Is Moving Traumatic and How It Affects Your Life

November 23, 2022 / Posted in How-to
Georgia Michaelson

Born and raised in St. Louis, Georgia Michaelson is a content writer with a specialty in moving and traveling. Her tips can help you relocate without a fuss

You might be aware that relocating is difficult and stressful, but is moving traumatic or just a temporary inconvenience? At first glance, it might seem silly that a few boxes being moved could disrupt your life in such a serious way. But that’s your entire life in those boxes, and with so many things that could go wrong, it is no surprise that, for many, it is a traumatic experience.

A stressed woman sitting next to the boxes overlay
Relocating can be difficult, so ensure you're well prepared for everything such change brings

Stress Is an Integral Part of Moving to a New Location

Stress-free moving is not a mission impossible, but it’s also not such a common one. No matter how great of a job your long-distance moving company has done, hiring long-distance moving services can only do so much, and many other things could go wrong. So, why is relocating so stressful?

Relocation is a significant change and a huge process that involves you uprooting your entire life and transferring everything you own to another location you know little to nothing about. Additionally, you’re paying cross-country movers a lot of money to do it. Where large sums of money are included, there is an opportunity for stress and problems.

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Moving Frequently Is Emotional and Can Lead to Depression

If you think that people who relocate frequently get used to it, you’re wrong. Even if they’re relocating as often as once a year, that experience doesn’t come easy for them. They might have long-distance movers on speed dial, and they might have learned how to pack as if they had hired professional packing services, but relocating frequently is difficult. Some would say that it’s even more difficult for them than for people who experience a move once or twice during their whole lives.

But why is moving so hard emotionally? When you think about it, it sounds pretty simple. You decide where to live, you pack, and you move. But there is a lot more to it. You have to consider how does moving affect mental health. You’re changing your surroundings and the routines you have been keeping up for quite a while now. While you’re busy preparing for the move, you don’t have a second to think about the consequences because you’re too excited, especially if it’s a last-minute move. And then the depression after moving hits you out of nowhere. You have to recognize it so you can fight it. The symptoms include:

  • Constant fatigue and lack of energy,
  • Low appetite,
  • Headaches,
  • Disinterest and low mood,
  • An unhealthy change in your sleeping habits,
  • Feeling angry, hopeless, or pessimistic.

Is Moving Traumatic for Adults?

No matter how many benefits of relocating you can think of, cross-country moving is a big change. It’s such a significant, life-altering experience that it’s considered to be in the top five most stressful life events a person can go through. Relocating is actually ranked third, right after the death of a loved one and divorce. So it’s safe to say that it can have quite an effect on your mental health, even resulting in trauma. That only worsens as your problems keep piling up, such as financial issues that could force you to downsize for a move.

People deal with so much stress on a daily basis that they can’t even acknowledge it anymore. So when something a bit more serious is added to that equation, many crack under pressure. There are many reasons to move, and some are more stressful than others, like relocating for a job. Even if you get your dream job, you will be under a lot of pressure about work, and on top of that, you will be trying to adjust. Perhaps you will be relocating to another city alone, and you won’t have anyone close to you to help you. All these things can be traumatizing, and the worst part is you probably won’t even be aware of it at first.

Is Moving Traumatic for Kids?

Is moving stressful for people of all ages? Of course. Everyone knows that kids are like sponges. They absorb as much as they can from their surroundings. That’s why parents are so careful when it comes to their family and who and what they are going to expose their children to. So if you censor the TV shows your kid watches thinking it could scare them, surely you can understand that the stress of relocating affects children too. You might think that you can just put your kid in the car and that they won’t notice when they wake up in the morning in a completely different house, but that won’t be the case with most kids older than two years.

Sure, some children won’t take it as hard and will adjust to the surroundings easily and quickly. But some kids can’t seem to comprehend that their daycare has changed, that they can’t get ice cream from their favorite place anymore, and that suddenly all their friends are no longer around. Children’s psychologists have concluded that a move can really shape a young person’s mind.

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Do everything you can to help your kid be happy during this transition

How Can You Make the Transition Easier for a Child?

