Tips for anchoring yourself when you’re feeling lost in a new place, or otherwise feeling unmoored.
Let me introduce the setting: I am living in a country where I do not speak the language, and my home is 8000 kilometres away. I am on a study abroad term in Berlin, Germany; it’s the first time that I’ve moved away from my home city. Although I love this new place, sometimes I get hit with that floaty feeling. The ties to my old favourite places and people have slipped out of their knots, leaving me disconnected and drifting.
This isn’t a completely new sensation: I’ve felt it during expansive summers during high school, or when friendships faded away, and especially so when I first moved out into my own place. I feel floaty when I go a couple days without talking to people, or when my schedules gets too hectic and I have no opportunity to recharge. I’m sure that you’ve felt it too, however it may manifest.
It can be hard to shake that floaty feeling, especially when the situation’s tough and your own mental health takes a toll. However I have been trying to instil a few self-care practices whenever I am feeling restless and unmoored.
In unsure times, when I feel insecure and lost, I try to care for myself in the way that I would a small child. What are her favourite things that I can provide? What will make her feel safe and at home? The goal is to treat inner me gently, rather than judgmentally.
My tactic is to assemble a toolkit of things that will give me sense of protection against the feeling of being lost. Here are some of my personal anchors that keep me grounded, and I hope that you’ll find them useful whenever you are feeling unmoored. They may seem obvious. But sometimes, I find that I need a little reminder of all the intentional actions I can take to boost my well-being.
If you have people in your life who you truly trust and feel comfortable around, reach out to them. Even though this can be really hard when you feel down, a quick call or text can do wonders when it’s in conversation with a loved one. If you feel uncomfortable opening up to a loved one about everything, just check in with them and ask about their life, or send them some well-wishes. Opening up your world to others can be really grounding and a positive way to get you out of your own head.
If you don’t have people in your life that can provide you with support, other avenues are an option too: online pals, posting in social media groups/threads, even a diary. Regardless of who you reach out to, remember that empathy one is a two-way street: in order to have access to the emotional labour and support of somebody else, you have to be prepared to give it too.
Hopefully you’ve got a favourite book or writer, one where every read feels like a warm blanket has enveloped over your body to soothe you. Jillian Tamaki and Morgan Jerkins are two of my current favourite people making wonderful work right now. A trip back to the books and movies of your childhood and adolescence (hello, Harry Potter) is usually a surefire bet too.
I also like to tune into podcasts when I’m feeling alone: ones with hosts whose spirited banter make you feel like they’re your friends. Another Round, Call Your Girlfriend, and The Imposter are some of my favourites, whose personable hosts are just as important as their entertaining content.
Think of songs that are more than just familiar: try to find music that makes you feel like you’re getting to know parts of yourself when you listen. What albums and artists give you energy and comfort? On my personal playlist: Mitski, Arcade Fire, Beach House, Lorde, and The Courtneys.
Dive into some comfort food: not only is it sustenance, but it is such an important part of our personal culture that I think is often overlooked. Channeling your energy into the repetitive, ritualistic practices of cooking can work wonders on your mood. Try making a family recipe that will remind you of home, or a favourite dish from your childhood. Seek out the cuisine of your cultural background, and explore who you are through what you eat. Exploring food through the lens of grounding yourself can be an intentional form of making yourself feel at home.
When The Tables Are Turned
If somebody in your life is struggling, or if you think they need a dose of comfort, consider thinking about kinds of things would anchor them from the above categories. If you’re stumped, here are some ideas:
• Send them something via snail mail: a postcard or some candy can be a really sweet surprise.
• Rent a movie by their favourite director and send it to them on iTunes.
• Make them a personal playlist and add some personal anecdotes as captions to each song.
• Send them a document with internet ephemera (memes, videos, articles, blogs) that remind you of them.
• Leave them a voice message: a story about your relationship, some encouragement, or whatever comes on your mind.
I’ll admit that all the advice I’m giving here is equally a reminder to myself to always take care, to make myself a home wherever I am. I hope it comes in handy next time that you’re feeling a little lost.