Living life in a new country is an exhilarating and rewarding experience; but it's an experience that isn't without its difficulties. One of the barriers that stands in the way of many that decide to work and live abroad is homesickness.
Homesickness is a form of anxiety that occurs when the world feels less stable around you. Homesickness occurs for a variety of reasons: culture shock from living in a new environment, life without friends, family, and the comforts of home, inadequate coping mechanisms in the new country. Research shows that homesickness isn't just an anxiety condition either. Studies have linked it to poor health, doctor's visits, and issues regarding mental focus and memory.
In some cases, the homesickness can become overwhelming. But the truth is that living abroad is one of the most unique and fulfilling experiences that you'll ever have over the course of your life. It's important not to let that degree of homesickness prevent you from enjoying the travel experience.
Before you even start working abroad, consider the following homesickness reduction techniques, so that you'll be able to enjoy your adventure.
Methods to Reduce Homesickness
- Start as a Tourist - Go to the most popular sites and attractions to get to know the city like a vacation right in the beginning, to essentially get to know the country's culture and history right away.
Shop for gifts in local markets
- Overexpose Yourself - If there are issues that are causing homesickness, consider over-exposing yourself to them until you've habituated to what they feel like - for example, if the crowded markets are overwhelming, then spend a lot of time there until you feel more relaxed.
- Look for Gifts - Staying connected to your friends back home is important. Consider giving gifts from your new country and sending them back home. This will give your days more of a purpose and keep you connected to those that are important to you.
- Try Local Cuisines - Finding food that you enjoy right away will ensure that you always know what to order and where, and will miss your home cuisines less.
- Utilize Social Media - Social media is valuable for a reason. If you have an internet connection, use it often to keep in touch with friends and family.
- Plan a Friend's Trip - There's nothing wrong with trying to convince some friends to come visit. See if any of your friends can come for a short vacation and get to know the country with you.
- Create Location Goals - Be one of those people that takes a photo with a cute stuffed animal in many locations, or see if you can create goals like visiting every tea shop in the area.
- Plan a Life - Figure out what you're going to do as a routine. Research shows that those that feel they're in more control suffer from less homesickness stress.
- Exercise Regularly - Exercise is a crucial coping tool, and one that will combat one of the issues of ill health that appears to affect those that are homesick.
- Plan for Emergencies - Part of feeling homesick is this belief that you're lost in your new environment. Learning the local doctors and hospitals can reduce that stress.
- Keep Your Mind Sharp - Research has shown absent mindedness is common in those with homesickness. Studying a topic or learning every day will keep your mind active.
- Create a Support Group - Others working abroad are likely feeling just as homesick as you are. Consider creating a support group to make new friends and share in experiences.
- Find Your Hobbies - Chances are you had hobbies in your home country. When abroad, find places that can help you enjoy those hobbies.
Meditation can be a great cure for homesickness
- Hide - It's not a good idea to hide from your problems. But 30 minutes of pure alone time in a calming environment can be very helpful. See if there is an empty room, dim the lights, close your eyes, and just breathe deeply and relax. Taking this type of break can be very calming.
- Work on Positive Thinking - Homesickness, like most anxiety, is prone to negative thinking, such as "I feel like I stand out here." Learn to think positively. Write only positive thoughts in something like a journal, and look for ways to spin the negative thoughts, such as "I am going to find new ways to make sure I feel like I fit in."
- Don't Numb the Fears - Temporary fixes like alcohol, shopping, gambling, etc., are not effective ways to overcome homesickness. All they do is numb it temporarily and cause you to depend on ineffective coping strategies.
- Sing in Public - You don't need to sing necessarily, but one way to reduce your anxiety in a new place is to purposely do something you find embarrassing - something you're doing under your control. Singing in public, for example, will get you used to the idea that your new environment won't bite, and that you're free to be who you want to be.
- Decorate Your Desk - Turning your workspace and your home-space into something that's more comfortable for you will improve your feeling of control over your environment.
- Visualization - If all else fails, close your eyes in a quiet area and genuinely visualize a place that makes you happy. Smell the smells, tastes the tastes, and try to mentally transport yourself there. For some, this gives them that temporary taste of home that keeps them going for each passing day.
Homesickness is a very real anxiety issue, but it's not one that has to hold you back. There are ways to stay calm and relax in your new environment. Consider the above tips, and remember that even though you may be away from home, you're still in a place with its own great things to do, with equally amazing people to meet.
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