Whether you spent your high school career bouncing from school to school or haven’t left home in ten years, everyone who comes to college experiences some level of homesickness. I took a gap year after high school, of which ten or eleven months were spent in foreign countries, and even I wasn’t immune. Maybe you get sick, maybe you fail a test, maybe your roommate is just a big fat jerk, but inevitably, the doom and glooms will get you.
That’s where this lesson comes in. I have discovered that when I’m down in the dumps, I often can’t remember how to pull myself out. Sometimes anxiety has a root that can be addressed (e.g. too much homework), which is definitely easier. But when you just have a bad day, you’re feeling junk and everything’s going wrong, you need someone or something to take care of you. Now, if you live 15 minutes from school, you can trot on home and refill on mommy-love. But if you’re like me, and your mom is 3,000 miles away, and a phone-call pep talk just isn’t enough, you have to suck it up and take care of yourself. The best thing, I have found, is to figure out very concretely what makes you happy. This is probably easier when you’re already happy, but there are specific things that work better when you desperately need a pick-me-up. For example, hanging out with my friends makes me happy, but when I’m miserable and weepy, I just want to be by myself. So, sit down, take a breath, and remember how it feels to feel like crap.
What clothes are you most comfortable in? What movie do you watch when you’re sick and curled up on the couch at home? What is your favorite comfort food? What are easy things to do that make you feel better about yourself? Do you like running on a treadmill or reading in bed? Brainstorm the things you do to comfort yourself. You may not even realize how easy they are to do!
For inspiration, or at least encouragement, here’s my list:
Who doesn’t like to feel clean and warm? If you have the option, a hot bath can be lovely, too.
Again, who doesn’t like comfy clothes? My bright yellow fleece penguin pants make everything better.
I am 22, I like stuffed animals, and I AM PROUD.
The ultimate brain-escape: I get to use segments of knowledge that don’t get accessed much for hyper-specific college courses, and I get to learn new things at the same time.
Hot milk with honey
I feel cozy just thinking about it.
Like I said, it’s usually not enough on its own, but it definitely helps!
I have these super-thick, “house-slipper”-type fuzzy socks with rubber dots on the bottom for traction. 100% would recommend.
Lying in bed
It’s an escape from the world. Helps if you have extra-comfy pillows and a super-snuggly blanket or two.
Reading comic books
Light reading is always good for me – I don’t have a lot of excess brain power after three hours of Chebyshev’s Inequality and Villanovan hut urns.
This is particularly useful when I’m actively upset. They’re loud, exciting, and a great way to get out of my head.
Cleaning my inbox
When you enter college, the number of emails you get on the day-to-day EXPLODES. Cleaning my inbox is very low-stress, and I can do it without much effort, but I still feel like I’ve accomplished something when I’m done.
Yogurt and berries
This is something I eat anyway, but I love it, it’s pretty healthy (so I don’t feel like all my good eating habits go down the tubes when life sucks), and it’s something I ate a lot as a kid, so it’s a nice reminder of home.
The Princess Bride, The Incredibles, Amelie, Lord of the Rings, and the Lion King
These may seem all over the place, but they’re the movies I watched over and over again during my childhood and up through high school whenever I got sick. Sometimes being sad just needs to be treated like any other illness.
Now, once you have your list down, evaluate it for honesty. This has nothing to do with anyone else – it’s for you when you’re at your worst, so make sure it covers all your bases. Don’t worry about what other people would think, or even what your parents would say. This is for YOU, so how you feel is all that matters.
I recommend updating it at least once a year. In college, where you live, who you live with, and how you spend your time will vary widely, so adjusting your self-care regimen to your current lifestyle is key. Mine changes every semester, though only slightly. Don’t be surprised if some things stay the same: not everything changes in college!
ONE MORE THING: my mom and I were comparing our lists (she helped me make my first one), and there’s one on her list I think everyone should do.
Make a list of what is great about you, and great things you have done
These are so very hard to remember when you’re feeling down, but knowing that you recorded them because you believe them is very powerful. It’s like a self-pep-talk.
Take care of yourself and FEEL BETTER!