Children are aware of what’s happening and could benefit from being involved in the process like the rest of the family. Try to explain it all to them, so they are aware of what’s going on. Children can understand more than you think. They could surprise you, especially when it comes to serious things such as relocating to another state. Tell them where they will live, show them photos of the new family house, and talk to them about how their lives will change. Show them their future school and surroundings. That way, they will have it in the back of their mind once they see it in person, and it won’t come as such a shock.

Be present more than usual with your children in the weeks leading up to the move. Have some fun and quality time together. Ask them about their feelings and wishes. If they want a swing or a treehouse in the backyard, it’s a small price to pay for a happy home. Relocating with kids is tough on parents as well. It’s not easy seeing your child in distress. So don’t be too harsh on yourself if you make a few mistakes. Also, consider child counseling if you think it could help.

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Include your kids in the planning process

How Do You Mentally Cope With Moving?

Not everyone copes with stress and anxiety in the same way or even gets those problems. Some people go through a move without any negative feelings or thoughts, and some struggle with depression even years later, even though they don’t want to move back. It’s all subjective and coincidental. Those who get anxiety or any problem that affects their mental health need to learn how to cope. There are some things you can work on, and if you ever need it, you can even get help online on sites like BetterHelp.

Give Your Future Hometown a Fair Chance

Before you completely give up on the idea of living in your new hometown, give it a fair fighting chance. Your depression could be fogging up your judgment. Don’t rush into going back home. Relocating to a big city is partially terrifying, but it could also be very exciting. Just think of all the fun activities you can participate in. Do some research, and find out what the city has to offer. Take a walk, visit museums, eat in the best restaurants, and spend some time with locals. When dealing with mental health issues, sometimes you can’t see clearly, so maybe the location is not the problem.

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Do some sightseeing to meet the locals

Try to Make Friends

One of the main reasons people get depressed after a move is because they feel lonely. Moving away from friends is never easy, and making new ones might be even harder. There are many ways you can make friends in another city, and even if you’re shy, you have to get out there. You need human contact, especially if you’re living on your own. Introduce yourself and meet the neighbors. Join some organizations, sports teams, or any place where you can meet people and get a conversation started.

Of course, you can always call old friends or family members on a video call or just to hear them if you need human contact. But having someone to talk to in person is important. Having to find new friends feels like you’re replacing the old ones, and that is one of the hardest parts of relocating. Once you get that in order, everything else will seem like a piece of cake.

Say a Proper Goodbye

A great way to give yourself some closure on your old life is to say goodbye to all the people that matter to you. Write a list of your closest friends and family members and throw a farewell party. Have a great party, invite them all to visit, and figure out how you will all stay in touch.

Weather Also Has an Impact on Your Mood

The time of the year you choose for relocation will also affect your post-move depression. If you know you’ll feel lonely and homesick, relocating during the holidays is not the best idea. Try to move during the summer. In that case, at least you’ll have some sunshine and warmth. Vitamin D is great for your overall mental state. Another tip is to avoid relocating to a cold climate if you feel like you won’t be able to adjust to it.

Take Care of Your Mental Health

One of the most important things to do after relocating is to remember to take care of your mental health. That is the best policy. You can do that by taking good care of yourself, which is something people usually don’t do when feeling depressed. Sleep well, exercise, eat healthy foods, go outside for a walk, etc. If you’re not already relocating with pets, get a pet to lift your spirits. Another great thing you can try is meditation or yoga. Yoga is excellent for calming down and dealing with anxiety. Watch this video if you want to try out a few basic moves.

Try to Implement Old Routines Into Your New Home

Just because you’re relocating doesn’t mean you should leave all of the habits you enjoyed behind. Implement old routines to make you feel better. If you loved a specific pizza parlor for years and ate it every Sunday, find a replacement. It might even be better. If you love playing music in your car on your way to work, don’t take the commute, hire an auto shipping company. Paying a car shipping company is money well spent if it will help you be happy.

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The best policy is not to give up on favorite habits

Every Adjustment Takes Time

It’s perfectly normal to feel a little down after a move. Everything is changing, not just your surroundings and house, but you as well. During this journey, you will learn much about yourself while having to go through many new situations that will leave an impact on you for sure. Take some time to adjust to a new home without pressuring yourself. After a while, you’ll start to see it as a safe place, and all your post-move trauma will be gone.

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