For many of you, going to college also means staying away from home. While some may ride on the excitement of exploring their new stage of life and newfound freedom, others may experience a sense of despair or social anxiety in a completely foreign land.
This discomforting feeling of loneliness and social anxiety is probably homesickness.
In the exact definition provided by Oxford Dictionary, homesickness is a feeling of longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it. To put it simply, homesickness is almost akin to the feelings of despair that strike after a breakup. Sounds relatable?
As a matter of fact, 2 out of 3 college students reportedly felt homesick within the first year of stepping into college!
So, if you feel unlike your usual self during the initial days at college, here are some practical tips to help you shake off that emotionally draining state.
#1. Educate yourself
The common symptoms associated with homesickness are:
- Feelings of nostalgia – constantly mulling about the past
- Constantly feeling lonely, depressed or lethargic
- Facing difficulties to concentrate in classes
- Withdrawal tendencies from social interactions or gatherings
- Easily irritated, angered or disoriented
While there may be several factors why we may feel homesick, one clear reason why you feel so in college is probably due to the drastic change in environment and the need to leave behind a place that you’ve grown so comfortable and familiar with.
If you let yourself dwell on negative thoughts, there is also a risk that your condition can take a turn for the worse (read: depression, anxiety disorder, etc.) and more complications may arise.
The truth is, it is okay to feel sad. In fact, there is nothing to be ashamed about because even adults experience homesickness too! It is important to understand that homesickness is a phase that will pass.
Like what Sun Tzu preaches in his famed Art of War, it is crucial to know what you are dealing with if you want to turn out victorious. Understanding what causes you to feel homesick and the related symptoms can enable you to take proper countermeasures.
#2. Do something you are passionate about
One of the more effective ways to keep your feelings of homesickness in check is to keep yourself busy.
In college, many students can occupy themselves by first, joining clubs or societies that they are interested in; second, volunteering for a cause that they are passionate about; or third, work part-time to chalk up extra working experience (and pocket money at the same time!).
Throwing yourself into living a productive college life can serve as a positive distraction instead of constantly mulling over your loss of familiar comforts that you had before college.
Whatever you chose to do, make sure you are always up and about. Live your college life to the fullest and pursue worthy experiences that your future self will thank you for.
#3. Keep a healthy lifestyle
Not only is keeping to a good diet and maintaining an exercise routine a great combo to keep your body healthy and fit, they play a crucial role in keeping your mental health in check too!
Avoid consuming excessive fast or processed food, as well as caffeine, as these foods are capable of causing a myriad of issues to our mental wellbeing such as sleep disorders, unstable moods and fatigue.
Instead, munch on greens, fruits and organic foods such as these 7 superfoods that are great in combating stress and anxiety, which are typical effects associated with homesickness.
On the other hand, keeping to a regular exercise routine can also help as endorphins are released when you work out. Endorphins are a well-known adversary of anxiety and depression as well.
#4. Share your feelings and thoughts with others
College is a great time to make lasting friendships. For some, college can also be a good place to meet their life partners (we leave it to you to decide with these major considerations!).
The point is, sharing your feelings and thoughts with another is also a great remedy for homesickness. According to research, a good social support where you can talk and share your feelings of homesickness with another helps in combating homesickness.
And it is easier for you to share your feelings and thoughts with people you can trust or comfortable with – friends.
One easy way to make friends is, of course, keeping yourself busy (point #2). You’ll be surprised how easily you can make acquaintances by just having a common interest or goal.
So, go out there and make some worthy friends! Check out these practical tips on making friends in college to get started.
#5. Write ‘em down
As much as sharing your thoughts with another helps, penning down your thoughts and feelings on paper can make you feel better too!
So, if you’re worried about getting judged for being a little homesick, then you’ve got yourself a non-judgemental, secret-keeper best friend in a notebook.
Get a simple notebook with a comfortable pen and start pouring your thoughts and feelings down on paper. Besides, it can be fun to go through what you have written (and witness your own growth!) after a couple of years.
Doing this consistently not only helps with your homesickness, it is also a great routine to improve your overall wellbeing.
#6. Keep in touch with friends and family back home
Technology has advanced so much that almost everything can be done with a couple of clicks and taps from the comforts of your own room. Getting in touch with your family and friends back home has never been easier.
Missing someone back home? Just give them call – voice or video. With a decent internet connection, you can perform a phone or video call with Skype or Google Hangouts seamlessly – without worrying about footing hefty phone bills.
That being said, it is important to practice some restraint as well. Calling home too frequently may actually backfire and make you miss home even more! Carving out a 30-minute window to call back home every day should suffice. It’s also good to always mention new experiences or things you love about your new place so that you do not focus much on your loss.
Remember that while it’s always good to receive support from your close ones back home, it’s also equally important that you do not get too attached to them until it hinders you from actually getting involved in your college life.
#7. Talk to your college counsellors
If you notice that your feelings or condition is getting worse (read: constantly feeling sad, complete withdrawal from social activities, loss of appetite, etc.), then it’s high time to seek professional help.
The service of a qualified counsellor is always available on college campuses. They can help you cope with their personal difficulties and guiding you to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to take full advantage of your college experience.
Set an appointment to talk to your counsellor. Be honest and open about your feelings and thoughts. Most of them have rich experiences in helping students cope with a myriad of issues, including homesickness. You can be at ease as college counsellors are professionals and are sworn to keep your personal details confidential.
It is important that you understand that reaching out to people for help does not make you a weak person. In fact, it is a sign of courage and good personal care.
Again, we cannot emphasise this fact enough – feeling homesick is normal. While it’s okay to feel so, don’t let your feelings of homesickness hamper your experiences in college.
For the most part, homesickness is a passing phase so don’t let it consume you. Stay positive and make it a point to tell yourself this every day: “It will get better.”