think that you will be home soon, and remember it’s only temporary, so cheer up and have fun! You will be home in no time.
What do I do if I can’t settle in?
If it is an option and you absolutely can’t make it, you can ask to go home.
I’m going on a school trip and I don’t want my homesickness to ruin it, I have no electronics or any way of contacting my family, what can I do to overcome my fear of being away from home?
You could ask your family to write you a few letters beforehand, seal them up, and take them with you. When you get lonely or feel homesick, you can open a letter and write a response, it will be almost the same as having a conversation.
I moved with my family to another country. After 4 years we are finally returning to visit. I want to see my old neighborhood one last time to get some closure. But my parents won’t let me! What do I do?
Calmly and patiently explain how much it would mean to you. There may be time constraints or other reason that your parents may not have included visiting your old neighborhood during your upcoming visit, and they may feel comfortable discussing those with you if you discuss it with them.
What if I moved to another country to live with my boyfriend, and I love him, but I hate where we live?
Tell him how you feel and why. Maybe you guys can work out a solution together. If it’s a situation where he must stay there (for work, school, etc.) work out a time table for moving, even if it’s in a couple of years. That might be enough to make you feel better. If you’re more desperate to get out of there, talk about the possibility of a long distance relationship.
What if I live somewhere I don’t want to be, but I have to stay with my parents and I don’t want to stay?
Make the best of the situation. Find new friends, explore the new area and find things to love about it until you turn 18 and can move away.
How do I get people to listen to my homesickness problems?
Tell them that you are struggling, and you need someone to listen.
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- Breathe. Sometimes you work yourself up and forget to breathe. Take deep breaths through your nose and out through your mouth until you relax.
- People of all ages can experience homesickness. Don’t feel bad if you’re an adult who misses home because you just moved to a new job in a new city. It’s completely normal.
- Focus on the positive things about your new environment whenever you can. For example, you could think about new cuisines you can try in your new place that you couldn’t at home.
- Talk yourself into feeling calm. Try not to focus on the distances between yourself and the people you know from home.
- Try coloring to relax your mind and get your focus on something else. Adult coloring books are always a good option for this.
- Don’t be obsessed with home, try to think about the great things you did that day.
- Get out of the house that triggers it for a couple minutes and then come back, and try to get some rest.
- Reach out to others! Particularly when you’re new at a school, it might feel like you’re the only one to feel homesick. If you talk to your classmates, though, you’ll probably discover that others feel the same way you do. Sharing your feelings could help everyone adjust.
- Try problem-solving. If you’re feeling down and can’t figure out why, try thinking critically about when you feel what. Do you feel worse when you think about a friend you left back home? Did watching your old favorite movie make you upset? Try to figure out what triggers your feelings of homesickness.
- If you’ve moved to a new country, learn the language as quickly as possible. Being able to communicate with people in your new environment will help you feel in control of your situation and help you connect with others.
- Severe depression and anxiety can have debilitating side-effects. If you are unable to function normally — for example, you can’t get out of bed in the morning, you have no interest in doing things you used to love — you should seek help from a mental health professional.
- Homesickness may increase suicidal feelings or thoughts in extreme cases. If you are having suicidal thoughts or feelings, seek immediate help. You can call 911 (or your local emergency services provider) or a help hotline such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK).
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