Combating homesickness: How to cope with loneliness amid the pandemic

Illustration of a girl looking sadly out her window at the city lights, while her cat paws at her.
Armaan Mumtaz/File

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Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t been home since New Year’s. The last time I’d seen my family was before masks, social distancing and endless hours spent at home. So on top of the strange new reality of working, studying and sleeping in the same room, I didn’t have the liberty to see my family, and I missed them.

Living away from home this semester can be especially lonely as we navigate through the time of COVID-19, but there are healthy ways to cope. Whenever you’re feeling down, start with a body scan and focus on how you are feeling from head to toe. Then, refocus your energy in a positive direction with some of the strategies below to help cope with homesickness.

Don’t let distance keep you disconnected

Connect with loved ones virtually through movies, games or even baking on Zoom. When you’re “Zoomed” out, you can always send messages to loved ones through the mail. Start simple with a handwritten letter, or have some fun organizing care packages.

Reconnect with someone you haven’t been in contact with

Combat homesickness directly by catching up with old friends. Check in with them, see how they are doing and learn about what they’ve been up to. This can take the form of a phone call, email exchange, video call, text message or social media message. While you’re at it, see if they are interested in planning virtual things to do together.

Socialize any chance you get

After you’ve sent some letters and set up some Zoom dates, make friends by getting to know some of the people in your classes or club meetings. When you get a break from your activity in a breakout room, ask questions such as, “What have you been doing for fun lately?”

Embrace alone time

Organize your space, pot a new plant or update your closet. Read a new book, try a new recipe or challenge yourself with an at-home workout. Whatever you do, cherish the freedom of hanging out with yourself. Alone time likely won’t last forever; you might as well enjoy it while you can.

These solutions won’t completely get rid of your homesickness. While you might feel pressure to avoid feeling down, it’s OK to be sad because you miss being around those you love. Accept these feelings as they are, without refusing to express them. And if crying doesn’t help, try screaming into a pillow, couch cushion or mattress. When you’re ready to get back up again, remember that even at your loneliest, you are not alone.

Contact Sera Smith at [email protected].