I feel lonely, homesick and struggling to settle in UK. How do I deal with this feeling?

"I miss my family and friends back in Pakistan a lot, especially during festive seasons," says a homesick expat

Haya Malik

Hi Haya,

It's been around three years since I arrived in England for my higher studies. While I finished my studies last year and began working after my graduation, I now feel really lonely, as I've been by myself since I landed here.

Even though I have work through the weekdays, the weekends feel fairly gloomy. I miss my family and friends back in Pakistan a lot, especially during festive seasons.

It's been a while but I find it challenging to get over the sinking feeling of not being able to see my loved ones before me all the time. How do I deal with this feeling. Please help.

— A struggling expat

I feel lonely, homesick and struggling to settle in UK. How do I deal with this feeling?

Dear struggling expat,

Living in a foreign country and feeling lonely when you're far away from home, away from your loved ones, especially during significant occasions can be difficult and challenging and brings about its own sets of challenges.

Adjusting can take some time and is a common experience that many individuals face, particularly when they are adjusting to a new environment.

Let’s have a look at how we can aid you in coping with these feelings of loneliness.

I hear a sense of pressure on yourself of not having the feeling of not missing them since it’s been a while since you’ve moved.

Who says adjusting has any timeline? What would it be like for you to acknowledge how you feel and allow yourself to miss them versus pressurising yourself into feeling otherwise.

I see that one of your core human needs of love and connection are not being met.

And while your family and friends are not there, and no one can replace them what are some other ways you can meet that need?

Perhaps you could use your weekends with the intention to create connection.

What are some ways you could do that?

Consider joining activities of interest to you (be it a hobby, gym class, book club, art therapy etc.) that could connect you with likeminded people, connect with people from your university or your community who are experiencing similar struggles.

Building relationships and creating connections and support systems in your current environment can help combat loneliness. In addition, try to stay connected with your family and friends via technology and encourage them to visit you if that’s an option.

I would encourage you to create meaningful routines over the weekend. Structure your weekends with things that bring you joy and fulfillment. Having a routine can give you a sense of purpose and prevent feelings of aimlessness.

In addition, cultivate a sense of gratitude for where you are at in life right now. While its natural to miss your friends and family, look at all the positive aspects of your situation. The opportunity and ability to pursue higher studies and work abroad. Practicing gratitude can shift your perspective and promote feelings of contentment.

Moving forward, if you know festive seasons are difficult for you, perhaps you could use your annual leaves to spend at home with family and friends during those times.

Identify what your needs are and find ways on how you can meet your needs in ways that suit you best.

Last but not least, I invite you to move from helplessness to ownership.

Helplessness is a state of mind and so is ownership. We can either be victim to our lives and live in pools of depressive states and helplessness or we can actively acknowledge where we are at in life and create a life of joy around that.

Both are hard and both are a choice. Choose your hard.

After doing all of the above, if you still feel you are unable to cope with how you’re feeling consider seeking professional help from a therapist who would be able to aid you in your journey.

Best of luck!

I feel lonely, homesick and struggling to settle in UK. How do I deal with this feeling?

Haya Malik is a psychotherapist, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner, corporate well-being strategist and trainer with expertise in creating organisational cultures focused on well-being and raising awareness around mental health.

Send her your questions to [email protected]

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