Moving is a process full of mixed emotions. On the one hand, it’s the start of an exciting new adventure. Depending on your situation, it can be the first step towards a new location filled with opportunities to explore and meet new people. On the other hand, moving does come with a lot of change all at once. Even if you’re not moving very far away, a new physical space, a new neighborhood, and maybe even a new job are all possibilities that could accompany the move itself.
Simply put: Moving is stressful. And if you’re experiencing stress and anxiety related to your move, you’re not alone. In fact, according to a research survey featured in a 2020 New York Post article, 64% of respondents said that their most recent move was one of the most stressful things they’ve ever experienced. On top of that, 45% of respondents also said that moving is the most stressful event in life.
A completely natural and normal response to a change in your surroundings, “moving stress” is a term used to describe all these complicated 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 concrete tips to alleviate the stress. In this guide, you’ll find sections that cover the following:
- Understanding Moving Stress
- How to Manage the Stress of Moving
- How to Help Your Child Cope with Moving Anxiety
- Moving with a Disability
- Moving a Senior
- Moving Resources for Seniors and People with Disabilities
Why is Moving Stress a Thing?
If you’ve never experienced a major move before, you might wonder: What makes moving so stressful? The fact of the matter is everyone’s moving experience is a little bit different. There’s no one major cause of stress when moving, whether moving to a big city or just down the road. Instead, it’s a likely bunch of smaller things that add up to make moving one of the more stressful things that many of us will ever do.
Here are just a few reasons why moving is one of the most stressful life events to undergo:
Every move carries some big changes along with it. You’re changing your location, the layout of your home, your proximity to friends and family, and maybe even your job. These changes are often unavoidable, and even if they’re positive in nature, good changes can still be a little scary. It’s okay to feel a little anxious about a big change, even if you know it’s for the best.
Of course, money is one of the most significant pain points for anyone making a major move. Most of the time, moving your things is not something you can do alone. Even if you’re a fan of minimalist living and can fit all of your possessions into the back of your car, there are still a variety of costs associated with moving into a new house or apartment. For many people, money — or a lack thereof — is a big source of stress. That’s why it’s no wonder that it plays a major role in feeling overwhelmed and anxious during the moving process.
Believe us when we say: Moving takes so much time! Whether moving out of state, to the other side of the world, or just down the block, getting yourself and your possessions packed up, transported, and settled into your new place takes time. And this isn’t a restful stretch of time, either. 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 considering the major changes you’re making.
Recognize the Symptoms of Stress
Contrary to what you might think, small amounts of stress can actually be helpful. Stress helps us to buckle down to meet deadlines or accomplish complex tasks. However, an overwhelming amount of stress can quickly 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 hit 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;
- 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.
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.
An overwhelming amount of stress can lead to emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms like these before, during, and after the moving process.
For example, you might be less patient with friends and family members as you’re packing up the moving truck or more prone to crying than usual during the weeks leading up to the move. You might also experience excess muscle soreness or back pain from overexerting yourself or maybe even develop a cold shortly after the move is over.
While mildly uncomfortable, situations like these are incredibly common. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to properly and effectively manage moving stress and anxiety throughout the entire process.
How to Manage & Relieve Stress When Moving
When stress gets to be too much, it can negatively affect our mental and physical health. Let’s look at a few ways you can manage your stress while moving so that you can stay healthy, stay focused, and settle into your new home as easily as possible.
1. Adopt the right attitude.
Excessive stress can make us pessimistic. But going into situations with a bad attitude can cause us to lose focus on the task at hand and even 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. It doesn’t have to be anything major: This can be as small as being close to an interesting restaurant in your neighborhood. Reframing your situation and keeping that positivity in mind can help mitigate stress.
Here’s another mindset shift you can adopt: Remember that the move itself is only temporary. You only have to move all 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 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. Stress is exacerbated if you’re leaping into the unknown. To help combat this, it’s a good idea to research before you move. This could include figuring out what your new location is like, the best roads to travel on, where the nearest grocery stores and restaurants are, and other details about your new home. Armed with this knowledge, you can start your journey to feeling comfortable in your new home before you even arrive. 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 easier, more manageable steps, you can make the whole project feel more realistic and accomplishable. Bonus: You’ll also enjoy satisfaction whenever you check off an item.
Every moving checklist will be different, but most should include some basic elements, such as:
- Getting enough moving 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.
It happens to all of us: While packing your belongings and moving all your furniture out of your current apartment, you’re thinking, “I swear I had less stuff when I moved in!” Don’t worry. You’re not alone. 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.
