Managing the Emotional Stress of a Long-Distance Move

Moving is a big job, and it can take a toll on you – physically, emotionally, and socially. There are so many moving parts (no pun intended); so many balls to keep in the air, that it is a recipe for anxiety and depression even amongst the most mentally healthy of us. In fact, there is even a name for it – relocation depression. Why is moving so hard, and how can you cope with the emotional stress?

Why is Moving So Stressful?

They say that moving is right up there on the stress scale with death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, and other traumatic events. On the surface, it is hard to equate moving to a new home with losing someone we love, but there are similarities in the feelings we experience. In both situations, core aspects of our lives are either being removed or disrupted. Losing a parent, spouse, or child, for example, takes away from us someone who is central to our being and an intensely personal part of our lives. Similarly, moving to a new place takes away one of our most deeply-rooted sources of safety and comfort – our familiar environment. Our home is a place of security. It is a private space that is, in essence, an extension of ourselves. It is where we return to celebrate our wins, and where we go to regroup and feel protected during difficult times. In short, the home is the center; the hub of the wheel that is our life. Just as the spokes of a wheel go out from the hub in every direction, everything we do ultimately begins and ends at home.

We are Creatures of Habit

As strong and as smart as we think we are, we humans are actually very fragile in the greater scheme of the universe. And, we are not happy with the unknown and uncontrollable. We feel a need to create a sense of order where we can. So, we develop routines. Routines are our anchors in a world that is like an ocean of competing currents and dangerous riptides. We use them to help us control our environment, and manage our days. In fact, routines are so integral to balancing our lives, that we often dont even realize we are following them. We just do. When we are moving long distance, we must physically deconstruct our homes, and often, we must emotionally detach from important relationships. If we are moving for a new job, then we add the unknowns of a new workplace, new coworkers, and new expectations to meet. Pile onto that the need to make new friends, and navigate strange places, and you have a perfect storm of disruption. With all that, is it any wonder that moving has such a profound effect on us? If it all seems like too much, don’t worry. There are ways to minimize anxiety and relocation depression.

Organization is Key

You can prepare for many aspects of moving in advance. No, you cant make friends or experience a new job before the time comes. However, if you prepare well in the ways you can, it may be easier to deal with the rest when you need to. If moving is stressful, then how much more so is preparing to move when you are crunched for time? So, if you have time before your move, use it wisely. For example, as soon as you make the decision to move, you can:
  • start a checklist of tasks you need to complete (and when you want them done);
  • sort and pack any items you dont use on a regular basis; and
  • learn as much as you can about your new location.
Keeping your home and belongings physically organized before and during the move will reduce stress. Gathering information that helps de-mystify your new surroundings will help, as well.

Stay Focused and Keep a Clear Head

You know you are starting a stressful process, so be on your guard. Pay attention to your feelings. When you are not focused, it is easy to allow your feelings to control your thoughts. That’s not good. Why? Because feelings are often irrational and exaggerated, and they fuel our fears. This, in turn, fuels anxiety. So, instead, do the opposite! Try to make your thoughts control your feelings. They say that the head should rule the heart, and it’s true. When you examine your feelings in a cool, rational way, you will find it is easier to keep yourself from blowing them out of proportion.

Have Confidence!

Yes, you have a lot to do. Yes, it can be overwhelming, and even scary. But, feeling confident is half the battle. The truth is, anxiety and depression are real, but they come from within and you can control them. Deep down, you know you’ve got this covered! So, stay calm, take a breath, and go forth. Here’s to a peaceful and successful move.