Let’s face it: moving is hard. Even when you are moving to a better place, it still involves a lot of work and a lot of stress. Moving can take a toll on your mental health, too, which is why taking proper care of yourself throughout a move is important.
My Recent Moving Experience
I speak from experience as I recently underwent a fairly large move. Now, I didn’t move across any oceans or even across the country; however, there were circumstances that resulted in a lot more work than I was anticipating (have you ever painted spindles? How about 35 of them?)
I call this move the “moviest move that ever moved”, which means a lot coming from me, a person who once moved 3 times in the span of two years.
Now that I’m almost on the other said (i.e. 90% of my boxes are unpacked and I think I know where all my scarves are) and am relatively unscathed, I want to offer support to those of you who have a move coming up in your future.
Here are a few things I want to share with you that I did (and a few things I wish I’d done) to take care of my mental health throughout the process:
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1. Keep a Moving Journal
My move involved dealing with various contractors and coordinating timelines. My trusty notebook got me through. Your move may not be this involved; however, having a place where you can keep track of important dates (cleaning, movers), tasks (walkthrough checklists, change of address forms), and packing/shopping lists can really help ease the chaotic feelings that lead to overwhelm and anxiety flare-ups.
2. Start Prepping for the Move as Soon as Possible
Start with step 1 and track what you need to do then it’s time to start doing.
As soon as I found out I was moving I immediately started collecting boxes, packing non-essentials, and donating anything I don’t use anymore.
In addition to packing, because I was moving to a different city, there were various errands and appointments I lined up in the months leading up to my move so things wouldn’t get so hectic near the end. I found it helpful to take advantage of familiarity while I could because once I moved, everything would be new. I can honestly say this approach helped because now I am able to focus on unpacking and settling in rather than trying to figure out where the nearest seamstress is or where to find my favourite shampoo.
3. Maintain a Consistent Sleeping Schedule
This is something I wish I’d prioritized a bit better. It can be difficult to stick to a consistent sleeping schedule when there is so much going on and you’re stressed. However, sleep is important to help avoid physical exhaustion and mental burnout.
While I didn’t do the best job at maintaining a consistent sleeping schedule throughout the move, fortunately, I was able to prioritize getting enough sleep each night.
At the very least, I recommend ensuring you get a solid 7-8 hours each night, even if the timing is not consistent.
4. Remind Yourself that it Will Be Okay
I had to do this on a daily basis (and still am doing this). I went into the move with the mindset that I would not let myself become stressed over inconsequential things. While I know stress is more than “mind over matter” (especially for those of us who live with anxiety) committing to doing what I could to not get stressed over the small stuff really did help.
This way, when bigger things arose, I was better able to address them and cope with any anxiety that crept in.
5. Make Peace with Where You’re Leaving
I was very unhappy where I was living. My initial approach to moving was “good riddance”. However, as the final day came closer, I found the negative attitude made me feel worse, not better.
I started focusing on the things I appreciated about where I was leaving: the people, the places, the memories. When negativity crept in, I tried to switch it to a positive about the new place. For example, rather than say “Good riddance to this neighbourhood filled with litter” I’d say “I am so excited to be moving into such a clean neighbourhood.”
Changing your approach or how you say/think things really can have a positive impact on your mental health. (read: How to Reframe Negative Thoughts)
6. Keep Easy-Meal Groceries Stocked
I am not good at this one. I have a weird mental block about getting groceries and leading up to the move my stock became depleted. This resulted in needing to eat out 90% of my meals. Not only is this expensive, but it also impacts my health as I am prone to bad heartburn when I eat too much heavy food. In addition, I found I wasn’t getting as much fresh, nutrient-rich food as usual, which left me feeling logy and not well nourished.
While it’s not easy to keep track of cooking when your pans are in boxes, I do recommend trying to keep some essentials on hand and, when you do eat out, try to order things similar to what you’d make for yourself at home.
I will add that this is particularly important if you are recovering from or have a history with an eating disorder. In recovery, eating out was a primary trigger, especially when I did it often. Do what you can to mitigate this risk during your move.
7. Go Easy on Yourself
I am the queen of beating myself up for not doing “enough” or for falling behind on things or not doing things perfectly. Throughout this moving process, I had to start letting these unrealistic (and unfair) expectations go.
You will fall behind, not keep track of everything, forget to call/text someone, and deadlines may be missed. This is all okay.
You are moving and that needs to take priority. If you forget something, miss a deadline, or forget to call or text someone back, don’t beat yourself up. You can only do what you can do. Do the best you can and remember that’s all you (and anyone else) should expect from you.
8. Remember it’s Normal for Your Mental Health to be Affected
Throughout this moving process, I keep reminding myself that it’s normal for anxiety to get worse during a move.
Moves are stressful and exhausting and filled with unknowns. Any time I notice myself feeling more anxious than usual, I offer myself grace, refer to my anxiety relief “toolbox”, and reach out for support if needed.
Depression flare-ups are also normal.
As you say goodbye to a place it can trigger a variety of emotions, especially if it’s somewhere filled with memories (both good and bad). In addition, as you transition to the new place and realize it’s not necessarily the “Utopia” you created in your mind, you must come to terms with the reality that everywhere has pros and cons.
Lastly, being somewhere new and unfamiliar can trigger feelings of isolation and loneliness that can feed into depression and anxiety. For me, tips 4 and 5 help with these feelings. Staying connected with friends and opening up to the excitement of exploring new places helps, too.
I hope you find these tips helpful the next time you are going through a move; they are helping me immensely. I think anticipation and preparation go a long way in lessening the impact moving can have on our mental health.
Remember: it’s normal for moving to affect our mental health. Utilize the tools you have and reach out for support as needed.
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