According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 3.1% of the population suffers from general anxiety disorder, 2.7% from panic disorder, and 8.2% from a depressive disorder. These disorders can be caused genetics, a chemical imbalance in the brain, personality type, and life events. Moving to a new home or city is a major life event, and can trigger stress, panic, anxiety, and even depression in individuals.
We at Collins Connection are not licensed, clinical, or professional therapists, social workers, counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists. We cannot diagnose or treat any of the disorders mentioned. But we do know moving, and understand how stressful and overwhelming it can be. So we want to do all we can to help you on your journey.
There’s a general and even healthy level of stress, anxiety, and anticipation when making any big life change, and it’s to be expected with moving. But when do these normal thoughts and feelings cross the line into being an actual mental health issue? What are the signs and symptoms of relocation-induced stress and anxiety?
Some anxiety and depression symptoms may include:
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Dread, or anticipating worst-case-scenarios.
- Memory lapse.
- Upset stomach.
- Shortness of breath.
- Muscle tension.
(Keep in mind that some of these are, again, normal with big life changes and don’t point to a bigger issue. But it never hurts to be aware!)
Often, worries regarding relocating can be the result of fear of the unknown. Questions arise, such as will we fit in? Will we be happy? Will our friends forget us? Can we make new friends? What if it doesn’t work out? How much will it all really cost? Where will we shop? What if no one likes us? What if I get lost in my new town? And depending on the cause for the move (for example, job loss, death, or divorce), there can be an even wider array of concerns that go along with it.
Before the Move
Change may be inevitable, but it’s often unexpected. However, if it’s a change you know is coming (like a move) you have the benefit of doing your best to prepare for it. So give yourself time to adjust before the move. Doing so may help you and your family to combat and heal from relocation stress and anxiety. Here are a few things you can do before you move:
Make a List
This may seem simple, but it’s probably the best thing you can do to give your mind some space. Once you know the move is officially happening, make a list of all the things you can think of that need to be done, both now and later. This is a “brain dump” of sorts to just get everything out and on paper (or onto your phone). Add things like: get boxes for packing, get kids enrolled in new school, find a new hairstylist, clean the baseboards, check the cupboards above the fridge, locate the nearest new coffee shop, apply for jobs, change address…the list literally could go on. Make a warm beverage, turn on some quiet music, and start listing out everything you can think of. This in and of itself can be a relaxing moment to take away the tension.
Declutter & Organize
Some find it daunting, some find it liberating. Whichever category you fall into, decluttering and getting organized is a part of moving. Downsizing your stuff will probably help you downsize some stress as well and getting organized (even if you’re not an organized person) has a way of bringing a sense of calm to any person or situation. Start packing with a big trash bag nearby, as well as a donation or “to sell” box and feel the tension lift away! One tip is to pack based on rooms. Label each box “kitchen” or “bathroom,” and this way when you get to your new place, you can bring everything straight to where it’s new home will be. This will make packing and unpacking much easier.
Say Goodbye Slowly
Spend an afternoon at your favorite coffee shop (maybe make your list there!), go for a walk around your neighborhood, or take a trip down memory lane by driving by some old hangouts or special places. This is a great way to take it all in and not feel like you’re moving too quickly. Set aside time to get together with your closest friends and relatives. It may feel strange but ask someone to help you put on a going-away party. It will be something you cherish down the road.
Eat Well & Get Some Sleep
Easier said than done, we know, but important to shoot for all the same. What we eat and how well we’re sleeping have a huge impact on our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. Before a major life change, do your best to make healthier food choices and sneak in a nap or two. Go to bed a littler earlier, and if possible, sleep in a bit later. Do what you can to take care of yourself physically, and see how well it impacts you in other areas of life.
Visit the New Place
If possible, go once or twice to see your new home before moving day. This will not only help you add to your list of things that need to be done, but it will also help you hope and dream about the future. Visit with your family or bring a friend along to dream with you. It can help you get excited about what’s coming up and quiet some of the worries.
After the Move
Just as with before the move, give yourself time to adjust after the move as well. After a major life change (like a move), it takes time to find your new normal. Be patient with yourself, your family, and your new surroundings as you adjust to your new location. Take it one day at a time, and eventually, it’ll feel like home.
Make Another List
Now that you’re home, make a list (or transfer a few things from your old list) regarding all the things you want or need to do in your new house or city. This can include practical things (school enrollments, finding the grocery store, applying for jobs) and fun things (try the different coffee shops, find the best parks, check out the new movie theater, eat at a local restaurant, or just go for a drive). List out things you loved doing back home, and jot them down so you can start doing them in your new one!
Unpack as Quickly – or as Slowly – as You Need To
This is different for different people. If you’re someone that’s going to feel more at home if you get it done quickly, just go for it! But if you need time to adjust to your new surroundings first, take that time and move slowly. A good idea if you’re the latter person is to pack a specific first night or first week box so that you have everything you’ll need (clothes, hygiene, coffee, etc.) for the first few days and can start unpacking and setting up [your new] shop at your own pace. Don’t rush yourself.
Stay in Contact
With social media, staying connected with people is easier than ever. But sometimes, an effort still needs to be made. Do your best to keep in contact with loved ones from back home so neither you nor they feel forgotten or left behind. This can also help ease anxiety and help with adjusting to your new normal.