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Is Moving a Traumatic Experience?

Posted in Coping With Relocation,Moving Tips & Tricks on November 28, 2022

Depression after changing residency can seem like something that happens only to a few people. Sure, it won’t affect everyone, and if it does, it doesn’t have to affect you in the long term. But feeling emotionally strained after relocating is actually very common. So, is moving traumatic? Let’s answer this question once and for all.

Is moving a lot of trauma? Absolutely, it can be traumatic for a lot of reasons – there’s even a thing called transitional trauma. When you’re relocating, you’re not simply changing a place of residence. You’re also leaving everything that you’ve known for years behind and trying to navigate the unfamiliar, and that can be emotionally exhausting, especially for children. But luckily, there are ways to help yourself cope with this life-changing process.

Why Is Moving Traumatic? The Stress and Emotional Effects Can Be Very Hard to Deal With, Even if You Have Help From Long-Distance Movers

Trauma is usually defined as an emotional response to a terrible event, such as an accident or a natural disaster. Without minimizing these terrible experiences, moving across the country can be just as hard to get over for some people. If you’ve done it at least once in your life, you know that it can be an incredibly stressful experience. Not everyone goes through it, and if it happens, everyone deals with it in their own way.

Depression after relocating can occur even if you were looking forward to the move. Maybe you’re excited to find an interesting job in a new city or are relocating for love. The truth is, there are a lot of reasons to move, but no matter how positive they are, you might still feel emotionally drained after the whole ordeal is done and you’ve unpacked in your new house. Of course, these feelings can disappear once you adjust to your brand-new home, but if they go on to affect you for weeks or even months, you should definitely seek out professional help.

Is Moving Traumatic for Adults? Why Is Moving So Emotionally Hard?

So, why is moving traumatic for adults? A change as big as moving cross-country can cause problems before, during, and after the move. It starts as relocation anxiety and can persist long after your move to a new state is accomplished. The whole process is a stressful one, and mix that with making a huge change in your life as well as feeling emotional through it all, and you’re left with feelings that can be tricky to deal with.

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There’s a Wide Range of Possible Effects Long-Distance Moving Can Have On Your Mental Health

Emotions brought on by difficult experiences such as relocating to another state alone, or even by something as simple as jet lag, can cause hormonal imbalances and mess with your serotonin and dopamine levels. If you’re wondering how moving affects your mental health exactly, we’ve compiled a list of the most common symptoms people experience:

  • Negative emotions, as well as mood swings – going from being sad and crying to feeling angry and irritated, and dealing with mostly negative or extreme emotions,
  • Exhaustion and fatigue – feeling super tired even if you haven’t done anything physically demanding all day,
  • Irregular sleeping patterns – either sleeping an excessive amount or dealing with adjustment insomnia,
  • Irregular eating habits and digestive issues – either overeating or dealing with a loss of appetite,
  • Feeling inadequate and unable to perform daily tasks – the move can greatly affect your self-esteem.

Having to Adapt to New Circumstances Every Other Year – Does It Get Easier if You’re Moving Across the Country Frequently?

Whether you’re looking forward to it or not, planning to move to another city or change house means that a chapter of your life is coming to a close. What happens when you have to, for whatever reason, do it often? Everyone who has done it at least once knows the work that goes into organizing a move. Take all the relocation checklists and hours spent looking for different packing materials and cross-country moving services you require and multiply them. It doesn’t seem like it can get easier with the years going by.

It seems logical that if you’re frequently exposed to a life-changing process such as relocation, the stress and every other negative emotion caused by it accumulates. But that doesn’t have to be the case – you might learn how to cope with the new circumstances more quickly. So, we can’t exactly say if relocating often has either good or bad consequences. It depends on your particular situation, and there are too many factors to consider to find a clear answer.

A couple unpacking after long-distance moving
Doing something a bunch of times might make it easier, but that's not always the case

Is Moving Traumatic for Kids? Frequent Moving Across the Country Can Be Especially Hard for Them

If transitional trauma can be so impactful for adults, you’re probably wondering what one might expect when relocating with children. Is moving traumatic for kids? Research such as the one done by the MacArthur Foundation shows that frequently home-changing can leave long-term effects on your child. They might not understand what’s going on and why you’re relocating to a new home, and this can build up a lot of frustration for them.

Here are the most important aspects of the move your child may struggle with and ways to help them through it:

It's Especially Hard if There's a Change in the Family Structure

If the move is a result of divorce or other changes within the family, adjusting to their brand-new bedroom might be the least of your child’s worries. Every kid craves stability, and once they start feeling like that has been compromised, it can trigger insecurity, anger, and isolation. That’s why it’s important to be especially sensitive to what your child is going through. