Hi, I am Alba, I’m Italian and I have been living in London with my Romanian boyfriend since 2016.
We have always been rather comfortable with living abroad: we live 50 minutes away from the airport and the flight home is only 2 hours long.
We would normally spend 2 weeks of summer holidays on the coast of Tuscany and 2 weeks of winter holidays in the mountains of Romania. It has been a win-win situation for both of us until Covid happened. As I write this, we are now in the third lockdown and it’s been a drawn-out, emotionally draining process with lots of homesickness involved.
Dealing with homesickness
Homesickness is normal when moving abroad, however, it can be painful and overwhelming because almost anything can trigger it: a taste, a smell or even a picture.
Homesickness is a grief sensation that causes a deep sense of loss and a drop in mood.
Living abroad means having fewer anchor points to start with and this ambiguity can be unsettling, especially when you are scared that you won’t be able to travel the way you used to for a very long time. You feel trapped, particularly if you can’t visit your home country.
Lockdown has a big impact on mental health on its own, but it is ten times worse for immigrants.
How to overcome homesickness
After a few weeks of deep cleaning the flat, baking loaves of banana bread and Netflix binge-watching, I found myself spending my days mulling over the constant fear of losing my job, and obsessively thinking about how much I was missing my family and my home country.
In the long run, these consuming thoughts can lead to depression and panic attacks. Homesickness has to be confronted.
Below you can find some practical and effective tips to get over homesickness when abroad that helped me to feel better.
Meditation has a huge calming effect. Meditating every day for at least 10 minutes is a healthy habit and an act of self-care that will gently force your mind to gain control of your fears and to soothe the feeling of rootlessness.
Confront your feelings and accept them
It is only human to be vulnerable! On the other hand, practice self-compassion but not self-pity. A shift in your perspective is useful: acknowledge that this situation will make you stronger.
Move your body
Find the time to move your body several times a week. Even a 20-minute walk will work wonders to clear your mind. Exercise is therapy!
Chat with loved ones
Contact family and friends regularly via Whastapp or Facetime but in moderation. Constant calls and texts will exacerbate the homesick sensation.
Build a support network
Stay in contact with colleagues in your new environment and build a support network of new people that could quickly become your new friends. For instance, I managed to get to know my neighbours a little more (of course wearing face masks and keeping my distance) and we are helping each other to face this awful situation.
Start a diary
Start a diary, journal or blog where you can write your thoughts down and allow your mind to run freely.
Breakaway from news and social media
If you notice that the news and social media trigger your homesick feeling, take a break.
When you keep yourself busy, you tend to dwell less on the negatives. Keeping yourself engaged is therefore crucial. Why not do some local charity work to help people in your area? That will lift your mood.
Seek professional support
If things get worse, there is no shame in asking for professional support from your GP or night lines and counselling services.
Do your best to practise gratitude and stay in the present moment. There’s nothing you can do to control what happens in the future and you most certainly can’t change the past. Start by noticing and counting all the blessings in your life. Then, express appreciation by doing acts of kindness. If you focus on the good, you will be able to develop a positive mental attitude even during the toughest times.
There’s power in positive thinking and a positive mindset.
“Thoughts which are mixed with any of the feelings of emotions constitute a magnetic force which attracts, from the vibration of the ether, other similar or related thoughts” -Napoleon Hill.
That means: if you think negatively you will inevitably attract more negative thoughts. Good vibes only!
Look at the bright side of things: this might be the opportunity you needed, to slow down and do something that you never had the time to do before, like cultivating a skill or a passion you had to set aside.
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- How To Deal With Homesickness When You Live Abroad - March 8, 2021