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Missing Family? 5 Steps to survive homesickness this Covid Christmas.

Can’t See Family this Covid Christmas? We explore steps to help see you through the holiday period away from home.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many people across the globe have experienced the extremes of distance and separation from loved ones. Stress, anxiety, loneliness, insecurity, disappointment, and depression are just some of the emotions that come with being separated from your loved ones.

In our homes, apart, we have felt a longing for the places we can’t go and people we can’t see.

Homesickness is a natural part of moving to a new country and being away from your friends and family. No matter how long you have been away, it can take some time to adjust to a different environment. For many people living abroad, Christmas can be a difficult time, but it is fair to say that this year may be even more difficult due to the limitations of travelling. Borders are closed and movement restricted between certain countries, so whether you’re in the UK or Australia, home can feel very far away right now.

If you are away from home and feeling a great sense of sadness or homesickness, it is important to remember that these feelings are normal. This month’s blog is about offering support to those who cannot be with their friends and family during the holidays with some practical tips on how to protect your mental health during the final fortnight of 2020.

What is Homesickness?

Homesickness is an emotional state of mind, where the affected person experiences intense feelings of longing due to separation from the home environment and loved ones. The feelings that are most identified with homesickness are nostalgia, grief, depression, anxiety, sadness, and withdrawal.

How to protect your mental health when Homesickness hits

To begin with, if you are feeling homesick, sad, lonely or distressed in any way, acknowledge these emotions for what they are; normal and appropriate given the circumstances. They demonstrate that being away from loved ones and missing them is a measure that you care and that caring can sometimes be difficult. Try not, to fight or deny unpleasant emotions. Rather, try to accept them but then try to utilise the following self-care strategies as best you can.

1. Acknowledge your feelings

The first step in overcoming homesickness is to acknowledge what you’re feeling. And, by reading this blog, you’re doing just that! Accept that your feelings are normal, real and valid. Why not try taking some time to write down your feelings onto a piece of paper or into a journal. This strategy is a good way to express and understand what you are feeling.

2. Beat Boredom

You’re more likely to feel homesick when you’re sitting at home with nothing to do. So intead, try to keep busy to take your mind off how you’re feeling. Create a daily routine and fill up your spare time with activities that you enjoy doing. You might like to work on your existing hobbies or to pick up some new ones, socialize online with your friends, or explore the country you’re living in within whatever restrictions apply.

*NB: Although this tip is good at keeping you distracted, be sure to find balance and give yourself some ‘me time’ when needed.

3. Communicate with friends and family back home

Speaking to your friends and family can be a great source of comfort to you during the holidays. Schedule regular video calls to feel closer to them to maintain your connection. Catch up on everything that’s happening at home and keep them updated on your life overseas too!   

Sometimes we can worry that these virtual encounters can increase our feelings of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) but they can help you with keeping in the know and give you the opportunity to let your loved ones know what you are doing.  

If you use video calls a lot with work these days, don’t forget that sometimes a good old fashioned phone call can do the trick too. It’s good to talk and staying connected is key, whatever the method.

4. Find your Support System

As with other emotional or mental health concerns, having a strong support system around you can help in dealing with homesickness. Confiding in in someone you trust can bring some relief.  Talking about your concerns can ease those strong emotions and give some comfort. Reach out to family members, friends or even co-workers if you’re feeling homesick. Be open and receptive to their advice. It can help you gain a new, fresh perspective on your difficult situation. 

5. Be Kind to Yourself & to Others

In showing kindness to others we often get a boost to our own mental wellness too, with a sense of satisfaction or happiness. Offer to help somebody during this time – call someone who might be lonely or throw a hand in to do some household chores or errands for a housemate. These small actions can be powerful, and can mean a lot, especially now.

Likewise, be kind to yourself.  Take the time to practice self-care.  It’s important. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and take some ‘me time’ to do something you enjoy doing, especially if you’re feeling tense or anxious.  It can be something as simple as taking a walk. Getting out in the fresh air can lift our mood.

And just one last thought

When the entire world is upside down, it’s natural to crave familiarity. For so many, the idea of spending Christmas on the beach in Australia or skiing in a resort in Whistler Canada seems like the ultimate adventure but in reality it can come with a lot of sadness, guilt and grief, especially during a global pandemic. Take these steps as guidance to protect your mental wellness and don’t be afraid to reach out for additional support if you need it by contacting a GP or counsellor in your area.

Find out more

If you are experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety, panic or are simply feeling a bit low, visit our Need Help section.  Here you will find useful videos, self-help guides and info sheets on a broad range of mental health topics.