In honour of wellness month, I thought I’d write about something that’s been affecting my own wellness lately: a bad case of homesickness. There are a mountain of great things about being away on exchange, but there are also some tough aspects of it. For me, the hardest thing has been feeling homesick more often than I’d like.
Homesickness, and its closely related cousin culture shock, aren’t exactly unexpected things when you move to a new place. But it really surprised me how much they were affecting my mental wellbeing, and how hard it was becoming to enjoy all the awesome experiences studying abroad offers. I was in a funk, and I found my mind wandering back to Toronto. On more than one occasion, I even thought about hopping on the next flight home. When I found myself absently searching the internet for flights to Toronto, I knew I probably needed to come up for some coping strategies for when those waves of homesickness strike.
Like any good millennial, I turned to my trusty friend Google, and searched “how to deal with homesickness”. There were a LOT of results and ideas out there, and, itching to feel better, I tried all of the solutions I could find. After a bit of experimentation and a lot of trial and error, I’ve come up with a tried-and-tested list of five things that might help if you’re feeling homesick.
- Talk it out. If using Google as my support system didn’t make it clear, I found it hard to talk to anyone about what I was struggling with. The great thing about homesickness though is that we’ve all been there. You don’t have to move to another country to feel it – it happens to everyone. The not-so-great thing is that, like any mental health struggle, most people find it hard to open up about it. I thought I was just being a wimp. But when I started talking to people about it, I felt much better. It turns out, someone will always be able to relate to how you’re feeling, and that can help you feel a little less lonely.
- Get offline. The zillions of apps you have on your phone and computer for keeping in touch with your friends and family are awesome! They make it easy to keep in touch, share news, and feel connected to home. But they can be a little too awesome. I found myself spending lots of time chatting with people from home, and not much time getting out and exploring my new city. After a while, it really started to exacerbate my fears of missing out on all the amazing stuff I thought was going on at home without me. Sure, cool things are happening at home! But cool things are also happening around you! Which brings me to my next point…
- Show up. Now that you’ve gotten offline, show up to the things going on around you! Going to events – even events that I thought I wouldn’t like – was an awesome way to counteract homesickness. For me, it kept my mind occupied and off my phone (see #2!). But more than that, it helped me feel more connected to other people and to my new city. Plus, I learned some new things, and I discovered some new activities to be excited about.
- Document the good things. Sometimes it feels like all you can think about are the things you miss from home. To get out of this thought pattern, I started making lists of all the great things I could think of about my new home. Walking around taking pictures of things that make you happy also works. Just find a way to consciously document the things that make you happy – it’ll help you appreciate where you are.
- Go out and treat yourself. There’s a lot of healing power in a great cup of coffee or a pint of ice cream. Trust me. Bonus: going out for a treat is a great way to explore your new home. It’s a win-win.
There are endless ideas to help with homesickness out there, but those are my big five. If you find yourself feeling a bit of the homesickness blues, give these a shot and let me know how it goes! And if you’ve got anything to add to the list, feel free to leave your tips in the comments.