Most people spend the holidays with family, friends and loved ones. If you're away from your family, friends, or loved ones this time of year, it's hard not to get homesick. Here are a few ways to cope.
Illustration by Sam Woolley.
Start a New Tradition, Like Volunteering
The holidays make us reminisce about an ideal life, which is hard when most of our lives feel less than ideal. Being away from the people who make you feel like everything is ok only makes things worse.
Starting new holiday traditions can help you shift this mindset. You don't want to forget about your past traditions, you just want to create new ones to be happy about, too. Your tradition might be Friendsgiving or an annual ugly Christmas sweater party or just treating yourself to an indulgent dinner or going on a solo road trip. Not only does a new tradition distract you from ruminating excessively over the past, it's also an inspiring way to start to the future.
Volunteering is a great holiday tradition. When you don't know what else to do, sometimes the best thing to do is help others. You can search VolunteerMatch.org to see what specific activities are needed in your area around this time of year. Beyond that, you could deliver meals, help the homeless, or visit a nursing home. You spend time with other people, feel purposeful, and distract yourself from feeling nostalgic. And volunteering actually makes you happy.
Say Yes to Holiday Invites
If new friends invite you to spend time with their family, your knee-jerk reaction might be to say no, because you feel like it's a pity invite or you're just worried it will be uncomfortable. Instead, say yes. Say yes to friends' holiday parties, office parties, or invites to spend time with your friend's families, even if you just visit for a couple of hours. No invites? Get out in your community and head to holiday markets or local New Year's celebrations. You might end up having a great time — or at least a better time than you would be sitting at home alone.
On the other hand, those activities might make you miss home even more. You might feel lonely when you do these things, reminded that you're not with your family or the ones you love. It's all about how you approach it. If you think about it less as a way to replace your traditions and more of a way to just meet new people, there's a lot less pressure. You can meet people online, too, who might be coping with their own holiday homesickness. For example, you can browse Meetup.com for parties and events around the holidays.
I felt so homesick when I travelled abroad alone in my 20s. It was Christmas, I was in Greece, and there was hardly anyone around. I felt incredibly fortunate to be travelling, but I also missed my family.
To cope, I decided to treat myself. I went to a nice restaurant, ordered a bunch of delicious food and sat there, alone. I still felt nostalgic, but taking care of myself meant I was in a better state of mind, so I could focus on how positive it was then, instead of how negative I felt now. It's hard to feel too sad when you're eating delicious food in a beautiful place. Your own indulgence might be a picnic or a hike or just a simple bubble bath. The idea is to do something you wouldn't normally do to remind yourself that life has its perks.
Connect With Your Family Remotely
Finally, it's the holidays, so if you can reach out to your family, do it! Set up a time for a video visit via Skype or Google Hangouts. Hit them up via Facebook Live or Instagram Live while you're at the beach or hanging out with friends. Technology makes it easy to stay connected and while you won't be together face to face, it's the best way to connect with your family when you can't be together in person.
And the good news is, the best way to cure homesickness in the bud is to simply experience it. Researcher Chris Thurber told CNN:
"It turns out, [homesickness is] the very thing that inoculates against a future bout of homesickness. By living through a difficult separation, your mind forces itself to cope."
Again, it goes back to experience. The more you experience being away from home, the better you'll get at coping with year after year. In the meantime, the best thing you can do is connect with your loved ones as much as possible, then make your own traditions to enjoy and look forward to in the future.