How to Cope with the Stress of Moving
Moving homes is a fact of life. It’s common to move locally several times in one’s life, and for some, moving long distance to a new town, city, or even province more than once in their lifetime is also quite common. But, unfortunately, knowing that we’ll all have to move at some point doesn’t make the process and transition any easier or less stressful.
Uprooting your life, or even just changing homes and dealing with all the logistics and work that goes into a move, is disruptive and stressful whatever your age or situation. But, understanding why you’re feeling stressed and learning how to cope with the stress of moving can help. By recognizing and eliminating some of the anxiety caused by moving, you can regain a sense of adventure and feel the excitement of a new start.
Why is moving stressful?
Before you can learn to cope with the stress of moving, you need to understand why the experience causes these types of feelings and reactions. There are several possible reasons, and those that apply to you will depend on your reason for moving, your personality, and other factors:
- DISRUPTION: Moving means change, and change inherently causes stress. A move is going to change your daily routine and add a number of tasks to your day until you’re settled in your new home. The moving process can take weeks and life doesn’t stop for it, so most of us still have to work or manage family obligations like getting kids to school and activities at the same time. All this can add even more stress to your daily life.
- WORRIES: If you’ll be moving away from friends and family, it’s normal to feel worried about how life will be in your new city. You may also have fears about making connections in your new community and feeling comfortable in your new home. Worries can also relate to the short term, such as concerns about the moving process itself and some of the cost uncertainties. Regardless of the distance you’re moving there’s always a lot involved in the process. Finding a moving company, sorting and packing your belongings, getting everything to your new home and then unpacking and getting settled are only a few of the things you’ll have to do. You’ll also have to update and change your home service providers, update banks and doctors, and if you have children you may also have to enroll them in a new school or find childcare in your new location.
- EXHAUSTION: Planning and sorting out the many aspects of your move can become mentally tiring. Plus, there’s the physical labour of sorting and packing your possessions into boxes, moving them, and then unpacking in your new home. It’s also common for there to be late nights and early mornings throughout the process. So, feeling tired, overwhelmed and exhausted is normal.
- DOUBTS: You may wonder if you’ve made the right decision about moving. You may question whether you should have stayed in your current home or neighbourhood or if you should have chosen a different location. It’s normal to have doubts about big life decisions and purchases like buying and selling a new home and moving.
- LIFE CHANGES: Your reason for moving can also be due to a significant change in your life. It could be a good thing like a new job or a new addition to the family, but it can also be a more challenging life change that you didn’t foresee such as divorce, loss of a job or a death in the family. These changes can be stressful on their own, so when they’re combined with a move, the effects can be compounded and your stress level amplified.
Once you’ve identified the reasons and causes of your stress, you can develop strategies to combat the problem. In this article we’ll explore different reasons for moving (listed below), the types of stress they might cause, and tips to combat that stress and feel better about your move.
How to Cope with Typical Moving Stress
While every move has a reason and story, most moves are the result of normal and expected life changes such as going to school in another city, leaving your parents house, getting married and moving in with your partner, having kids and needing more space, or downsizing when kids leave home.
These are examples of moves we’ll probably experience at some point or another, but it doesn’t mean they don’t come with stress. Here are some tips for reducing the stress of a typical move:
Find reasons to look forward to your move.
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about moving. Some may be obvious, others less immediately so.
Dedicate a few hours to the task of finding out as much as possible about your new location, researching online, checking out maps, and talking to people who know the area.
If you’re moving to a new city, make a list of places you want to visit, from tourist spots to restaurants you’d like to try and events happening after you arrive.
If you’re concerned about making new friends, start thinking about how you can meet new people. Find out if there are any groups geared to your favourite hobbies or leagues for your favourite sports, sign up for a class you’ve always wanted to try, and ask people you know for contacts.
Plan ahead so you feel prepared.
You can reduce some of the stress of moving if you give yourself enough time to carry out all the important tasks related to your move. Create a list of everything you need to do, assign a time period, and leave nothing to the last minute.
Download this Printable Moving To Do List to help with this.
You should start the planning stage at least eight weeks before your move — or even further in advance if it’s likely to be complicated or you’re the type of person who struggles to stay organized. Planning early will help you cope if anything unexpected happens.
Remember to include enjoyable activities in your plan, such as throwing a farewell party and visiting some of your favourite places before you leave. You should also schedule plenty of time to relax and to say goodbye to individual friends and talk about how you’ll stay in touch.
Seek support before and after your move.
If you’re moving to your new home alone, reach out to someone for support. Find a friend or family member who has experience with moving and ask for advice to simplify the process. If you need to drive a long distance, see if anyone is available to make the journey with you. Instead of a lonely journey, you could make it a fun road trip!
If you’re moving with your family or a partner, give everyone the chance to adjust. Understand that each person will cope with the move differently and may need space to be alone at times. To avoid the move feeling like a constant chore, schedule in time to take breaks from packing and unpacking by going on an outing with the kids, scheduling a date night, or just getting out of the house to clear your mind for a couple hours.
