College is an exciting time of newness and change in your life, but with this change can come some overwhelming emotions, too. For many, the move to college is the first time you’ve lived away from your family and, if you’ve enrolled in college out of state, it might be the longest amount of time spent away from home.
Homesickness is a reality many college students deal with, but not one that should stop you from enjoying college life. The best way to manage homesickness is through learning and implementing healthy coping mechanisms to help minimize the symptoms you might be experiencing.
What is homesickness?
Homesickness occurs when you either temporarily or permanently move away from home and are adapting to a new living environment. It is a very normal emotion to feel, especially during the early stages of the transition, and oftentimes goes away as time passes.
Symptoms one might experience when dealing with homesickness can manifest in mental and physical ways and often include:
- Lack of motivation
- A desire to isolate
- Crying frequently
- Low energy
- Stomach pains, including lack of appetite
- Inconsistent sleep patterns, including oversleeping or difficulty sleeping
For many students transitioning into college, the most severe symptoms of homesickness are likely to occur in the early stages of college, either in the anticipation of the transition, the first few weeks at college or when the initial excitement has worn off. But with the right coping mechanisms, overcoming homesickness before the symptoms escalate is possible.
Is there a way to stop being homesick?
Even when you’ve mastered college living and transitioned into the routine, there might still be moments of experiencing homesickness. This is normal, especially if your home life is one of peace and security. To keep yourself stabilized and help control any symptoms of homesickness, however, there are multiple healthy coping mechanisms you can try.
Stay in touch with home
Make a plan to check in with your friends and family back home on a regular basis, whether that’s through phone calls, video chats or even writing letters. Doing so can help you feel connected to your loved ones even though they may be far away. Also, schedule days for friends and family to come to visit you at college. This gives you something to look forward to when you miss them the most.
The way you decorate your dorm room can have a big impact on your level of homesickness; the more home-like and familiar your living space is, the less homesick you may feel. Bringing certain things from home — like a favorite blanket, prized coffee mug, photographs or other keepsakes — can give your dorm room a healthy sense of familiarity and security.
Focus on the positives
It can be tempting to grow overwhelmed with negative thoughts when experiencing homesickness, but this kind of thinking will only worsen symptoms. In order to help pull you out of negativity, focus instead on the positive aspects of college, like the new friends you’re making, the club you’re excited to join or the class you’re really interested in. The more you focus on the good aspects of this change, the less room negative thoughts have in your mind.
Colleges and universities have a plethora of ways to get involved, from sports teams to outdoor clubs to study groups to fraternities and sororities, meaning there are lots of opportunities to meet new people and make friends. While this can seem intimidating initially, it’s a truly beneficial way to overcome feelings of homesickness. Plus, getting involved gets you out of your room and into the environment of college, further helping you through the transition from high school to college.
Build a support system
Having people to share your experience with is important, especially if you are struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation. Perhaps you have a few friends you can share this with who will help get you out of your room when you’re feeling particularly isolated. Campus RA’s also are available as someone to talk to as you transition through the initial hump of homesickness.
If however, you have taken steps to improve symptoms and still are experiencing depression, sadness and isolation, it might be time to consider additional support in the form of counseling services or an on-campus support group.
In need of additional support while in college?
Many campuses offer counseling services to their students which can be particularly helpful in times of transition and when experiencing unrelenting symptoms of homesickness. Or, if you’re wanting something off-campus, consider counseling centers such as The Light Program. To learn more about our counselors, including personalized treatment plans for dealing with homesickness, contact us today.
Send us a message anytime or call our offices to speak with someone at 610-644-6464.