What Is Homesickness?

Homesickness, the distress or anxiety caused by being separated from home, affects most people over the course of a lifetime. Homesickness can be caused by a wide variety of situations. Sleepovers, school trips and nights away from the family can trigger a bout of loneliness and dejection. Moving away from home for university or for work can lead to prolonged feelings of homesickness. It can also be triggered by enjoyable events, such as holidays or trips away, or by intense and distressing events and is a common side effect of a divorce or a death in the family. In this context the term ‘home’ does not have to be literal.

Symptoms of Homesickness

For many people homesickness can feel mild; perhaps a feeling of wistfulness or a knot in the stomach when thinking about family and friends. It can be quick to pass. However the symptoms of homesickness can increase in severity, depending on the depth of feeling. Those suffering from more severe homesickness then can become unhappy and depressed. They may feel anxious, even nervous or withdrawn from social situations. They may become more emotional, more irrational or more irritable than normal. When working they may have difficulty concentrating or focusing.

Homesickness can also have a physical impact on the body, causing symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches. Those with homesickness may have difficulty sleeping. It is even possible to suffer from dizziness or nausea.

How to Overcome Homesickness

For many people homesickness is brief and can end as quickly as it arrived. When it comes to more serious bouts of homesickness unfortunately there is no magic or easy cure. However homesickness can be combated in a variety of ways.

If you are feeling homesick:

• Take care of yourself physically. Make sure that you are supporting your body by eating, drinking and sleeping. Feeling physically drained will make the symptoms of homesickness you are experiencing feel much worse. It is also advisable to avoid alcohol as this can have a detrimental effect on the body both physically and emotionally.

• Talk about how you feel. Most people have experienced homesickness and will be able to support you. A friend, a family member or a colleague may be able to advise you and help you to come to terms with your feelings.

• Give yourself something to look forward to. When feeling depressed or anxious it can feel good to have something enjoyable or exciting planned. It might be a night out with friends, a holiday, a film to watch, even a good meal for dinner. Enjoyable distractions can help you to shift your focus onto more positive aspects of life.

• Plan a trip home. If you have moved away to university or a new city heading back home can give you the much needed opportunity to see your family and friends again. Planning your trip and anticipating the activities you have planned will help to combat the feeling of being overwhelmed by homesickness. It is important to give yourself enough time to settle into a new home and make new friends; maybe give yourself a couple of weeks before returning home again. Alternatively you may enjoy asking your family or friends to visit you in your new home or show them round your new city.

• Give yourself reminders of home – Decorating your new room with furniture from home, carrying a picture of your family, even listening to the music your family enjoy can help you settle into being away from home and reduce the big changes after leaving home.

• Be realistic. It is normal to experience feelings of homesickness. Make sure that you do not put too much pressure on yourself.

• If you do notice that your feelings are getting worse arrange to speak to your GP or a counselling service. They will be able to discuss your symptoms in detail and guide you to finding support.

Homesickness is a common feeling that most people will experience. While it can be overwhelming, there are many things you can do to help minimize the effects and in most cases it will begin to subside on its own given time.

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