This post is a bit of a departure from my typical fashion- or blog-oriented posts, but the subject was actually the catalyst that propelled G&G to where it is today. Let me explain.
Many of you know that a few years ago, I lived in Sydney, Australia, for about a year. I failed miserably at expat life and was gripped by homesickness so ferocious it actually manifested itself on the outside as well as inside. (Weight loss, that’s cool, but ugh—HAIR LOSS? WTF?). While navigating expat life, and then repatriating, I put all my energy into this blog. G&G was my outlet, my friend, and my entire focus; naturally, after that experience, I felt compelled to create a few pages about expat life and homesickness that I hoped would help others in some small way.
Over the years, I’ve gotten many comments (and pleas) from others dealing with the same issues. Well, except the hair loss—though I am happy to report it grew back, thank God. Knowing my words have helped others feel a little less alone has been so rewarding.
So why am I posting about homesickness, now?
In the past few weeks, I’ve had a spate of comments from people all over the world who are struggling with homesickness. I suppose that’s because it’s summer for half the earth, and that’s when a lot of moving happens, or it’s the universe telling me to revisit this subject because, frankly, there’s not a lot of helpful info out there. Whether you’re moving across the world for love, or across your own country for a job or college, homesickness my get the better of you. So I hope you will consider G&G a resource if it strikes.
Since I wrote Getting Over Homesickness, a lot has changed in terms of technology, and one other critical thing happened: my husband and I swapped homesickness roles. He moved to the U.S. to join me, and suddenly I was the one coping with someone experiencing homesickness—which means I can cover the issue from both sides of the coin, so-to-speak.
Anyway, because I’ve had several comments lately, I thought it would be a great time to revisit the subject. The fashion posts will reappear again soon, I promise.
Homesickness is like adult separation anxiety.
Homesickness sucks. Suh-hucks. It makes you depressed and morose and almost unrecognizable to yourself.
It’s a kind of separation anxiety not limited to just those under 18, and “ isn’t necessarily about home…neither is it exactly an illness,” Derrick Ho writes in Homesickness isn’t really about ‘home’. Ho continues:
Instead, it stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security — feelings and qualities usually associated with home, said Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama’s School of Public Health. When these qualities aren’t present in a new environment, we begin to long for them — and hence home.
“You’re not literally just missing your house. You’re missing what’s normal, what is routine, the larger sense of social space, because those are the things that help us survive,” Klapow said.
Anyone going through homesickness knows the nature of the beast: one minute you’re smiling, the next you’re standing in the grocery aisle sobbing because they don’t have your favorite cereal. It’s not the cereal. It’s the lack of “normal” everywhere you turn.
10 Things You Can Do to Manage Homesickness
1. Research the hell out of it.
Just like studying for a test, it’s a lot easier to deal with the symptoms of homesickness when you recognize them. Know the stages…you’ll go through all of them before seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. See my Getting Over Homesickness for resources or grab a book on the subject from Amazon.
2. Get yourself a smartphone.
Most people have them these days, but if you don’t, now is the time to learn to use one. First, learning to use new technology and applications channels your mind and makes you more technically savvy. Second, it’s the ultimate expat tool—keeping you connected with people at home through email, Facebook, and Instagram; allowing you to Skype without a computer; providing you with subway maps or bus routes, and more.
3. Start a blog or read one that deals with expat life or homesickness.
Seriously. The act of writing your feelings is very cathartic and it’s a constructive way to recognize symptoms or triggers. And connecting with others who understand what you are going through is huge. It makes you realize everything you are doing, thinking, and feeling is normal. With all the blogs in the world, I’m sure there’s a blogger in the very city you are in that can offer you some great advice; Expat Blog is a super resource. IAmExpat is aimed at expats in the Netherlands but has lots of info that’s helpful for any expat.
4. Start working, volunteering, or school ASAP.
Having a place to go, a schedule to follow, and obligations to meet re-focuses your mind on daily tasks instead of what you are missing. It forces you to go out there and interact with others. And maybe make some new friends! If you can’t work, there is always volunteering, which can be even more helpful. When you focus on helping others, you don’t focus on your problems at all!
5. Schedule regular Skype or Facetime video calls with your friends and family.
If there is a time difference, this is especially important. Find a good time and put the calls on your calendar so you have something to look forward to. Seeing your peeps from back home is fun, but hearing them also gives you that little slice of “normal” you crave. I missed Southern accents terribly when I was in Oz! And when you use Skype or Facetime, it’s totally free.
6. Stream your favorite TV shows or radio programs from home.
Almost everything is available online now. My husband has noted that being able to stream Triple J or watch Aussie TV programs helps him cope, especially on those days when he’s missing home. Hearing the news in your hometown, knowing what they are talking about, hearing accents—again—it’s a little bit of the “normal” your head needs to feel OK. There are all kinds of phone and computer apps available to help you snag that signal. Just Google and you’ll see!
7. Resolve to discover one new thing daily.
Maybe it’s a new restaurant or shopping center. Or ordering coffee in the local language or vernacular. Or taking the bus or the train. Of course, be careful, and venture out slowly, but do.
I remember the first time I took the train from Crounlla to Bondi Junction by myself. I had no idea what to expect but I knew all the signs were in English, so I could find my way. I made it there and back with no problems. That little adventure not only distracted me (lots of new things to see and learn about), it made me feel good about myself. I did it! Little victories.
8. Take a walk.
Getting outside connects you with nature and your new environment. The birds and trees might be different. It might help you practice looking the other direction before crossing the street. A walk keeps you occupied mentally and physically as you learn to navigate and while absorbing your new surroundings. Plus, fresh air, exercise, and time outside your four walls is good for you. I’ve never gone out on a walk and felt worse than when I left. Never.
If you can only manage or afford a brisk walk or jog outside, then go for it. If you can work out at home or in a gym, do it. Exercise is a major stress reliever, aside from being great for your body. There is really no viable “I can’t” excuse. The Internet is full of fitness videos tailored to pregnant woman, seniors, the disabled, injured, and healthy. If you don’t have an Internet connection, try to get to a library. I guarantee there is something there that can help you.
Sometimes diving into a steamy novel (like Sylvia Day’s Bared to You, or the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy) is a great way to escape feelings of homesickness. Reading the local paper is also helpful, not only because you learn more about your new city, but you could come across an ad or article that propels you in a positive new direction. Your recreational reading can even be educational—learning the language of your new country if it’s not your native tongue. There are so many books, magazines, blogs, papers, etc., that the entertainment and learning possibilities are endless!
Have you ever experienced homesickness? If so, please share your tips for managing it!