With globalization and increasing competitiveness of the economy in most developed countries, more people are relocating to explore new career opportunities. More often than not, uprooting oneself and his/her family arises more necessity than choice. Some go on to experience a sense of ‘dislocation’ and significant adjusting to living overseas.
We learn to form attachment as young children. For most of us, this emotional connection goes beyond parental figures to involve the home we live in, the things we associate it with, to the friends with whom we share our most important moments.
Homesickness is a psychological process that probably dates back to the time our ancestors first experienced emotional attachment. It has been depicted in works such as Homer’s the Odyssey, where Odysseus wept, thinking of home. Through the ages, it has also been described in European settlers in North America and soldiers at frontline faraway from home.
What Are The Psychological & Physical Impact Of Home Sickness?
Being homesick is more than just missing home. Coupled with having to manage the uncertainty that a strange, new environment brings, it can bring immense emotional upheaval. Children and individuals who are anxious by nature are at higher risk of experiencing difficulty with adjustment.
Apart from feelings of nostalgia and grief, adjustment to a new environment can bring about adjustment reactions that include negative thinking, anxiety, moodiness, frustration, insomnia, irritability and social withdrawal. Some even feel a sense of regret, hopelessness or futility, especially when they become overwhelmed by problems settling in during their initial days.
Signs of maladaptation can include increased alcohol/nicotine use, emotional outbursts, suicidal thoughts; deterioration in one’s daily functioning and raised tensions within the family.
How To Cope with Home Sickness?
While the best cure for homesickness will be to return home, this sometimes may not be an immediate, available option. We however, can cope better, with the following tips:
- Have an open mind to change and new experiences. These can help you enhance your coping skills and improve your confidence in the longer term.
- Cultivate a positive attitude. Make it a point to count your daily blessings. Keep focus on the positive parts of your ‘relocation’ experience.
- Keeping regular contact with loved ones back home through letters, emails and phone calls. Having a familiar object from home will help to mitigate that sense of loss.
- Peer support is important. Support groups within your local expat community are available and are often more than happy to help.
- Find strengths in your faith. Religious support and counseling can give firm grounding in times of crisis.
- Make an effort to keep an active, healthy lifestyle. Be conscious about your diet. Have enough rest and remember to maintain a regular exercise routine.
- Allow time for emotional expression. Discuss your feelings with someone you trust, a counselor or a psychological wellness professional.
- Watch out for persistent maladaptive symptoms not improving with time, out-of-control behaviour, marked emotional distress or impairment of functioning and social relationships. Seek help early if this is the case.
Adjustment is but a phase in life. Slowly, but surely you can regain your sense of control.