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How to look after your mental health during your move

  1. 10 October 2019
  2. By Daisy Stephens

According to a poll carried out by Anxiety UK, two thirds of people rate moving house as more stressful than divorce. So what can you do to take care of yourself?


Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

In 1967, a pair of psychiatrists made a list of life events and assigned each one a numerical value based on how traumatic it was. They then worked out how likely you were to develop a stress-related illness based off these experiences. According to the scale, moving house increased your chances of developing a stress-related illness to 30%. And if you pair it with something like divorce, or starting a family – both of which are common reasons to move house – then that figure is pushed up to 50%.

We know that the scale is rather outdated now, but it still highlights an important point – moving house is stressful, made more so by the fact it usually occurs as a result of one or more other big changes in your life.

As such it’s very important to know how to deal with the psychological aspect of moving, and how to look after yourself.

Emotionally prepare yourself

You may have an emotional connection to the house you’re leaving, and the longer you’ve been there, the stronger that bond will be. You must prepare yourself for what might even feel a little like grieving. Acknowledge those feelings but remind yourself it’s just the bricks and mortar you’re leaving behind. You’ll take the memories of the house, the relationships formed there, and even photographs of it with you.

Another good way to prepare yourself for a move is to visit your new town (only if it’s nearby!). Doing a food shop in what will be your local supermarket, taking friends to a nearby restaurant for lunch, registering with the doctor before you move, or even just trying to drive past your new house a few times before your move can make your new town feel a little less new.

You could also make it easier by minimising the number of other things you’ve got going on. Accept that it’s unlikely that everything will go to plan and leave time to deal with lost files or chase phone calls. Try to avoid taking on other projects and if you can, book an extra day or two off work just to take the pressure off.

Top tips:

  • Throw a ‘goodbye’ party in your old home if you’ve got a lot of history. Or even better, use it as an opportunity to give away items or get packing help from friends and family!
  • Explore your new hometown before you move – get comfortable with the local area.
  • Give yourself enough time.
  • Approach your new home as an adventure – it might be different to your old home but it’s a new opportunity!

Prepare your belongings

Think of packing as therapy – you’re spring cleaning your mind!

Most physical clutter tends to be emotional baggage, too. By decluttering as you pack, you’re not only making your move cheaper and easier (which will reduce anxiety), you’re also making room for new memories.

The way you pack can help reduce anxiety, too. You might be too shattered to do any unpacking at all when you arrive at your new place. Prepare a suitcase of essentials in advance, so you can live for a few days without having to rummage through a sea of cardboard boxes to find clothes, toiletries or medication. You could also include a few little bits to make your new place feel homely straight away. Thing about what would make you feel at home – a favourite mug, a blanket, a pair of old slippers… it doesn’t matter what it is or if it seems silly. If it will help, pack it.

Here’s a complete list of what to include in your Moving Day Survival Kit.

Top tips:

  • Make like Marie Kondo – if it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it!
  • Make sure you’ve got home comforts to hand when you move.
  • Mark up your boxes with what’s inside to make finding stuff easier.

Ask for help

There is no shame in asking for help. Everyone needs a hand on moving day, whether that’s hiring packing or removal services or just asking a friend to watch the cat.

 Involving your friends and family in the moving process bridges the gap between what can feel like you ‘old’ and ‘new’ life, as well as reducing stress on the day because you know you can trust them with your possessions. If you feel guilty asking, don’t – your friends know you’d do the same for them!

Top tips:

  • If you’re embarrassed to ask, promise pizza at the end of the day.
  • Make a clear list of tasks and be clear in what help you need.
  • Prepare as much as you can in advance so your friends and family can pick the tasks they are able to help with.

Throw yourself in

Once you’re in your new home, and the excitement has worn off, it can be easy for the anxiety to set in. A kind of separation anxiety for what you’ve left behind. There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia, but don’t let it take over. Embrace the new place and the new people. Go for a walk, introduce yourself to your neighbours as soon as you get the chance, join local groups or even throw a housewarming party to get to know your new community.

Don’t let the stress of moving get in the way of this. If you’re having a drink with your new neighbours and you suddenly remember you haven’t changed your address with your bank, don’t run off and do it. Jot down a reminder on your phone and just say ‘I’ll do that later’.

Top tips:

  • Get excited about your new home – new clubs, places to visit, ways to decorate!
  • There can be chaos in the first few weeks of your move – pick a couple of things to do each day.
  • Make a list of ‘to do’s when you remember them.

Be kind

Don’t be too hard on yourself if it comes to Sunday evening and you’re not unpacked. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day – powering through to get everything done will only mean you have to go back and reorganise it later. Imagine it’s a working day – take breaks, and clock off at 5pm.

Similarly, don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling low. Moving day can feel exciting, but it can also feel overwhelming and you may well have points – or large chunks of the process – where you feel pretty blue, and that’s ok. Just take it one day at a time, and keep focussed on why you’re moving in the first place.

Lastly – take a break. If everything feels a little overwhelming then take a breather, even if it’s just stepping outside for a few minutes or having a cup of tea in front of the television. Anxiety UK recommends mindfulness as an anxiety management technique – apps like Headspace take you through ten-minute relaxation techniques that could make all the difference. It might feel like you have no time to lose, but time spent recuperating and getting your breath back is not lost.

Top tips:

  • Take a break!
  • Find something about your new home you love – maybe it’s having a cup of tea in your garden, or the nook in your bedroom.
  • Make a plan if you feel overwhelmed. Ticking things off a list can make you realise how much you’re achieving!
It’s very easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that is moving home – you can develop tunnel vision and completely forget to look after yourself. But your mental health should be a priority. Moving house is a huge undertaking, so be kind to yourself and celebrate all your victories, however small.

If you feel you’re struggling to cope and need extra support, the NHS has a list of mental health helplines.
 
 

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