Be sure to keep in touch with your support system after your move as well. You may be very busy unpacking and getting settled, but don’t forget to touch base with family and friends so that you continue to talk about your life change and don’t internalize thoughts and emotions that could eventually isolate and overwhelm you.
Make plans to see friends and family.
Moving is particularly challenging if you normally see your friends and relatives on a regular basis, or if you’re moving far away.
Instead of worrying about how you’ll maintain your friendships, make plans to either return to your old neighbourhood or for loved ones to visit you. If that’s not possible, make a plan to video chat or call your favourite people. This is something that can slip through the cracks during and after the chaos of a move, so try to set dates and times on a calendar to encourage everyone to keep their word and make the time for these important visits.
Turn your house into a home.
Once in your new home, create a comfortable setting that feels like ‘home’. Along with the essentials, start by unpacking a few belongings that add a familiar touch, such as framed photos and your most prized possessions. You may want to unpack the rest of your items over the next few days or take your time transitioning over the course of weeks. Do whatever feels right for you.
Returning to your routine, or establishing a new routine as soon as possible will help you become settled faster. You can also use the opportunity to improve your lifestyle and develop better habits, such as eating healthier meals and exercising regularly. There may be a bit of a learning phase with establishing a new routine, so be kind to yourself and try to be patient as it evolves.
Take time to rest and get some sleep.
This point is pretty self explanatory but important nonetheless. Moving can be chaotic and exhausting and we can easily forget to take care of our bodies and minds. Be intentional with your plans for rest and sleep, which may mean starting the packing process well in advance of your move or choosing a moving service that allows you more time to pack and unpack on either end of your move.
How to Cope with Moving Due to a Life Change
There are several reasons why you may want or need to move. Some people move for a change of scenery or new opportunities. In other cases, families need to move due to divorce, death, financial difficulties, or job relocation. In these cases, there is added emotional stress along with the sense of a lack of choice. The following tips are aimed at how to cope with moving in these situations.
Think carefully about possessions.
Typical moving advice is to start by throwing out your clutter — any objects you rarely use or no longer need. However, with extra emotions, it’s more difficult to know what you’re ready to surrender and what possessions you should keep. Make smart decisions and hold on to anything you’re not yet ready to throw out.
If you have items that cause painful reminders or are associated with negative memories, now might be the time to either throw them out or donate them. But, if you’re still not quite ready to let them go, consider putting them into storage for the time being rather than bringing them to your new home.
For items that have strong sentimental value and bring positive memories, those would be good things to bring with you to help make your new house feel like home. Be sure to pack them with care and label boxes containing these types of items with “fragile” or “memories” so that they make it safely to your new home and they’re easy to find once you arrive.
Ask for help and give yourself time.
It’s extra important to seek out support if you’re moving during a difficult time. Even just the act of placing your belongings in boxes can be emotionally strenuous. Ask a friend or family member for help with the task, and talk about your feelings while you’re packing. If you’re moving with kids, see if they can stay with friends or find a babysitter for the occasional evening if you feel that you need extra time to sort through things or if you think you could feel overly emotional while packing.
If you’re finding it particularly difficult and don’t know how to cope with moving, talk to someone you trust, such as a close friend, counsellor or therapist. Discuss your anxieties, your hopes, your fears, and the reasons that led to the move, as all of these feelings could be contributing to, and increasing, your level of stress.
While the whole process may feel daunting, breaking it down into smaller achievable tasks can make you feel better. Even something as simple as crossing an item off your list can give you a sense of accomplishment and ease your tension.
How to Cope with Moving During the Holidays
Although it may be preferable to transition to a new home over the summer while the kids are out of school and the weather is more predictable and cooperative, sometimes it’s beyond your control to decide.
The sale of your home may have taken longer than planned, or you may have to move for an unexpected reason. In either case, this can result in a move during the holidays.
Because some holidays are a time you’d normally spend with family or friends, a move at this time of year can be extra taxing. You may be unable to participate in traditions, you may miss out on regular events, or you may just feel lonely. You may also have the challenge of moving during inclement weather, and trying to find help during a busy time of year.
Here are a few ideas on how to cope with moving and enjoy the holidays:
Decorate your new house.
If you’ll be in your home before the holiday begins, make sure decorations are packed together and clearly labelled. If you’re doing the loading and unloading yourself with a moving container and will be unpacking over several days, be sure to pack the boxes of decorations LAST so that they’re the FIRST thing you take out of the container.
Depending on the reason for your move, you may like to decorate your home as you always do for the holidays, in a way that reminds you of your childhood, or to create new traditions to celebrate your new life. Give it some thought while packing – you may even feel excited about it by the time you’re in your new home!
Make plans to look forward to.
If you’re moving to a place where you have family and friends nearby, plan a gathering for a few weeks after you move in. Having it in your calendar will give you something to look forward to and motivate you to get your home in order to meet a “fun deadline”.
