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How to Deal with a Big Move

by Mackenzie M. February 21st, 2012 | Mental Health
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I have moved several times in my young life – first between neighboring cities in the Midwest, and then I made the big move to New Orleans, Louisiana. I recently moved back to the Midwest, and will soon be relocating to central Japan. Needless to say, every move is no less stressful than the last, especially when it is across the country, or even across the world.

According to several psychologists and medical studies, moving is cited as one of the most stressful life events, next to divorce or a serious illness. Everyone has different reasons for moving, but it is completely normal to be overwhelmingly stressed, and here’s why.

After studying the way humans respond to big moves over the past decades, psychologists have identified some key factors that cause the large amount of stress. Although some are obvious, it may simply validate the fact that it is OK to be stressed with the process of moving. This can be extremely comforting.

To begin with, the most obvious stressor is the change and disruption of the individual’s or family’s routine. The permanent change far outshines the actual act of moving in the long run. They pinpoint that every aspect of life changes. There are new friendships, associations, scheduling, distance from family, and even sometimes, as in my case, a drastic change in the physical environment. Moves to and from different climate regions can be extraordinarily difficult, as it puts the mover at a greater risk for things like seasonal affective disorder or heat exhaustion.

The feelings of shock, anxiety, sadness, and fear are all common emotions. Using my experience, to combat these things, it is best to try to somewhat mimic the daily routine that was left behind. For example, if the routine was coffee, then work, then dinner, then relaxation time, attempt to construct a similar schedule in the new location to ease the shock to the mind.

Another interesting effect of moving is the loss of identity that follows. Psychologists compare moving to a marriage, death, divorce, childbirth, or graduation. All of these events end in ceremonies to mark the event and to help ease the shock; however, moving does not. Furthermore, moving is often associated with a new job, marriage, or academic reasons, which often forces the movers to divert from familiar social relations, and leaves them feeling like outsiders in their new communities.

This is often the hardest part for me. The social relations between people in Louisiana, and people in the Midwest are strikingly different. Moving back to the Midwest, the only way to cope is to try to volunteer often, join organizations to get to know others, and to also keep some kind of contact with at least a few friends that were left at the old location.

Psychologists point out that moves are often hardest on children, and more so adolescents. They claim it takes away the consistency, reliability, and stability of a teen’s life, making it close to impossible to adjust right away.

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.