Moving on and Moving In: How to Ease the Stress of Moving

By: Anthony Defrietas

You may have heard the familiar statistic: following death and divorce, moving is the third most stressful event in a person's life. The good news is you can have a measure of control over this potential stress. There are actions you can take, that will make for a manageable move for both you and your family.

Being aware of what causes stress during a move helps bring things into perspective. There are several different reasons why moving has the potential to be so stressful.

Moving, triggers a primal fear of loss of security. Homes provide security; shelter from the elements and the outside world. Trading in a known and familiar security for an unknown one, puts the brain on high alert for potential dangers- even if danger is not present. It seems simple and silly, but this stress is just the workings of a normal human psyche. If you are feeling on edge and unsafe, try to remind yourself that your stress is normal and human. Understanding and being gentle with yourself is key to managing and not compounding stress. Accept where you are at, and chances are, the fear will subside.

Another element to moving stress is memory triggers. Packing up years of accumulated belongings can trigger memories. Some memories may be pleasurable and others painful. Regardless, there is definite stress associated with hashing through the past with such intensity. Likewise, there are important decisions to be made. Usually when in a move there is the desire for a clean beginning and to pare down 'stuff'. Letting go of certain objects may represent the difficult process of letting go of the past.

Once you have arrived in your new home there is the challenge of re-programming. There is a certain stress that comes with having to de-program and re-program. In the house in which you lived before your move, chances are you probably knew every nook and cranny, every door and cupboard and every place where you hid a secret stash of chocolate! In a new home you have to start a fresh and re-program the whereabouts of everything. All this kafuffle puts the brain in overdrive, and can add to accumulated stress and fatigue.

Sometimes we don't notice how important our support systems are to us, until they are gone. In a move we often have to look to a new community to find new supports: hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores, religious and school institutions. We may be moving away from known friends and family. Trust and know that it will take time, effort and courage to integrate into your new community.

Now that we've taken a look at the psychology behind the stress of moving, let's look toward some helpful approaches to managing and hopefully minimizing the associated stress.

Before the Move

- Be organized and prepared. Keep all documents related to your move in one folder.

- Start to gather important information and research on your new community in this folder.

- Make a schedule of appointments to turn off your utilities in your current home

- When packing, think about packing for each new room. Label each box clearly.

- If you have children, prepare them for the move by discussing your new house and community.

- Show your children videos and brochures of your new community and home.

- Set up appointments in advance for you and your children to meet with new teachers at the new school/s.

- Get the kids involved by giving them meaningful jobs. Ask them to box up their favorite toys or cherished items and label these boxes on their own. They too, should have a sense of control and contribution around the move.

On Move-In Day

- Open boxes that contain necessities first: paper towels, light bulbs, trash bags.

- Set up the bathroom and bedroom first and then move onto other living spaces. Cover the basics first.

- Assign specific tasks to your children on move in day to keep them focused. Have them feel part of everything.

- Fixing a meal during your first day of moving can be stressful. Take this chance to explore your community. Find a great restaurant and treat the family to a dinner out. This will hopefully make the kids feel special and rewarded- and you as well!

Once You've Moved In

- Go for a walk or drive and learn your way around. Chances are you will meet someone and learn something new about your community.

- Seek out clubs and/or classes that match your particular interests. Do the same for your children.

- Encourage all member of your family to talk about how they are feeling about the move.

- Have weekly family meetings and explore what new activities, people or places the family has discovered.

Remember, feeling 'at home' will be a gradual process. Your efforts and patience will be rewarded. Keep on top of your stress by knowing the roots of its cause and by taking particular steps to manage it. With insight, patience, diligence and effort, your new home will be a great one. Soon enough, you will say 'there is no place like home," and mean it!

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