When Melissa and her family first moved to Cleveland, she was focused on getting everything in place: finding the right house; placing her 6th and 8th graders in the right schools and extracurriculars; decorating and setting the new home up again. Being an adult, a wife and a mother, she figured she could handle a “simple” move. But a few months into the transition, the anxiety and stress hit her hard. She had trouble sleeping. She was feeling nervous, restless and unhappy. She found herself comparing all of her new things and experiences to her old life, which made her feel even more sad and lonely. Her husband and her kids seemed to be adjusting to the move, but she felt increasingly more isolated and uncomfortable.
While the symptoms vary from person to person, Relocation Stress Meltdown (RSMx) can include physical symptoms such as stomachaches, headaches, and high blood pressure, as well as mental symptoms such as irritability or depression. Some may experience an increase in panic or anxiety; others may feel more tension or seek escape in a variety of (healthy or even unhealthy) ways.
What’s going on? Moving is supposed to be fun and exciting! Your friends have moved, and you haven’t heard them complain about a single struggle!
Don’t be discouraged if you are having difficulties. You’re not alone. For many people, moving can often be more emotionally challenging than they anticipate or plan for. Does this mean moving was a bad idea? Absolutely not! Moving is challenging regardless of how organized or prepared you may be. It is important to be aware of the challenges you may face and recognize that they are a natural part of the moving process. Feeling anxious or sad is as normal as it is temporary. On the flipside too, it can help to remember the positives of moving: new opportunities, a fresh start, and new adventures.
Here are some practical steps you can take if you feel you may be struggling to adjust after (or during) a move: (Of course, if you are ever struggling beyond the point where self intervention and initiative will help, seek outside services from a therapist, support group, or medical professional.)
- Take the initiative to meet people—the sooner you start to build friendships and community support, the better off you’ll start to feel.
- Get to know your neighborhood. Drive around, see all the tourist sites, ask people for recommendations of their favorite places. When a place seems more familiar, it will also begin to feel more welcoming. Plus, you may find a few ‘favorites’ of your own.
- Take time to relax and support yourself. Do what you need to do to recharge. Carve out some “you” time - drink some tea, take a hike or read a good book. Call your best friend or brother or sister and talk out how you are doing. Write in your journal. Remember to grieve and process how you are doing, and then to take steps to move forward.
- Be grateful for what is going well. Every day, list three things that made you happy that day or that you are grateful for. No matter how small, make this practice a habit, especially during hard times. It helps more than you can imagine.
- Work to build a positive mindset. Nothing will help you more in times of change than to focus every day on the positives in your life and new situation. The opportunities before you are are likely why you moved in the first place, so focus on the adventure and work to see your experiences through the lens of “I’m learning and trying new things.”
- Learn patience and acceptance. Don’t try to compare your new life or neighborhood to your old location. Don’t try to make it something that it isn’t. Accept you new life for what it is, and take time to get to know it like a local. Even if you don’t think you’ll be there for a long time (or don’t want to be!), make the most of it while you are. This will go a long way in to helping you feel more settled and comfortable.
- Get excited about your new, fresh start and begin to think of ways you’d like to use it. We aren’t often handed a clean slate and the opportunity to begin again – enjoy it and think about how to make the most of it!
RSMx can affect anyone who is relocating, but it doesn’t have to ultimately define your move. With small steps, you can pull yourself out of the moving funk and begin enjoying your new adventure. Know that there will inevitably be setbacks and challenges, but try to start each day fresh and see how you can make it better than the last. Day by day, continue to find ways to make this new location your home, and soon enough you’ll find that it is. For more information on making your move in a healthy way, check out The Essential Moving Guide For Families or The Essential Moving Guide.