But, if you’re not much of a socialite or you’re moving to a city far from friends and family, make plans to enjoy the holiday on your own rather than ignore it or let it pass by. Watch holiday movies, prepare a delicious meal, listen to music, and do anything else that allows you to relax and participate in the holiday at the same time. It will be the beginning of making new memories in your new home.
Explore and get to know your new area.
Some of the best things about the holiday season are the activities and events that come with it. Taking a walk or drive to admire others’ decorations is fun — and a great way to get to know your new neighbourhood.
Local restaurants and pubs might be offering events, specials or meals geared to a specific holiday, so keep your eyes and ears open for those opportunities. Even if you have to check them out alone, it could be a great way to meet new people in your new area and feel more connected to your new neighbourhood.
Stay in touch with loved ones.
For some, certain holidays can be sentimental. If you’re one of these people, plan calls, video chats or message friends and relatives to see how they’re celebrating and reminisce about past holidays. If you have time, consider surprising the special people in your life by mailing them gifts to let them know you’re thinking of them even though you’re not together.
How to Cope with Moving for Kids
Moving is often much harder on kids than adults. For one thing, kids have no choice in the matter and may feel powerless in the face of such a big change in life.
If they’ve never moved before, kids are likely to have additional worries about how they will adapt to a new school after leaving their friends behind.
This article: 9 Tips to Make Moving Easier for Kids has a lot of great info, so here are just a few ways to make the process easier for kids:
Involve them in the packing and moving process.
Whatever your kids’ ages, they can be involved in the move in some way. For instance, kids can help you pack their belongings into boxes. This is especially useful for very young children who may need reassurance that their favourite toys are coming with them. Older kids can learn the importance of getting rid of stuff they no longer use. You can even make this enjoyable by allowing your kids to help you with a garage sale.
Keep lines of communication open and encourage discussions.
Keep lines of communication open by encouraging your kids to ask any questions they may have and by listening to their worries. Try to be patient and reassuring with your children – while you may be excited, they may not share your feelings.
Bear in mind that some kids may prefer to talk to a parent one-on-one, whereas others may appreciate the chance for a discussion with the whole family. Should the latter be the case, hold family meetings both to talk about feelings and to spend time together, perhaps by combining the event with a meal or games night.
Take them to the home before moving day.
If possible, take your kids to visit their new home, neighbourhood, and school. Inspire enthusiasm about the move by planning together how you will decorate the house and their new room. Look at paint swatches to choose colours for the walls and start talking about how you’ll arrange furniture.
Look up sports and activities.
If your children are active in any organized activities, search out similar programs in your new area. You can look up different websites with your kids and choose the programs they want to sign up for. This will help them get excited about their new home and give them the opportunity to meet new friends after you arrive.
Try to make it fun.
Reward your kids for their good behaviour during the difficult process of moving homes. Treats can be simple, such as pizza and ice cream for dinner, or bigger, like a last visit to a special place. You may like to include the entire family and say goodbye to a different spot every week, or you may prefer to spend time with each child individually to make it extra special for them.
Meet your neighbours.
While it’s always a good idea to introduce yourself to your neighbours, it’s especially important if you have kids. Many neighbourhoods have Facebook groups that are a great way to find out if any other children around the same age are living nearby. Planning play-dates or activities at the local park or playground, or inviting neighbours over for a housewarming, are good ways to develop new friendships.
How to Cope with Moving for Teens
Teenagers are likely to react to a move differently than younger kids (No kidding, huh?). They’re much more likely to feel angry and frustrated with a situation they’ve been forced into.
It’s essential you help your teens manage their feelings and adjust to the changes. These tips on how to cope with moving are aimed at teenagers in middle school and high school.
Teenagers already have stressful lives, and moving homes can lead to unhappiness, anxiety, or even depression. The good news is that these feelings are usually temporary — teens tend to feel better once they realize that most of their fears are unfounded.
However, it’s important to initiate conversations with your teens, as they may be worried that you’re too busy or stressed to talk. Make sure you acknowledge how they’re feeling, while still coaching and supporting them through the process.
Research the community together.
Check out maps and research the best features of your new community from your teen’s perspective. Find places they can become excited about. Perhaps there’s a cool arcade, shopping mall, or water park nearby. Or, maybe there’s an opportunity for them to learn a new activity they’ve always found interesting, or join a local sports team. Knowing what to expect in their new location and feeling prepared can alleviate some of their stress about moving.
Keep them busy.
Fill every day leading up to the move with both productive tasks (such as helping with packing, the garage sale, and cleaning) and fun activities. Accept that your teen may want to spend time alone or hours online chatting with friends before and after a move. This is normal, but also encourage them to spend time out of the house saying goodbye to places and people in person, or checking out new places in their new location in advance.
BigSteelBox makes moving and storage feel better.
There are many uncertainties when it comes to moving, and it’s bound to cause stress, but we hope these tips will help you to cope with the stress of it. At BigSteelBox we believe it’s our job to make you feel better about moving and storage by reducing your efforts, owning your problems and caring more than you expect.