How To Deal With Homesickness16 May 2016
Let's get personal for a second. One thing people don't know about me is that I suffer heavily from homesickness. Have you ever looked up the definition of homesickness? Probably not, because it's one of those terms you just know; missing home, missing your family, something like that.
But did you know that homesickness is similar to Separation Anxiety Disorder? Separation Anxiety Disorder is anxiety that happens prior to the separation, whereas with Homesickness, it happens after the separation in addition to depressive symptoms.
I decided to write this post because I'm currently recovering from homesickness. I recently was back home in Tokyo for a few weeks to celebrate my younger brother's college graduation and spent some amazing quality time with my family. For those of you that don't know, I moved away from Japan when I was 18 to attend college here in the United States and while I've visited home several times, I never went back to live there.
As if going away for college wasn't enough, moving 5,000 miles away to a new country away from my family that I'm close to, caused serious issues. I refused to attend activities just in case I miss a call from my family and I could never focus in class. I lost 25 lbs. After my first quarter, I was on Academic Probation (first and last time!) for a GPA lower than 2.5. At this point, I had to start seeing a counselor. My counselor gave me some great advice but also suggested medication if it got to that point.
See, I told you we're getting personal.
Fast forward to 2016, I have my Bachelors and Masters, moved through 5 states and 7 cities - all without medication. Yet I still suffer from homesickness heavily, especially the first few weeks after leaving Japan. I stay at home, I sleep for hours, I cry a lot and often cancel plans that I make with friends. I've started to accept that this is what I have to get through but what I do differently now in comparison to Freshman year of college are taking these key steps.
Whether you're just missing your dog while traveling or you're under the covers eating a pint of ice cream crying because you miss home, try these:
Keep In Touch - ...here's the catch, just not too much. I had a hard time finding this perfect balance so don't worry if you don't master it immediately. Keeping in touch with your family and friends is a great way to keep you happy but when you start to abandon your immediate environment, it enters the 'too much' zone. In this world of technology, it's so much more convenient to stay in touch (hooray!) but it makes it that much easier to obsess over it as well. Talk to friends and family through FaceTime once or twice a week, share photos and texts throughout the day to keep you going but never so much that you're canceling plans, slacking on work or not going to that spin class.
Stay Busy - Obvious but it works. Make plans with local friends, read a book, take a nap, go on a hike, blast music and take a long drive, go shopping, binge on a Netflix series, explore a new dog park, go on Pinterest and cook something new, the list goes on! Occupy yourself with something other than feeling sad. Even if you have to fake it, well, fake it till you make it - right? Oh and a piece of advice, skip Adele. Love her but she doesn't help much in this scenario :)
Develop or Get Back To Your Daily Routine - If you're back at your own place like I am (family: Tokyo, home: Los Angeles), get back to your daily routine ASAP. If you're in a completely new place missing home, develop a daily routine and stick to it. This will give you a sense of accountability, control and belonging. Feeling like you're in control will help you feel less homesick.
Exercise - We all know the benefits of exercising but when you're homesick, it's so hard to get yourself to even put shoes on. It's important to demand yourself to get out even for a 15 minute walk. The night before, schedule a time and promise yourself to get out. Go to a Zumba class, a quick ride on the treadmill, lift some weights - whatever activity you choose, your endorphins will kick in and feel a lot better.
Look Forward To What's Ahead - When my counselor told me this, I immediately rejected it. Look forward to what's ahead? That would make me even more sad! After a while though, it started to make more sense. If you already have plans on going home or seeing your loved ones in the future, fantasize about what you'll be doing together, all that fun stuff. If not, roughly schedule a time you might be able to see them again and think of the quality time you'll be able to spend with them. It makes you feel less lonely and devastated that you're away.
Talk To Someone - When you're feeling down, talk so someone. Call or talk to your best friend, partner, your family, your dog (dogs listen, I just know it). It's ok to admit you miss them or that you're feeling lonely and homesick. Most of the time whoever you end up talking to will give you some encouragement and you'll feel a lot better. If no one is available, write it down! Go back to the old-school diary style and write down your feelings. It may sound cliche but it works!
If you're homesick away at college, studying abroad, working abroad or whatever it may be, I'm hoping you can take something away from this and that it helps you. Homesickness can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety and stress - I know from personal experience. If you feel your homesickness is severe, please ask for help. Sometimes there's a stigma of reaching out for professional help but don't ever feel that way! You are not alone.