If you were ever forced to sleep away from home on a school trip as a child, you’ll probably know the all-consuming distress of feeling like you’re miles and miles away from home.
Homesickness in adults is often associated with students flying the nest for the first time, but with people increasingly moving away from home for job and travel opportunities, it’s a feeling that many older people can relate to.
In Sunday’s launch episode of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, Anne Hegerty proved a stark reminder that adult homesickness can be all too real, as she was reduced to tears just hours after entering the Australian camp.
Hegerty, 60, who stars in TV show The Chase, struggled to hold back her emotions as she arrived at the show’s base camp. “I’m really close to saying I can’t do this,” she sobbed during the arrival.
Before she entered the jungle, Hegerty revealed she had struggled with autism for decades, having only been diagnosed with the disorder in her 40s. Repetitive behaviour and routines can often be a source of comfort for those with autism, so being in new and unfamiliar environments can quickly cause feelings of distress and anxiety.
But fellow camp mate Emily Atack later admitted to the Bush Telegraph that it wasn’t just Hegerty who was struggling: “Anne got a bit upset so we gave her a cuddle. It’s overwhelming. I think she was just expressing how we were all feeling, we just didn’t want to admit it!”
Experts say the reasons why adults feel homesick can vary; you might have moved abroad, broken up with a long-term partner or are simply craving home comforts after years of trying to foster your own independence.
Often though, it’s not actually the physical ‘home’ that you’re craving, but the familiarity and network that so many of us associate with being in a safe environment.
While homesickness can be pretty soul crushing stuff, it is usually only temporary, and there are lots of techniques you can use to relieve it. Here, we spoke to experts to find out how to cope later in life.
1. Accept the way you feel
A smell, an item of clothing a particular song… homesickness triggers can lie in wait everywhere and hit you hard with a sudden jolt of intense pain. Feelings of sadness and anxiety usually pass on their own, but in the meantime, don’t try to ignore the way you’re feeling, as allowing yourself to feel sad is the first step in moving forward.
If you know there’s a day when you’re going to feel particularly sad, such as missing a special family event, make sure to plan something to take your mind off the FOMO.
“Prevention is always better,” says resilience and self-care expert Linda Sage, “so if you know you have a propensity towards homesickness, prepare things to do beforehand.”
2. Try not to isolate yourself from others
When you feel low, the temptation is to hole yourself away and wallow in your feelings, but forming new friendships is one of the best ways to move past the hurt.
“Connection is the greatest cure for any feelings linked to sadness,” says says Jessica Boston, a transformational life coach at Glow Bar London.
“The unconscious is always looking to reinforce what it believes to be true, so if it is in the mode of, ‘Home is where all my friends are and these people don’t understand me’, it will warp you inner world to make those old beliefs seem true.”
3. Take home comforts with you
Whether it’s a favourite pillow, a childhood teddy bear or just a bunch of photographs of friends and family, reminders of home can help to make a new space feel less alien.
“Objects are wonderful anchors to states because they have the power to instantly connect us to our memories,” says Boston.
“Use that power wisely. Keep things with you that connect you to home but that also remind you of your strengths, resources and capabilities. Keep objects that remind you of who you are and how you’ve overcome obstacles in the past.”
4. Keep in touch with loved ones
Don’t overdo it and call home obsessively, but checking in with friends and family is a good way to remind yourself that everything you’re missing is still waiting for you when you return.
“You can use lots of forms of communication to keep in touch like Skype, Instagram, WhatsApp and FaceTime,” says Sage. “Now it’s so much easier and less expensive than it was before.”
5. Let others know how you’re feeling
When you’re forming new friendships, it can be tempting to put on a brave face and shy away from talking about your feelings, out of fear of being judged.
Many adults can find that homesickness catches them completely off guard and can be sort of embarrassing to deal with, particularly if you’ve always prided yourself on being an independent person.
However, it’s really important to form a new support network away from home, that you can lean on when needed. “There is no shame in your emotions,” says Boston, “in fact they can be the greatest way to connect with others and form new and solid friendships.”
6. Try to practise healthy habits
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What place are you thankful for today? I am grateful for my bathtub. Baths with salts, or bubbles, are my go to self care practice. There is nothing better than a hot bath with a good book and candlelight to center me for the evening. I’m grateful to have a bathtub and the time to take a bath at least a couple nights a week.
Self-care is one of those words that’s talked about a lot, but it really can help lift your mood when you’re feeling really low.
Getting to bed at a decent time, making sure you regularly exercise and doing all the basic things like keeping your space tidy can all contribute to a healthy and happy mindset.
7. Create new rituals
One of the worst things about homesickness is feeling like you don’t fit in, so creating a new routine can help establish a new type of ‘normal’.
Find a new favourite coffee place, meet a new crowd for Friday night drinks and fire up different hobbies in your neighbourhood. “It’s fun learning about new ways of life and doing things a different way,” says Sage.
“Approach it as an adventure to be enjoyed and explored,” she says, “and it will develop your confidence around being in a new environment tenfold.”
- Press Association