Feeling Homesick While on Assignment

Feeling homesick? You’re not alone. Try these 12 tips

As a traveler, you get to enjoy the excitement of new places, new people, new patients, and new routines. You probably chose travel nursing because you thrive on variety. In the midst of all this adventure, however, it’s also completely normal to feel a bit homesick. Everyone has the need for stability and a support system that includes familiarity and trust. It can be difficult to satisfy these needs when you just arrived in a new city. You might not see any familiar faces and it takes time to build confidence with new acquaintances.

Homesickness is recognized as a feeling of stress or anxiety caused by separation from people and places that you know while being outside of your comfort zone. Here are some common symptoms:

  • irregular sleep patterns
  • feeling angry, nervous or sad
  • feeling isolated or lonely
  • feeling overwhelmed, insecure, anxious or panicky
  • frequent or more severe headaches
  • feeling nauseous or a lack of appetite

Sometimes these feelings worsen after the hectic holiday season—when social events quiet down—or around special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, etc. Even though your transition to a new environment can easily make you feel homesick, there are ways to help you cope. The most important thing is to recognize that your feelings are legitimate, then take a few steps to treat yourself just as you would treat your patients. We’ve put together a dozen things you can do to help ease homesickness:

  1. Take home with you– You might be in a new place, but taking a few favorite items with you can add the personal touch that makes a huge difference. Photos, trinkets, curtains, pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, a special coffee mug are all great ways to make a place your own.
  2. Be honest– Share when you are lonely, sad, stressed as well as happy or excited with those you turn to for support. This will help everyone be more open about their own feelings and keep a special connection regardless of location.
  3. Let it out- Don’t try to keep everything bottled up inside. It’s much healthier to let out your emotions. There may be days when you really need to have a good cry, scream in your pillow, punch a cushion, go running, whatever helps you release some of that frustration and tension.
  4. Stay well- Take care of yourself by eating well, exercising, and try to get enough sleep.
  5. Get in a groove- Establish a routine as soon as possible. Ensure you get enough sleep and create a work-leisure balance. Predictability helps us feel secure.
  6. Go out– Avoid the temptation to stay in, isolated and avoid social contact. The faster you meet people and discover things to do, the sooner you will feel more at ease.
  7. Utilize technology- There are so many options to stay in touch today. Take advantage of real-time face-to-face opportunities with Facetime, Zoom, Skype. Consider sending video messages and don’t forget to send photos and videos of your adventures to loved ones back home.
  8. Feed your interests– Resurrect an old hobby, get involved in new activities, try a sport, seek out local organizations and events.
  9. Keep your glass half full– Take time to appreciate the positive aspects of your new situation. Traveling comes with a lot of perks. Focus on the good by making a list of all the things you like about traveling and your new assignment. Journaling is an excellent way to acknowledge gratefulness and organize your thoughts.
  10.  Host guests– Invite your family and friends to come and visit.
  11. Keep it light– Don’t reserve all your conversations for big news, heavy topics, or critical decision-making. Be sure you connect with friends and family about the little things too. Talk about the weather, a funny joke, or current events to keep things interesting.
  12. Set expectations– Understand the feeling homesick is normal. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel down or miss your friends and family back home. Take time (but not too much) to allow yourself to reflect, be sad, and think through how to feel better. And know that in time, things will get better.

Homesickness should pass in time. And, it should not be so severe that you become unable to carry out your daily responsibilities. If you are struggling with feelings that are so intense that you find it difficult to cope, reach out for help right away. Seek a local counselor or inquire at your hospital for assistance. There are also a variety of depression hotline numbers available to anyone across the country who is in need. Examples include:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Samaritans: 1-877-870-4673
  • National Hopeline Network: 1-800-442-4673
  • Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255

There might be some incredible upside to your new assignment. This is a great chance to celebrate “you time.” Eat the things you like, go to places that interest you, watch your favorite movies, take a nap, go to bed early, sleep in, binge your favorite TV series, buy some special chocolates—you will be surprised how a little self-indulgence can cheer you.

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