6 Tips for Dealing With Homesickness When You Can’t Travel Home

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With nationwide quarantine guidelines in place, and travel bans and restrictions that span the globe, a new breed of homesickness has sparked: one that stems from not being able to circle a date on your calendar for your next reunion with your family. People across the world now find themselves struggling with how to deal with homesickness in a time when feeling loved and supported is extra-important.

"Individuals may be feeling homesickness for a multitude of reasons," says therapist Jennifer Teplin, LCSW. "Having no end date could be it, but I also believe it's a wanting-what-we-cannot-have mentality. The moment a product goes out of stock, we need it, and this idea can be applied to anything within our world including the freedom to return home or travel." Our desire to go home may stem, in part, from feeling like our human right to roam has been stripped from us—and that's a completely legitimate feeling.

"As humans, we love certainty and familiarity—especially during our current situation with sheltering at home due to COVID-19." —Kristen Scarlett, LMHC

Kristen Scarlett, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor and co-founder of digital therapy group Octave, adds that everyone—including those who didn't have the happiest of upbringings—may associate family with stability. "Even if your parents drive you crazy when you're with them, you know what to expect. As humans, we love certainty and familiarity—especially during our current situation with sheltering at home due to COVID-19. This is already triggering feelings of anxiety in people and heightens feelings of homesickness, especially if part of their usual routine includes visiting parents or family."

And while your feelings are totally valid, when it comes to learning how to deal with homesickness, Teplin suggests introspecting about what you miss. "I would encourage anyone feeling homesick to think about what specifically they're missing. Typically, it's not their parents' couch, but the sense of familiarity and support," she says. Maybe you miss your dad's cooking or your sister's laugh—and, if so, good news: those things can be re-created from afar. While nothing replaces face-to-face, real-time quality time with loved ones, psychologists have a host of ideas for re-creating that warm, nostalgic Thanksgiving feeling, no matter how far apart you are.

How to deal with homesickness during COVID-19

1. Manage your overall stress and anxiety daily

When it comes to the question of how to deal homesickness, this should be item number one, according to Scarlett. That means prioritizing sleep, getting outside for at least one walk each day, doing at least 10 minutes of exercise, scheduling alone time from your quarantine-mates, and calling your pals. Together, these habits will offer you a baseline of mental fortitude to help you manage everything going on, including how to deal with homesickness.

2. Schedule a recurring video meeting with your family

Watching your extended family members try to work Zoom is peak entertainment, believe me. That's why Scarlett wants you to regularly dial in with your whole family, grab the popcorn, and let the chaos ensure. "Plan something fun for the call," she suggests. "For example, play a game like Scrabble, Uno, or family karaoke." And, for the love of TikTok, please do record the call if you decide the latter option.

3. Re-create the senses of your childhood

Teplin recommends doing a memory deep dive to recall the senses that made your childhood so sweet to begin with. "Think about what home smells like, and maybe find out what candle Mom used to burn. Or if it's the memory of your family gathering around the fireplace, buy a candle that smells like a fireplace," she says. Go all-in on that nostalgia.

4. Make family recipes on the regular

Some dishes are like a time capsule in every bite. And since many of us have newfound love of the kitchen, now feels like an ideal time to try your mom's pancake recipe or reach back in time to the summer days of pickling various produce with your grandma.

5. Re-Watch your favorite childhood film or tv show together

In middle school, my sister and I watched the Nickelodeon show Drake and Josh at least 50 times through. After an episode rewatch last night on Hulu, I'm happy to report that the show's canned laughter and pop-culture references from the early aughts remain delightful. If you feel so inclined to relive the TV or movies of your childhood, Teplin says it's a great way to deal with homesickness—especially if you do it with your OG watching squad.

6. Introspect About the concept of family

Think beyond the confines of your biological family for this one. "Try connecting with those other 'families', such as work friends or school friends," says Teplin. The loved ones you're missing might be your chosen family, not your given one, so include them in all your digital plans, too.

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