That’s why it’s a good idea to start decluttering your home long before the big move rolls around. Sometimes moves are unexpected, but if you can work on organizing, decluttering, and donating items you no longer use beforehand, you can save time and stress on moving day. You can start the decluttering process anytime before your move-in date, but the best time to start making cuts is about 2-3 months before. That way, you have enough time to be as thorough as you want without feeling rushed.
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. Can you imagine how stressful packing your entire apartment for a cross-country move in just one day would be? 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. If you plan ahead as much as possible, you’ll thank yourself later when you’re in the throes of other stressful situations like lifting heavy furniture items and communicating with your movers.
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 and family members when it comes to packing, moving your heavier things, or even bringing you some much-needed food to refuel 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 you and 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. Plus, movers often come equipped with helpful tools, moving blankets, packing tape, and other items that may have slipped your mind while packing.
7. Take the time to 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.
8. Blow off some steam.
With so much to remember and a to-do list that feels miles long, moving can quickly become an all-consuming process. Don’t forget to prioritize self-care by finding activities to temporarily take your mind off of moving when you need a mental break. Working out, taking a walk outside, watching a comfort movie, and spending time with friends and family can all be great stress-relieving activities leading up to the big move.
How To Help Your Child Cope With Moving Anxiety
If moving by yourself is stressful, moving with children amps everything up to an entirely new level. Not only are you learning to cope with your own stress and anxiety surrounding the move, but you also need to care for and consider your child’s feelings, too.
It’s important to remember: If your move is stressful for you, it’s probably even more stressful for your children. A big move can be earth-shattering when you’re a school-aged child who’s never moved before. Routines will need to be rebuilt, they may lose many of their friends, and if they’ve never moved before, they probably won’t understand why they even need to move in the first place.
Some studies have shown that frequent moves during childhood can lead to more stress later in life. So if you’re moving with children, 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 can reduce one source of stress related to your move.
Here are a few helpful tips to help alleviate moving stress and prepare your child for their new home:
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 you’re available for any questions they have, but don’t try to force the issue. They may be angry at first, and that’s okay. Just remember that the source of their anger stems from many of the same things that are stressing you out. This can include venturing into the unknown, losing friends, and starting a new job or school.
2. Make moving fun.
Just like you need to focus on the positives to manage your own stress levels during a move, you can also reassure your child that moving can be exciting. You can encourage them to look at your new home on a map, find new community parks to visit, locate new restaurants to try together, and other things to get excited about with this new location. Family-friendly activities like visiting the local zoo or having a picnic in the park can be great experiences to help build positive memories in your new neighborhood.
Remember to make the physical act of moving fun for your kids, too! This can be as simple as packing your family’s favorite games last, so they’re among the first items to come out of the car or moving truck. You can also set your children up with some books and movies on the way there to help break up a long, uncomfortable car ride.
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 in the matter. Try to give your children control of more minor aspects of the move whenever possible. Maybe they can pick their room and how to decorate it in their 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 make the big move less daunting and more exciting.
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. Either way, it’s important to let them say goodbye on their own terms. You can also remind your child that these goodbyes don’t have to be final. Nowadays, it’s possible to stay in touch with old friends online through writing letters, Zoom, e-mail, or even social media, if they’re old enough.
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.
Planning ahead is vital 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, you must update your information right away. The Social Security Administration has a disability benefits planner to 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. 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.
Alleviate Moving Stress by Addressing Your Accessibility Needs
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 at other stages of life. Especially if you’re moving a parent or a loved one into a nursing home or an assisted living facility, moving a senior can be a drastic life event for everyone involved. When helping seniors move, it’s important to understand their needs and how their new space will compare to their old one.
For most of our lives, we’re moving into bigger spaces — whether a bigger house to make room for a new child or an upgrade following a promotion or new job. Unfortunately, this trend tends to reverse as we age. Children move out, making a large house seem empty and unnecessary. On top of that, our accessibility needs may change, leaving that second floor completely useless and unused.
For seniors, downsizing is a matter of figuring out what’s important, what can be put into storage, and what is okay to donate or get rid of completely. Parting with lifelong possessions can be difficult, so it’s important to go through this process with the senior in your life rather than taking downsizing into your own hands.
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.
How Do You Cope With Moving Stress?
We hope these tips help you keep calm throughout the process of moving. We would love to hear how you cope with the stress of moving if you’d like to share with us on social media!
Important Note: This article is not a substitute for medical treatment or advice. If you begin to feel clinically depressed, be sure to contact a healthcare professional.
This article was originally published on August 6th, 2019, and has since been updated with more information on January 11th, 2023.