Dr Selma Varghese
Homesickness is a condition familiar in today’s world. Homesickness is a commonly experienced state of distress among those who have left their house and home and find themselves in a new and unfamiliar environment. Its generally represented as an intense longing for home accompanied by a depressive mood and a variety of somatic complaints. Moving away from home has always led most people to feel homesick. Leaving a familiar environment in order to resettle somewhere else implies numerous changes, losses and adjustments. Changes in rules, habits and routines, loss of friends, family, home and possessions, and adjustments to new living conditions and new rules. These all require adequate coping resources and energy from the individual. A typical reaction to the separation from home is missing home and yearning for home, the so-called grieving for home or homesickness.
Treating homesickness involves normalizing homesickness, coaching young people on effective ways to cope, working on building new social connections, helping them keep some perspective on the duration of the separation, and involving them with the new environment in meaningful ways that enhance their commitment to it.
- Do something fun, such as play with friends, to forget about homesick feelings (distraction and social connection).
- Do something (write a letter, look at a family picture) to feel closer to home (contact with home).
- Go see someone who can talk with you to help you feel better (social support).
- Think about the good side of things (activities, friends) to feel better (optimism).
- Think that time away is actually pretty short to make time go by faster (perspective).
- Try not to think about home and loved ones to forget about homesickness (cognitive avoidance).
- Think about loved ones to figure out what they would say to help (vicarious social support).
Doing nothing because of a belief that nothing would help make things better (relinquished control).
WAYS OF COPING
The most effective way of coping with homesickness is mixed and layered. Mixed coping is that which involves both primary goals (changing circumstances) and secondary goals (adjusting to circumstances). Layered coping is that which involves more than one method. This kind of sophisticated coping is learned through experience, such as brief periods away from home without parents. As an example of mixed and layered coping, one study revealed the following method-goal combinations to be the most frequent and effective ways boys and girls.
- Doing something fun (observable method) to forget about being homesick (secondary goal)
- Thinking positively and feel grateful (unobservable method) to feel better (secondary goal)
- Simply changing feelings and attitudes (unobservable method) to be happy (secondary goal)
- Reframing time (unobservable method) in order to perceive the time away as shorter (secondary goal)
- Renewing a connection with home, through letter writing (observable method) to feel closer to home (secondary goal)
- Talking with someone (observable method) who could provide support and help me make new friends (primary goal)
Sometimes, people will engage in wishful thinking, attempt to arrange a shorter stay or (rarely) break rules or act violently in order to be sent home. These ways of coping are rarely effective and can produce unintended negative side effects.
There are quite a few homeopathic remedies to help relieve the feelings of homesickness, and the following are some of the most common:
Arnica: Though not usually thought of as a homesickness remedy, Arnica addresses shock of many kinds, and every emergency kit should keep this on top. If the separation is shocking, hugely upsetting, repeated in the mind (“I can’t stop seeing them come to take me away…”), or an emotional “blow” to the heart and soul, consider Arnica.
Aurum metallicum: Literally the gold standard of remedies for sadness, longing, and melancholy, this remedy appears in the repertory rubric, “Mind, Sadness, pining in boys.” The child who needs Aurum feels profoundly forsaken and responds with despondency and self-reproach, believing he has done something horrible to deserve the abandonment. The child might desire open air and can be irascible, unyielding, and taciturn.
Belladonna: This remedy can be useful for the person whose homesickness symptoms are vigorous and volatile. Are acutely sensitive, have nightmares, and be surprisingly agitated, even violent without clear cause. Symptoms come and go suddenly. The person may experience and demonstrate an urgent need to escape (a child at camp may try to run away, for example). The person may crave lemons or lemonade and cold food. They tend to be averse to water, to be aggravated by light, noise, and touch, and to have right-sided symptoms, spiking fevers, and redness of the face. This remedy may need to be differentiated from Capsicum.
Bryonia alba:Delirium: talks constantly about his business; desire to get out of bed and go home
Capsicum annuum: This is one of the most important remedies to consider when a person’s homesickness is accompanied by sleeplessness and red cheeks. The person may want to be alone. They may be cross and unable to concentrate. Often, children who need this remedy cannot study or work and will unceasingly complain that they want to go home. The person may look a bit like they need Belladonna, but they are more obstinate and sullen, and they show a diminishing of reaction. The redness of Capsicum is cold to the touch (“false plethora” as it’s called in the old books), whereas the flush of Belladonna is burning hot.
Gelsemium: This is a wonderful gift for a person who is terrified of having to perform, an issue that may surface strongly when a child is away from home for the first time or an adult is traveling on business for an important engagement.
Ignatia: The premiere homesickness remedy, it is indicated in people who are agitated, overwhelmed, and upset; sometimes to the point of “hysteria” (e.g., fainting or dramatic mood swings). Worse from stress, coffee, and cold air and may have fevers, headaches that feel like nails driven into the skull, or other physical symptoms that can be traced back to a disappointment, separation, grief, shock, or trauma. They sigh a great deal and feel disconnected from what is going on. For that reason, they may be heard saying, “I just can’t believe…” Do not like consolation, but are not made angry by consolation. Longing after his friends; inward grief; flat watery taste of all food; gone feeling in stomach, not relieved by eating; brooding in solitude over her imaginary grief and disappointments.
Phosphoricum acidum: The homesick person is prostrate with grief and hopelessness. On the surface they may seem apathetic and mentally unfocused, although the longing is right under the surface. The person may speak and respond quite slowly. Their pain results in a sad kind of resignation, and they appear to be what people commonly call “depressed.” Low spirited and anxious about the future, they may lose their appetite.
Pulsatilla: This is an effective remedy for those who feel lonely, forsaken, and weepy. They are as sad as sad can be and give homesickness a truly poignant cast. They cry easily, and they feel better from consolation, touch, company, and sympathy. They may develop a cold with a thick or yellow nasal discharge. They feel all alone in the world and may elicit in others a need to nurture and protect them. They may be indecisive and reach out for help and reassurance.
Sorrowful feeling as if left alone, cannot be consoled; fearful in the dark; easily frightened and low-spirited, especially mornings.
Feels homesick when at home with her family; sighing; sick- headache; choking fulness of throat, must swallow often; bowels loose; constant desire to urinate; restless and moaning; weak, tired and faint, with urinary symptoms
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