A big move can be stressful for a number of reasons. Here are some simple ways to deal with moving stress to keep you and your family happy during the big transition.

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Moving is a process full of mixed emotions. On the one hand, it’s the start of an exciting new adventure; it’s the first step towards a new location with the opportunity to explore and meet new people. On the other hand, moving comes with a lot of change. Moving stress is a natural result of all these emotions colliding.

In order to get the most out of your move and get settled into your new place quickly, it can be helpful to understand what makes moving so stressful, and what you can do to reduce that stress.

We may not be healthcare professionals, but we do know a thing or two about moving. That’s why we did a little research to understand why moving can be so stressful and offer some concrete tips to alleviate the stress. In this guide, you’ll find:

  1. Understanding Moving Stress
  2. How to Manage the Stress of Moving
  3. How to Help Your Child Cope with Moving Anxiety
  4. Moving with a Disability
  5. Moving a Senior
  6. Moving Resources for Seniors and People with Disabilities

Why is Moving Stress a Thing?

What makes moving so stressful? The fact of the matter is, there’s no one cause of stress when it comes to a big move. Instead, it’s a bunch of smaller things that add up to make moving one of the more stressful things that many of us will ever do.

  • Changes: Every move carries some big changes along with it. You’re changing your location, the layout of your home, maybe even your friends and your job. These changes are unavoidable, and even good changes can be a little scary. It’s okay to feel a little anxious at the thought of a big change, even if you know it’s for the best.
  • Money: Of course, one of the biggest pain points for anyone making a major move is money. Most of the time, moving your things is not something that you can do alone. Even if you’re a fan of minimalist living and you can fit all of your possessions into the back of your car, there are still costs associated with moving into a new house or apartment. For many people, money — or a lack thereof — is a big source of stress, so it’s no wonder that it compounds the stress related to moving.
  • Time: Moving takes so much time! Whether you’re moving out of state, to the other side of the world, or just down the block, it takes time to get yourself and your possessions settled into your new place. This isn’t a restful time, though. When you’re moving, you can expect to be driving a truck, carrying heavy loads, or unpacking your things. Having to put your life on hold while you get your move sorted out can be stressful, especially in light of the major changes that you’re making.
Black and white person hands on head - Moving Stress Guide

Recognize the Symptoms of Stress

Small amounts of stress can be helpful. Stress helps us to buckle down and meet deadlines or accomplish difficult tasks. However, stress can easily start to spiral out of control. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of too much stress and to know when it’s time to press down on the brakes and take a breather.

Emotional Symptoms of Stress

If you’re feeling too stressed, you may start to notice it in your emotions. The emotional stress of moving often feels like:

  • Difficulty when you try to relax;
  • Like you need to avoid other people;
  • Overwhelmed by all of the things coming at you;
  • Quick to anger or annoyance;
  • Worthless or depressed.

Physical Symptoms of Stress

Stress isn’t just something that affects our emotions. Too much stress can begin to manifest in physical ways, including:

  • Aches and pains throughout your body;
  • Chest pain;
  • Headaches;
  • Insomnia;
  • Low energy;
  • More prone to sickness or infection;
  • Shaking caused by stress.

Cognitive Symptoms of Stress

Stress affects your body and your mind, including your ability to think clearly. Stress can lead to:

  • Difficulty focusing on one thing, as thoughts seem to rush by;
  • Disorganization and forgetfulness;
  • Excessive pessimism, making it hard to see the positives;
  • Impaired judgment, making it harder to make good decisions;
  • Persistent worrying.

Behavioral Symptoms

When stress affects every part of your body and mind, it’s no wonder that excessive stress can start to manifest in your behavior. You or others may notice:

  • Avoiding duties and responsibilities;
  • Changes in your eating habits, either eating too much or not eating enough;
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often than usual.

How to Manage the Stress of Moving

When stress gets to be too much, it can negatively affect our mental and physical health. Let’s take a look at how to manage your stress while you’re moving, so that you can stay healthy, stay focused, and settle into your new home as gently as possible.

