With most assignments lasting thirteen weeks — and some even longer — it’s no surprise travel nurses get homesick. Whether it’s nostalgia, missing family or friends, or just general sadness, homesickness can make life feel difficult and lonely. Don’t fret: there are ways to manage homesickness. Read on for how.
Bring a reminder of home with you
A tried-and-true way to deal with homesickness is to bring an object from home along with you. Since you’re probably trying to pack as lightly as possible, keep it a small token. A few ideas:
- A pillowcase. You’ll sleep better touching the sheets you’re used to and making your bed look like home. A pillowcase is a great choice if you’re pressed for space — folded up, it’s no bigger than a T-shirt.
- A favorite mug. Again, familiarity is key. If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll be using it every morning. Start your day with a comforting reminder of home.
- A plant. Keeping one with you as you move from home to assignment is a good way to “root” yourself in each new location. With the ritual of watering, you’ll have continuity from place to place. Wherever you go, the plant goes with you. It needs you. Think of it as a pet — only with much less hassle.
Evoke comforting memories
Sensory experiences are linked to memory recall, especially smell.
Consider getting a state-specific candle designed to give off the lovely scents of home – from the magnolia blossoms of Tennessee to the pine trees of Maine.
Or, create a visual reminder of friends and family by making a customized photo phone case, jewelry piece, or bookmark.
Stay connected . . .
Communication is an absolute must to maintain your relationships with the people you love back home. Talking can also pick up your spirits when you’re missing a familiar face or laugh. This is when our hyper-connected world will really work for you.
- Phone calls and texting are the simplest and most convenient ways to stay in touch. Schedule a time to chat — and stick to it. Those regular connections will help you feel connected to the people you love, no matter where you are.
- Social media is a quick way to see what’s going on with your loved ones. See engagement announcements, photos of vacations, and children’s school photos on Facebook or Instagram. (Be careful to use social media in moderation, though. Overuse can trigger sadness and isolation —and more.)
- Video calling will let you see friends in real time. Try Duo or Skype and give your friends and family a walking tour around your new apartment or just enjoy seeing those familiar smiles.
And don’t rule out old-fashioned letter-writing, too. Exchanging handwritten notes between friends can make you feel distinctly close. They also generate happiness and personal connection, among other benefits.
. . . and make new friends
While it’s essential to stay in touch with loved ones back home, it’s also important to build new relationships. A recent study showed face-to-face social interactions have unbeatable mental health benefits. Those who met up with friends three times a week had the lowest risk of developing depressive symptoms.
You might think of your new friendships as “camp” friendships — simple, low-commitment, and based mostly on fun. Here’s how to meet folks, no matter where you are:
- Rally your fellow nurses. You’ve got a lot in common, and shared experiences are the basis for friendships. Ask everyone out for happy hour or grab a meal with someone you click with.
- Try Meet Up. The website helps you locate groups in your area based on interests. It’s divided into categories that include music, sports and fitness, LBGTQ, and book clubs — just to name a few.
- Volunteer. You’ll meet fellow volunteers and bond over the shared experience of helping others out. Volunteer Match can hook you up with an opportunity.
- Challenge yourself to reach out to at least one new person a day. Chance meetings and coincidences lead to some of life’s greatest friendships. That person in front of you at the coffee shop may one day be your closest confidante.
Go on an adventure
If you find you’re in a rut, try re-imagining your assignment as an opportunity for travel. Use your free time to explore your surroundings and discover new foods, sights, and cultural activities. Check out some tips for vacationing on a budget and look for attractions near you through TripAdvisor or another travel website.
Another good tip to nip homesickness? See if a friend from home is interested in meeting up for your adventure. You’ll integrate the friendship with your new surroundings and get a dose of hometown love.
Keep up routines and traditions
Eat pizza and watch a movie every Friday night? Run two miles every morning? Go to church? Whatever your “norms” are, stick with them on the road. This will help create a sense of continuity in your life. These routines don’t have to be overly social. While most people associate homesickness with loneliness, it can also be caused simply by changes in your day-to-day schedule. Keeping yourself busy in familiar ways will improve your overall wellbeing.
Finally, practice self-care
Dinner out at a five-star restaurant? Massage? Why not! Treat yourself to a pick-me-up to take your mind off homesickness and reap other benefits too. For more ideas, see our 23 Ideas for an Amazing Summer of Self-Care.
Remember, homesickness is a natural part of a life of professional travel. Recognizing it and taking steps to reduce it is a great act of self-care!