You’ve got your checklists together. You’re all neatly packed (or if you’re like me, your belongings are everywhere). You have movers lined up or have bribed some friends with pizza to help. The big day comes and you move into your new digs. Regardless of whether it’s a positive, negative, or neutral move, you’ll experience a range of emotions about moving. Some say you’ll experience the five stages of grief… maybe all in one day. Others say that moving is the third most stressful life event, behind only death and divorce. That’s pretty serious.
So, why don’t we talk about our feelings around moving? It seems everyone only talks about the logistics and the physical exhaustion. No one told me I’d be on the verge of tears during my first trip to my new grocery store. Okay, I’m more sensitive than your average person, but there are unexpected emotional side effects of moving. Reading about them helped me realize I wasn’t alone or crazy for how I was feeling.
Hopefully, this list of unexpected emotional side effects can help you relate, too.
According to a study published by Current Biology, one-half of our brains remain awake as a “night watch” while sleeping in an unfamiliar place. Biology is working against us. We’re safe in our new homes, but our bodies don’t want to sleep. The emotional result of sleep-deprivation is disarray to our bodies and minds. Our perspectives get a bit darker. I’m a chronically optimistic person but leave me lacking in sleep and I feel as if the world is ending.
How to feel better: If you benefit from naps and you can take them, definitely do it. There’s no shame in the nap game. Maybe it’s also time to step up caffeine intake. It can be temporary!
My recent move left me on the verge of tears in the grocery store on a Monday night. I had always driven my car to get groceries and then with the new move, had a strange cart I needed to lug home on foot. The grocery store was unfamiliar and I couldn’t find the soy milk. A feeling of total helplessness came over me. It takes about 21 days to form a new habit, until then, the slightest changes can be shocking.
How to feel better: Lower your expectations of yourself for the first few weeks before and after a move. Maybe even for months surrounding the move! I know that I can be a perfectionist and have insane expectations of myself. Lowering them around the time of the move helps give our feelings more room to breathe.
I did a gradual move; my time in my old place overlapped with time in the new. So, I moved my belongings slowly, meaning sometimes I was in one place and I needed something that was in the other. I had no makeup or accessories for three weeks. Don’t underestimate what makes a gal feel normal! I thought I wouldn’t mind, but it was totally distressing to not have the option to wear what I’m used to wearing. Even if all your stuff is moved at once, chances are that things are packed up in boxes or scattered all over the place.
How to feel better: Pick a few basic things to help you feel grounded. I didn’t even pack up a few of my favorite outfits and I left out my eyeliner and mascara. Simple essentials can help you feel normal in the midst of all the change.
Moving means a new neighborhood. Strange noises, sites, and people. Noises are what got me the most. I now live in an apartment that was built in the 40’s with a radiator to match. The noises that come from it were frightening the first night! Even a walk home or a walk with the dog can be scary and new. What if you’re LGBTQ and have a new roommate? Hopefully, they’re cool! What if you are living alone for the first time ever? Is the cat going to be okay in the new place? So many unknowns. As humans, change scares us.
How to feel better: Let yourself feel your feelings. This really goes for any of these emotions, but especially fear. Some of your fears, like feeling unsafe walking down a new street at night, may be rational. Avoid that if you can. If the fears are irrational, don’t drown them out. Let them come. If it helps, give in to some superstitions for a bit. It's okay to laugh at yourself when you think the radiator is a gargling swamp monster, though (speaking from experience).
You’re in a new place, you’ve switched up your routine, and perhaps you’re missing aspects of your old house. For example, although I love my new apartment, I do miss the much larger kitchen in the last place. I burnt myself my first time cooking in the new kitchen because of unfamiliarity with the space. I was livid. It hurt! And I’ve had times where I’ve just been grumpy and bitter having to walk my new commute to work, despite the fact that it’s 30 minutes shorter. Anger is a defense mechanism for many of us, it’s an easy emotion to turn to during uncertainty.
How to feel better: Anger gets a bad rap, despite its usefulness. It can be a great indicator of the need for self-care and slowing down. When anger starts to boil to the surface, acknowledge it as another feeling. Know that it isn’t bad, but sometimes the actions we take out of anger can be harmful. It’s probably your lack of sleep talking.
I promise I’m not a "Debbie-Downer," I just think it’s useful to talk about our feelings. There are so many that come up when you’re moving! So, if no one told you you’d be having an emotional upheaval and perhaps crying on your new kitchen floor, I’m here to tell you you’re doing okay. It takes time to settle into a new living space, give yourself the time to acclimate. And gosh, have FUN! Explore your new city and take a break. You deserve it.