5 Jul 2016

12 Ways To Overcome Homesickness

The feeling of longing for a connection with home. People have reported homesickness after moving house, even just around the corner. I heard of a man, happy as an immigrant in his adopted country for sixty years, felt that he 'just wanted to go home' when he reached his eighties.
Even with a fulfilling life in a different place from your original home, you may still feel a desire to be connected to your past home. You are homesick.

Homesickness can take many forms and affect people in different ways.
Historian Susan Matt describes how homesickness was so serious in the seventeenth century that it was given a name, nostalgia. It was said to be not only a feeling but a physical condition. In the American Civil War, over seventy soldiers were described to have died from homesickness.

Although the hazards of homesickness were acknowledged at that time, since the twentieth century we have encouraged people to move for career or other opportunities. Homesickness was not allowed to be an obstacle to your potential future options. IBM, the computer corporate of the 1980's became known as I've Been Moved.  Susan Matt's engaging Ted Talk, A History of Homesickness reveals home truths about homesickness. Is homesickness perceived as a sign of weakness? I think so. It's not always a well-received topic of conversation.

For me, homesickness is about not having access to my family, friends and the familiar. However, I have been an immigrant for a quarter of a century. The feelings of homesickness have become less frequent, less distressing and easier to accept. I still miss the people but New Zealand is familiar to me and I have people and places I love here. I have a routine and a sense of belonging. New Zealand is another home for me and no doubt if I returned to England, I would be homesick for New Zealand.  

For those who have been away from home for less than a quarter of a century, reassure yourself that homesickness affects all walks of life, even those with successful careers. Footballer Jesus Navas "rejected a move to Chelsea because he thought he'd be homesick." Read more about him and other people's experience of homesickness.

A Touch of Trivia: Nostalgia was the original term for homesickness. It was conceived by Johannes Hofer in 1688  word It is made from the Greek nóstos , meaning "homecoming", álgos, meaning "pain, ache." 

12 Ways To Overcome Homesickness

  1. Admit that you are feeling homesick. Don't see it as a feeling of weakness but as a recognition of the sense of belonging and loving you once had nearby. 
  2. Look at homesickness as a signal to make some changes. Bear in mind homesickness hits hardest when you are struggling or during holiday or festival times. 
  3. Make the area around you a place where you are happy to be in, your bedroom or your desk. Decorate it with mementos of home or pictures that you like. 
  4. Seek the familiar. This could be your favourite food from your homeland, (for me its bangers, beans and mashed potatoes) or a piece of art, music TV show.
  5. Create the familiar. Establish routines and practices that become familiar to you.  This may be rejoining a sports, cultural or spiritual activity.   If you were doing these activities in your other home, then start them up again. Try new activities. They could be as simple as a daily walk, visit a market, going to the movies.  By developing your own new routines, you can create familiarity. 
  6. Build up a support network. invite a neighbour for a coffee. A support network is good for emergencies and a sense of belonging.
  7. Look after yourself physically and mentally. You are precious.
  8. Be ready to make new friends, it may take a while. When you go to a group activity, be prepared to arrive early or stay a bit later so you can talk to people. A shared interest is the basis of friendship. You already have a shared interest, the group.
  9. Make contact with family and friends that you miss. Call them, skype them, surprise them with snail mail. 
  10. Be aware that when making contact with 'home' there is a fine line between helping or hindering your homesickness. Sometimes too much contact can lessen or stop you having the desire to appreciate your new environment.
  11. Explore the place you are living in. On your days off, be a tourist. 
  12. Find groups where you can meet people. Go to the library or community centres. Groups on line such asInternations which offer places to meet and opportunities to contact people of the same nationality or in a similar situation.

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