You don’t have to be a homebody to get homesick when you’re away. Whether you’re traveling for work or heading off to college, it’s common to feel some level of stress when leaving home for extended periods of time, said Yusra Aziz, a Pennsylvania-based psychotherapist and founder of Our Healing Vision Counseling.
“When many of us think of ‘home’ ideally, we think of a feeling that is comfortable, familiar and safe,” Aziz told HuffPost. “Leaving for a period of time might be filled with a lot of layered feelings. Even with all of the planning in the world, there’s often still an element of ‘unknown.’”
Tania Czarnecki, a clinical psychologist and executive director of the counseling center at Drexel University, agreed that homesickness is a common and shared experience for many people, though experiences can vary. “Individuals differ in the intensity and duration of their homesickness,” she said. If you traveled a lot in your childhood or are used to going to overnight camps or boarding school, she said, you may be more adjusted to spending long periods of time away from home later in life.
While it’s completely common to feel pangs of homesickness or worry about going to a new place, Czarnecki said that if you find yourself feeling overcome with anxiety or lonely and isolated in your feelings, she recommends talking to a mental health professional such as a counselor or therapist. For college kids in particular, Czarnecki pointed out that many campuses have their own wellness centers that may have options for you to speak with someone or offer safer places for you to unwind.
If you or a loved one is gearing up to leave home for a while, these experts shared some items to keep with you to help navigate anxiety and homesickness.
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A portable phone charger to ensure you always have battery
While it may seem obvious, psychotherapist Grace Huntley
said that your phone can help ease anxiety when you're away. "A great way of crushing some of the anxiety and isolation that arises in new environments can be to remind yourself of your networks and connections back home," Huntley told HuffPost. "Having a digital lifeline can make a huge difference during these times."
To ensure that your phone is charged when you need it, I love, recommend and personally bought this tiny portable charger that's about the size of a tube of lipstick. It has saved me many a long night or weird travel day where there is not an outlet in sight. As a bonus, you can still use your phone pretty easily as its charging.
Headphones for calming music or audiobooks
In addition to a charged phone, clinical psychologist Tania Czarnecki
and psychotherapist Yusra Aziz
both recommend keeping headphones with you at all times. If you feel overstimulated or overwhelmed, the experts said, headphones can help you recenter, quiet the outside world and let you listen to a calming playlist, podcast or audiobook that you like.
If you haven't snagged a pair of AirPod Pros (left) yet, you'll probably want them before you leave home. They have active noise-canceling and up to 30 hours of listening time per charge, as the case also works as a charger. They automatically sync with your iPhone or other Mac devices and are super easy to wear on the go.
For backup/security blanket headphones, we love the wired Apple headphones (right) that already have the lighting plug built in so you never need a dongle. You don't need to remember to charge them or deal with a Bluetooth connection, so they're always ready when you need them. As they're more affordable than wireless headphones, you can buy yourself a couple of pairs to keep around, ensuring you always have headphones in your bag, car or anywhere else.
A set of two roll-on lavender essential oils
All three experts recommend aromatherapy or using essential oils to help calm your nerves and help you feel more present and less anxious. "Aromatherapy works well,
and you can find small jars of essential oils to rub on your wrist," Czarnecki said. "Lavender has been shown to decrease anxiety
Based on her recommendation, we found this roll-on lavender oil that's been pre-diluted with coconut oil so it's safe to put directly on your wrists.
A journal to express yourself
"Another way of combating anxiety and emotionally regulating is to bring a small journal," Huntley said. "That way as you explore a new place, you have an outlet for any emotions that arise, and a way to process things, even when you’re traveling solo."
We chose this extremely highly-rated journal from Amazon that’s available in 15 attractive colors.
Your favorite tea (and a kettle to make it)
Aziz says that having low blood sugar can amplify feelings of nerves and uneasiness, and encourages you to carry a granola bar or other portable snack or treat that you like with you if you feel yourself getting peckish. She also recommends getting into a tea routine and keeping different types of tea around, to soothe and enrich your senses. "Tea has been used for centuries by various cultures all over the world as a way to slow down and feel calmer," she said. "Personally, I’m also a big fan of any mint tea, ginger, lemon verbena, chamomile, etc. tea." To really make your tea time special, Aziz recommends bringing your favorite mug from home or a mug from a place in your home town so you always feel connected.
Based on Aziz’s recommendations, we found this popular electric kettle that comes in a host of cool colors (including green
and hot pink
). We'd also suggest this 40-pack of Twinings tea to find your ultimate comfort blend.
String lights for homey lighting
Czarnecki, who works at Drexel University, said that if you're feeling anxious away from home, the goal is to make your dorm or new apartment feel like "a comforting, soothing refuge." She said that Drexel students enjoy the string lights at the wellness room in the counseling center, as they aren't as bright or sterile as overhead lighting and can be adjusted to fit your mood. We suggest trying these popular string lights from Amazon — reviewers say that they're easy to install
A floor cushion or meditation pillow
Per Czarnecki, the wellness room at the Drexel University counseling center has meditation pillows and floor cushions that students enjoy resting on. Having a floor pillow or a comfy place to sit can bring a homey vibe to a new space, and also can remind and invite you to take a minute to breathe and process. "Practicing mindfulness and being present can help with anxiety," said. We like this option from Amazon that's available in five intricate patterns.
A set of Mindfulness Cards
To bring some soothing zen feelings on the go, Czarnecki recommends carrying some Mindfulness Cards with you, in your wallet or bag, to encourage you to take a moment to slow down and breathe if you're having a high-anxiety day. This beloved deck comes with over 50 prompts to help you bring mindfulness into every day.
Czarnecki and Aziz both recommend bringing a little green into your new space. "Plants are always soothing," Czarnecki said. "It would be helpful to get something that requires low light and low effort, like bamboo, since you will likely be quite busy."
Fidget jewelry that's actually cute
"Fidget jewelry works great and can be discreet, if you like wearing jewelry," Czarnecki said. "Worry or spinner rings work by allowing you to spin around one of the bands, which can help ground you. We have given these out before as swag, and students seem to really love these."
We love these highly-rated spinning sterling steel rings from Portland, Oregon-based Jewels Hype. They come in four styles as pictured, in a variety of sizes and are totally cute on their own or worn with other rings.
A display box for memories and things from home
Czarnecki's best tip on setting up your new or temporary living space? Think about how much stuff from home you want on display. "Ask yourself, 'Would it be more helpful to have some items that remind me of home, or would having a few familiar items from home be too difficult while transitioning from home to a new environment?" If having photos or memories makes you feel more homesick, Czarnecki said you may want to opt for decor that's just nice looking and not sentimental. However, if you feel like having little touches of home, all the experts recommend bringing soothing items with you, like an old sports jersey, printed photos, a menu from a beloved take-out spot or other little trinkets.
Something like this highly-rated shadow box can help you protect and display sentimental items without dominating your entire room.