How to deal with moving stress

June 09, 2021|

We all knew moving was stressful, but exactly how stressful might shock you.  

According to one survey, moving to a new home was rated more stressful than other disruptive life events, including having children, going through a break up, getting married or even getting divorced. (Unless you’re a celebrity like Johnny Depp, whereas divorce is probably still tops.) 

The poll of 1,000 Americans found several factors that contributed to the stress of moving. The biggest stressor was packing, followed by sorting through your stuff and finding a moving company. 

There’s no way around it — the moving process is probably going to do bad things to your stress levels. 

A move often signals a life change, requiring you to leave the comfort of your surroundings and routine behind. Maybe you’re relocating to a new city for a new job. Maybe you’re retiring and starting a new life in a downsized home. Maybe you’re moving to be closer to family members. 

Even if you’re not making a long distance move, a local move still comes with plenty of anxiety to cope with. 

“Stress is inevitable,” says Dr. Timothy Dukes, a psychologist and author of several books, including Present Company: Cultivating Cultures of High Performance in Teams and Organizations.

So how to preserve your mental health and make your moving day as stress-free as humanly possible? 

First up, keep a positive mindset. Focus on what you’re gaining, not whatever you might be losing. There’s a reason you’re moving, and the change signals a new beginning — a chance for new opportunities, new friends and new experiences. 

Another tip: You may want to take a page out of the book of dealing with children. Young kids often have problems with transitions, and the best way to ease those transitions is to make them predictable. 

The same tip can work for adults. 

When it comes to the big move, Dukes says one of the most important things you can do is give it a context of time. Go to your calendar and figure out exactly when your moving day will be, then work backwards, giving yourself enough time and potentially avoiding last-minute panic. What are the things you will need to do between now and then? It might be helpful to create a moving checklist. 

Dukes suggests taking a walk once or twice and day and talking through your move with a loved one. The physical act of walking could help you better tackle the move through a psychological process known as transduction

“You take one form of energy — the anxiety, the stress, the fear, the doubt — and when you’re walking and talking, you’re streaming it, you’re moving into the future as you walk,” Dukes says. “Whatever your concerns, you’re not just sitting there stuck. That’s when some of the clever solutions will come.” 

One particularly clever thing you can do to ease the uncertainty is to start setting up your new life while you’re still living your old one. Need a dentist, for example, in the city where you’re moving? Go to your current dentist and ask for help. You might leave with a recommendation. Same goes with your primary care doctor and any number of other professionals. 

Another tip: While you’re going through the stressful events of planning your move, remember to breathe. 

“What moves you out of fear and into excitement is breathing,” Dukes says. “When people are afraid, they stop breathing.” 

He suggests you take five minutes in the morning, midday and night to just breathe. Lay on the floor, be still and breathe normally. The exercise should help banish some of the daily anxiety. 

What about when you get to your new house? 

If the unpacking is going to be especially hard work and time-consuming, you might choose to partially remove yourself from the scene for the first few days. You could treat yourself to a nearby hotel and spend your days readying your new house and your nights sleeping in a serene hotel room and eating room service. 

“During the day you’re a mover, at night you’re a vacationer,” Dukes says. 

The stress of moving could disrupt sleep, and a hotel would provide a “facilitated environment” that might prove more conducive to catching Z’s than in your new bedroom stacked floor-to-ceiling with boxes. 

Even if you don’t opt for a hotel, you may want to make a reservation at a restaurant in your new location to start incorporating yourself into your new area. 

Dukes also suggests that you “find ten things that aren’t going to change and amplify those.” 

Treat yourself. Comfort food can be, well, comforting, so feel free to load up your fridge with familiar foods from your favorite brands and favorite places as soon as you’re able. Do you like to bake? Make sure you’ll have flour and other ingredients on hand to throw a loaf of bread into your new oven. 

And one final tip. Remember that survey that showed moving was more stressful than divorce? It also discovered that of those respondents who had moved themselves, a whopping 43 percent would “never do it again.” On the other hand, 94 percent of those who had utilized moving services said it was worth every penny. 

Seems, in the end, the best way to get closer to a stress-free move might be to simply pick up the phone and hire professional movers.

Looking to start a move? Book a free virtual walkthrough