One Small Positive Thought In The Morning Can Change Your Whole Day - Moving Stress Tips

1. Adopt the right attitude.

Excessive stress can make us pessimistic, causing us to lose focus on the task at hand and bog ourselves down in more stress. When you’re moving, try to adopt a can-do attitude to help you through the tough parts. Focus on the positives, like meeting new people, exploring a new area, and finding fun activities to do in your new place. Even if it’s just one little thing, like being close to an interesting restaurant, keeping that positivity in your mind can help you to mitigate your stress.

Try to remember that the move itself is only temporary. You only have to move all of your things once and you can settle into your new location. There was probably a time when your current home was new to you, so remind yourself that you’ve been through this before and you can get through it again.

2. Do your research.

One of the reasons why moving is so stressful is because of all the major changes happening in your life. It only makes matters worse if you’re leaping into the unknown. Do your research before you move — figure out what your new location is like, the best roads to travel on, where the nearest grocery stores and restaurants are, and other things about your new home. Armed with this knowledge, you can already start to feel comfortable with your new home. Plus, you’ll have an easier time conjuring up positive things to focus on.

3. Make a checklist.

A moving checklist can help bring some order to the chaos of moving. By breaking your move down into manageable steps, you can make the whole project more realistic. You’ll also be able to enjoy some satisfaction each time you check off an item.

Every moving checklist will be different, but most should include some basic elements, such as:

  • Getting enough boxes or other storage for your items.
  • Making any down payments or security deposits that are required for your new location.
  • Making a travel plan, including the best routes, potential stops along the way, and how many trips you will need to take.
  • Packing everything! Preferably at least a few days or weeks in advance of your move.
  • Putting things into a storage unit or taking them out, depending on whether you’re downsizing or upsizing.

4. Declutter.

Moving is often accompanied by a long cleaning process. Many of us will start to notice that we’ve accumulated a lot more junk than we meant to when it finally comes time to move it all. By decluttering your home long before the big move rolls around, you can make it a lot easier for yourself on moving day.

Related: How to Let Go of Stuff with Sentimental Value

5. Start early.

As with almost anything, leaving all of your packing, cleaning, and moving until the last minute will likely multiply your stress considerably. Some parts of your move, like decluttering, can be done weeks or even months before you move. Others, like packing, can be done slowly over a few days or weeks, leaving only the essential items until the last minute.

6. Accept help.

The most important thing to remember about moving is that you don’t have to do it by yourself! It’s okay to enlist the help of friends when it comes to packing, moving your heavier things, or even just bringing some food on your busy moving day. Just remember to pay back the favor. Buying drinks or a meal for your helpers is a common way to thank them for all they’ve done.

Of course, you can also hire professional movers if the job is too big for your friends to tackle alone. Professional movers are usually familiar with all of the tricks of getting large items like couches or refrigerators out of your old house and into your new one.

7. Say goodbye.

Saying goodbye to your friends, your favorite places, and your old home can be difficult, but it’s also an important step in moving on. If you’re moving far away and it’s possible that you won’t see a lot of these people or places again, take the time to give an earnest goodbye. Let your last memories of your old home be good ones.

How To Help Your Child Cope With Moving Anxiety

If your move is stressful on you, it’s probably even more stressful for your children, especially if they are school-aged. They may lose many of their friends and, if they’ve never moved before, they probably won’t understand that they’ll make new friends and learn to appreciate their new home. 

Some studies have even shown that frequent moves during childhood can lead to more stress later in life. If you’re moving with children, make sure to check in on how they’re doing and do what you can to help them relax. By making sure they’re taken care of, you may even reduce one source of stress related to your move.

1. Break the news gently.

Find a good time to announce the move. For you, this decision to move has probably been a long time coming, but for your child, it may seem to come out of nowhere. Try to tell them about the planned move at a time when they’ll be able to go somewhere and process the news.

Make sure that you’re available for any questions that they have, but don’t try to force the issue. They may be angry and that’s okay. Just remember that the source of their anger is a lot of the same things that are stressing you out — moving into the unknown, losing friends, and starting at a new job or school.

