Relocating from California was no easy task for Carly Allen, and her moving anxiety kicked in as soon as she considered the packing, organizing and spending in her immediate future.
“There was a lot that had to get done, and it got stressful,” she said. “I tried to stay as organized as possible to eliminate stress where I could.”
Americans are some of the most anxious people in the world, according to a World Mental Health Survey, and there’s a lot about a move that can induce stress in the average person. Whether it be the financial cost, the idea of living in an unknown town or, like Allen, the organization needed to get through a move successfully.
If you’re about to move, or perhaps in the midst of a relocation, and need some advice to keep the moving anxiety at bay, read on for expert tips from psychologists to help you get through the big transition.
Remember: One box at a time. You can do it!
Make a Moving To-Do List to Reduce Stress
Avoid getting overwhelmed by creating a to-do list of what needs to get done before, during and after your move.
“Packing and organizing can start anxiety before you’ve even moved a single box out the door, because people have anxiety about what to keep and what to get rid of,” said Catherine Pittman, a psychologist and professor at Saint Mary’s College in Indiana.
“A list in your head can feel like 2,000 things – it’s huge. But when you write it down, it becomes limited and 2,000 things may become 22 things.”
This was the first step Allen took to relieve her moving anxiety.
“I made a checklist of everything I had to do before I had to move,” Allen said. “I am an obsessive packer, so I tried to pack as much as early as I could, but the list helped me figure out what to pack first.”
Prioritize Tasks by Completion Date to Minimize Stress
Whether your move – and moving list – is long like Allen’s or short, rank tasks from most to least important to alleviate anxiety. You won’t feel compelled to finish everything as soon as possible.
“You’ll find that some of the things that are overwhelming you, you can’t do them yet, and you’ll know that it’s something to do later,” said Pittman, who coauthored Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic and Worry.
“As things come off your list, you’ll feel better.”
Although Allen tried to do everything early, which may have caused some extra stress, she said prioritizing her to-do list helped her move to Oregon successfully.
“I organized my list by date, said Allen. “I had a main list that included the things with deadlines, and then I had a supplementary list, which included things like forwarding my mail.”
Take Care of Yourself and Ask for Help During a Move
To keep anxiety at bay during a move, don’t forget to keep your schedule as normal as possible.
When people are stressed during a move, they can forget to eat, sleep and exercise, all which will increase stress, said Pittman.
“Sometimes people don’t eat or drink correctly because their house starts to get disorganized,” she said. “If you don’t get the sleep you need, your stress level goes up. Exercise is a great stress reliever.”
And don’t forget to breathe.
“When we’re stressed out, we actually hold our breath,” Pittman added. “Slow, deep breaths for three to five minutes will help so much. And it’s so underestimated by people. It doesn’t take any training, or money, or a therapist. And you can do it any time.”
Allen said she takes her deep breaths before she sings some of her favorite tunes to calm down.
“I’ll go and strand in the middle of the living and belt out some tunes,” she said. “That’s my personal meditation.”
Don’t forget to ask for support to get through a move stress-free, said Elizabeth Stirling, a New Mexico-based psychologist.
“It is important to have support at home cheering you on,” she said. “You can find support in friends, families, your church or even a pet.”
When Allen moved across state lines, she brought a friend with her. Besides the help he provided carrying boxes and furniture, his emotional support helped Allen deal with the long-distance trek.
“Having somebody help you is so crucial,” said Allen. “He saved my life in a lot of ways.”
If you’re still anxious about your relocation, remember the beginning stages of moving are the most stressful.
“The beginning stages are the worst,” said Pittman. “As long as you don’t think yourself into more anxiety, it gets better. Like a speech, it’s worse in the beginning but better after you get started.”