Are you homesick? Well, you are not alone. Homesickness is a form of acute anxiety that commonly affects individuals who are working or studying abroad. As an overseas worker myself, I have first-hand knowledge of how difficult it is at times. The idea of being separated from your family and circle of friends can be daunting, especially during the first year – in particular, the first few months. Sometimes, the feeling is nerve-wracking.
Such feelings should be acknowledged and accepted no matter how uncomfortable it is[i].
In a paper co-written by Chris Thurber and Edward Walton published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, homesickness is defined as “distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents[ii].”
Homesickness is a type of emotional disorder that commonly affects those who work or study overseas and those who spent time away from home over long periods of time.
The fact is, homesickness symptoms may vary from person to person, but in general, homesickness can leave you feeling upset, distressed, isolated, or lonely.[iii] You might also feel nostalgic for home, even simple things like your old pillow or the smell of your house.[iv]
In its mild form, homesickness can be a twinge of nostalgia cured with a video chat session. In its extreme form it can be debilitating. For some, the pain of missing the lives left behind is so great that people quit their assignments abroad and return home.[v]
COPING WITH HOMESICKNESS
While there is no panacea to homesickness, it can be certainly managed.[vi] The following activities will help ease the feeling of homesickness:
- VIDEOKE NIGHT – In Tripoli, Libya, my colleagues would look forward to Thursday night. It’s a regular event where they get together, play Billiards, Darts, or Table Tennis, taste familiar and exotic foods, drink a little, and talk. Most importantly, they can flex their vocal chords without a care in the world. It’s a great stress-reliever to help combat homesickness.
2. SENDING BALIKBAYAN BOXES – Another way of relieving homesickness is to send Balikbayan boxes to family members and loved ones back home. Thinking and planning what to buy for each family member would keep one’s mind pre-occupied for some time. As long as you are busy, you hardly notice the passing of time. It helps lessen negative feelings to quit and go home.
3. MAINTAIN REGULAR COMMUNICATION – This is quite obvious but I cannot overstate the importance of calling, texting, or video chat sessions regularly with your family. It will keep you updated of what’s happening back home and give a sense of comfort knowing that they are just a call or a text or a chat away when you terribly missed them.
4. LEARN NEW SKILLS OR HOBBIES – Try to learn a new sport, or, a new hobby that is easily accessible in your area of assignment. Some friends of mine are into photography, or, are learning bonsai gardening, and baking. It may take some time to master it but learning becomes fun and it will help overcome homesickness.
5. REWARD YOURSELF – Where it’s possible, go out and shop. Buy yourself something of value, or, for women with a more discriminating taste – a quick trip to a Beauty Saloon for some much-needed relaxation time and beauty treatment indulgence.
6. GO TO THE GYMN – A strong body and mind can withstand more pressure. That is why it is important to take care of your body. Regular exercise could certainly take away the accumulated stress over the long haul. Without stating the obvious, a strong body and a strong mind is essential to lessen vulnerability against homesickness.
7. NURTURE YOUR SPIRITUAL HEALTH – Attend a church fellowship or a mass, Bible study, and a Prayer meeting in your community. While it is beneficial to develop your physical stamina, you also need to cultivate your spiritual well-being. Finding a balance for both would be ideal.
The most important thing is to have somebody you can talk to and express what you feel. Having close friends who cared about your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being will strengthen your resistance and help you overcome homesickness.