Medication is not always the answer to curing mental health illnesses, but neither is ignorance. Homesickness is a real thing, and it can destroy an athlete and make them quit their profession, so let’s talk about how athletes can manage this obstacle.
Before diving into the strategies, I would like to recommend a mini-documentary I watched called “table talk,” presented by Euroleague basketball. In the 26 minutes long episode, professional athletes talked about how all of them experienced one thing, homesickness, and how they handled it. I am highlighting this because I want to make sure athletes understand that they aren’t alone. This topic is not something athletes go around and brag about, but it is imperative to highlight.
When talking about sports psychology, we aren’t only talking about what makes you a better athlete. We are talking about all the things around that distract you from growing into your fullest potential. Furthermore, over 90% of professional athletes have had to move away from home to become professionals. Very few athletes might have had the chance to stay in their hometown. For the majority, a new town, state, country, and even continent has been inescapable.
On top of the glam of living in another country and experiencing new cultures, there is this thing called homesickness that creeps up on every single athlete at some point. Regardless of the intensity of homesickness, when it occurs, and how long the athlete experiences these signs, the athlete should never ignore the symptoms. It is necessary to do something about it for the athlete’s well-being/performance.
Before you start applying the methods that I have in mind, you have to evaluate yourself. Recognize your homesickness and be ready to respond to it or ask for help if you can’t do anything about it yourself. First of all, be aware of your physical, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional state. Are you sleeping enough? Are you experiencing appetite loss or fatigue? Are your thoughts obsessive or negative? Do you feel absentmindedness? Are you avoiding new environments? Do you feel apathy? Lastly, are there any signs of depressed mood, insecurity, nervousness, or loneliness? If your answer is YES to any of these, make sure to talk to your trainer/coach/doctor and diagnose what the underlying issue is to your situation.
Now, let’s define what homesickness looks like to you. Then write down a list of things that you like to do when you are home and see if there is a chance that you would do any of those things where you are right at the moment. For example, cook, read, go out for a walk, visit new cafes, go to escape rooms, go to museums, draw, paint, sing, design clothes/shoes/fabrics/jewelry, play around with photos, make movies, play videogames. Now you can start applying my tricks.
TOP 10 TRICKS
- Go out for a walk by yourself or with a teammate/friend.
- Pick a day in the week where you and your teammate/friend go and do something that has nothing to do with the sport you’re playing.
- Pick a few things off your list that you wrote down earlier and try to do at least one of them every single day.
- Make it your goal to learn something new every week/month/six months/year (could be a new language/skill)
- Grow yourself, start working on your mental strategies for becoming a better version of yourself.
- Start to write a diary or letters/notes to yourself, or let your imagination take over and let your fingers write what comes to your mind at least two or three times a week.
- Ask yourself how you can maximize this time alone and make the best of it before you go home.
- Instead of counting the days until you go home, make the days count and be productive between practices.
- Educate yourself, use your laptop and watch documentaries/read books that you can learn something from.
- Make a local bucket list, keep yourself busy and your mind occupied with healthy distractions.
Until next week, write down a list of things you like to do that might help you with your homesickness when it strikes.