How to Deal With Being Homesick

published Mar 6, 2019
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(Image credit: Liz Calka)

We’ve all been there. Whether you’ve packed up your life for a cross-country move, or you’re just on an extended business trip, sometimes you can’t help but feel a little homesick.

How can you cope when you’re yearning to be home and more importantly, what do these feelings even mean? We called on clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., to help us break down everything we ever wanted to know about homesickness. From symptoms to things you can do to feel better, here’s what he had to share.

What does it mean to be homesick?

“Homesickness is psychologically much broader than actually missing your home, although that often is a contributing factor. Feeling homesick often means feeling like you are missing comfort, missing ‘normal’, and missing what you know. It can be a mix of feelings of anxiety about your new surroundings, sadness and longing for your home and more familiar surroundings, as well as feelings of nostalgia that seem to arise. Homesick is an experience of longing for the familiar and feeling uneasy or unsure about the current surroundings. It can be literally missing your house. But it can also be missing your family, friends, neighborhood, co-workers, pets, and local restaurant—really anything that is a symbol or reminder of home. Homesickness means you are in a state of transition—you are outside the familiar and not yet adapted to your current surroundings.”

(Image credit: Anna Spaller)

What kinds of things can trigger homesickness?

“One of the challenges of homesickness is that it can be triggered by a multitude of cues. Sights or sounds that remind you of home, activities in your new surroundings that remind you of something you did at home. Calls or video chats from home can trigger homesickness. Songs you may hear that are associated with home. Foods or smells that remind you of something at home. In addition to all these reminders, periods of stress in your new environment can trigger homesickness; times when you are alone in your new surroundings can also trigger homesickness. In addition, feeling ill or being sick—where you feel less strong, more vulnerable—can also trigger homesickness. Anything that reminds you of home, or any emerging challenges in the new environment can trigger homesickness.”

What are the symptoms of being homesick?

“Having a hard time adapting or embracing your new surroundings, thinking about home throughout the day, finding yourself daydreaming about home, feeling anxious about the new surroundings and wanting to be back home. Moreover, feeling nostalgic for old songs, old foods, old situations that remind you of home are also signals you may be homesick. Becoming slightly ‘obsessed’ with what is going on at home, how your friends, family, etc. are doing, and resisting engaging in new activities and making new connections. All of these are signs of homesickness.”

(Image credit: Federico Paul)

How can you cure homesickness?

“Homesickness is extremely common and is generally a normal part of the transition to adapting to a new environment,” Klapow said.

To manage homesickness there are several actions he suggests you can take:

1. Recognize this is normal and give yourself permission to have good days and bad days.

“The feelings of homesickness often get interpreted as something terribly wrong. Recognizing and accepting that the feelings are mostly temporary, do not signal cause for alarm and are part of the transition process often helps reduce the anxiety associated with the feelings of homesickness.”

2. Get acclimated to your new environment.

“It is vital to carve out a comfortable space. Make your apartment something that feels physically comfortable, that has every creature comfort that you need to feel physically secure as well as emotionally secure. Then as soon as possible, establish a routine. Routines are familiar, and homesickness can be diminished when the unknown becomes known. Where to buy your groceries, where you want to work out, your favorite coffee place or pub, what you eat and when—the key is to claim what is yours in terms of a routine.”

3. Stay connected with home (but in a scheduled way).

“It’s fine and good to connect back to home but let it become a part of your routine. A daily text or email. A weekly call. A weekend Skype or FaceTime. Touching base is fine as long as it doesn’t dominate your daily activities. Make home and the events of home a part of your day versus the focus of your day.”

4. Talk to others.

“As much as you may feel like you are the only one who is experiencing this strange longing, people around you will get it. Start making connections at work, school, or your new community. Find people you can become friendly with. It’s okay to let people know you miss home. You may be surprised to hear their stories and find that they will try to help you overcome the homesickness.”