Written by: Hader Farhan, MSc Occupational Therapy (registered occupational therapist).
You’ve embarked on this new journey of moving to Canada. Your perseverance, trust and hope for a promising future have led you to this point in life. It’s a time when you can finally start calling Canada home. But then why is there this aching feeling of longing for the place you used to call home. You might start reminiscing the memories and laughter that you once shared with your loved ones back home. But then you also try to shake it off and appreciate where you are currently and remind yourself that Canada is now home. You might ask, “Why am I feeling this way?”
I can tell you that you are not alone; this feeling of homesickness is completely normal. Longing for a community, friends and family that are familiar to you is very normal and is, in fact, essential. Establishing roots in a new country takes time, patience and support.
The winter months in Canada can feel very long, and with little light during the day, days can feel relatively shorter. Many people experience “winter blues,” especially moving to a country where the cold weather takes up the majority of the year and is a part of life. So, here are some tips to help you cope with winter blues and homesickness.
Stay active and get some sunlight
One of the very first instincts we might resort to is staying inside and avoiding the cold. A way to battle this thought process is to go on a walk or take up some sort of physical activity at least once a day. Putting on a few extra layers of clothing and comfy warm boots and making the most out of the sunlight during the day can have tremendous benefits: it allows you to familiarize yourself with your neighbourhood, get some physical activity, and soak in some Vitamin D and fresh air. Getting your body moving also has a direct impact on your mood and emotions. This change of environment once a day can help set a positive tone for the rest of your day.
Follow a routine
Humans are creatures of habits and routines. As you settle in a new country, being intentional with the routines you set for yourself during these cold months can be very beneficial. It might feel like the experience of homesickness will last a lifetime, and it’s easy to get stuck in that thought process.
For this reason, having a routine where you feel occupied with tasks you have chosen will reinforce in us that we can build a sense of normalcy in our new home. Keep a small journal or calendar and make a note of the tasks you would want to accomplish for the day. And as the day goes on, check off each task. This will reassure you that even though your surroundings have changed, you still have control over how your day can look like.
Include meaningful activities in your schedule
Meaningful activities can prove to be a source of relief and healing during difficult times. Therefore, make it a point to intentionally include them in your daily schedule. Choose an activity such as cooking a traditional meal, painting, writing, fixing an item in your home. Find one that brings you comfort and joy.
Moving to an unfamiliar country can result in feelings of loss of control over what is around us. Choosing a meaningful activity or task you are comfortable with will remind you of the capacity you hold and the control you have over certain parts of your life. Participating in your chosen activity can help remind you that you are an agent of your situation and not a victim. Taking up meaningful activities can be a very motivating and rewarding exercise for yourself.
Seek and share support
It is worthwhile to remind yourself that your journey to Canada does not have to be lonely. You can always reach out for support and also provide support to others experiencing similar emotions. This sense of belonging and feeling understood is a huge factor that allows people to achieve positive outcomes. Reach out to others: you could reconnect with an old friend settled here or chat with a new friend. Find people from your own ethnic background who have moved here before you. They may be able to help support and point you to some things that could provide comfort far from home, such as places where you can find food from your region or experience the culture from home. You can also seek assistance from a therapist or counsellor. A therapist or counsellor allows you to express your thoughts, emotions, create a plan together and connect you to the resources you have in your community.
Your journey to Canada may seem difficult, and it can feel like a lonely road ahead. Try to remind yourself of the steps you have already accomplished thus far because those are also worth celebrating. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Remember to allow yourself to feel the emotions you feel while also believing that this too will pass, one step at a time. Fill your daily schedule with a routine that reflects your goals, including the activities you enjoy and spend time with people who support you. You will then begin to settle in with ease.
Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues can be challenging to talk about with others, especially when it is not in your first language. Check out PsyMood, a digital tool designed to help you find the support you need in the language that you are most comfortable with. PsyMood considers cultural background, geographical location, interests, and personal needs, amongst other factors, to pair you with service providers for either online or in-person therapy sessions.
About Hader Farhan
Hader is a Registered Occupational Therapist in Ontario, Canada. She is originally from the Middle East and has completed her undergraduate degree in the field of Early Childhood Studies with an emphasis on children with disabilities. Hader has worked with educators and families from various cultural backgrounds. She also has her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Queens University. She believes that the daily occupations we engage in bring us purpose, meaning and fulfillment in our lives.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect RBC’s opinion or position.