2. Make moving fun.

Just like you need to focus on the positives in order to manage your own stress levels with a move, make sure that your child knows about all the fun parts of moving. You can encourage them to look at your new home on a map, finding the best spots to hang out, the new restaurants to try, and other things to get excited about with this new location.

For your children, though, making the move fun is about more than just focusing on the positive. Make sure that you have some games packed so that they’re the last things to go in and the first things to come out. If they have any favorite toys or games, those can be a great way to break up a long car drive.

Moving Stress Tip - Get Child Excited About Painting New Bedroom

3. Give your child control.

For kids, a move can be especially scary when it feels like they’re getting whisked away without having any say of their own. Try to give your children control of aspects of the move whenever you can. Maybe they can pick their room and how to decorate it in your new home. If you rope them into the process early enough, they may even be able to participate in the decision about where you want to move to. Giving your kids this feeling of autonomy can help to make the big move less scary.

4. Let them say goodbye.

Just like you need to say goodbye, so do your children. They may grieve the loss of their old life more than you, and that’s okay, so it’s important to let them say goodbye on their own terms. Even so, remember that these goodbyes don’t have to be final. It’s possible to stay in touch with friends online and to let those friendships continue going strong into adulthood.

Black and white room with wheelchair - Moving with a Disability

Moving with a Disability

A lot of the same advice that we’ve covered so far applies when you’re moving with a disability as well — make a checklist, start early, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. However, for people with disabilities, there are some additional considerations to keep in mind when you’re moving to a new home.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is important in any move, but this is especially true for people with disabilities. If you collect disability benefits from the government or a private insurance policy, it’s critical that you update your information right away. The Social Security Administration has a disability benefits planner that can help you through this process.

If you’re unable to do the bulk of the moving yourself, it’s also even more important to secure help in advance. If you have friends who are coming to help, make sure they understand that it’s critical to show up on moving day. If you’re hiring professional movers, make sure that the details are secured in advance and confirm the appointment a day or two before it’s time to move.

Address Necessary Accessibility

Before signing any lease or mortgage documents, make sure that your new home has the kinds of accessibility that you need. That may be a wheelchair ramp, first-floor access, or even something like a light-up doorbell for the hearing impaired. You know your needs better than anyone, so make sure to ask direct questions and get direct answers about whether or not they’ll be met in your new space.

Moving a Senior

For seniors, the moving process can be very different than it is at other stages of our lives. Many seniors are moving into assisted living facilities or nursing homes, which are probably going to be much different than their current housing. When helping a senior move, it’s important to understand what their needs are and how their new space will compare to their old one.

Downsizing

For most of our lives, we’re moving into bigger and bigger spaces — whether it’s a bigger house to make room for a new child or an upgrade following a promotion or new job. This trend reverses as we start to age. Children move out, making a large house seem empty, and our accessibility needs change, making that second floor almost completely useless.

For seniors, downsizing is a matter of figuring out what’s important, what can go into storage, and what is okay to get rid of completely. Parting with lifelong possessions can be difficult, though, so it’s important to go through this process together with the senior in your life, rather than taking downsizing into your own hands.

Related: Downsizing for Seniors: An Essential Checklist

Moving Resources for Seniors and People With Disabilities

  • ADAPT — ADAPT is a national nonprofit organization with a focus on providing affordable accessible housing to people with disabilities.
  • Administration for Community Living — The ACL works with state and local governments to provide grant assistance that supports seniors and people with disabilities.
  • Association of University Centers On Disabilities — The AUCD is a nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to providing services for people with disabilities and their family members.
  • National Association of Senior Move Managers — NASMM is an organization specifically dedicated to helping seniors move. They can help seniors to save money and reduce stress during a big move.

We hope these tips help you keep calm throughout the process of moving. However, more importantly, this article is not a substitute for medical treatment or medical advice. If you begin to feel clinically depressed, be sure to contact a healthcare professional.

About the Author

Ryan DiMillo

Ryan DiMillo

Ryan DiMillo has led the digital marketing team at Life Storage for the past four years. Prior to this, he spent eight years working at a local ad agency, as Director of Information Technology, and later, as Vice President of Operations. He holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Rochester Institute of Technology and a Bachelor’s degree from The State University of New York at Geneseo.

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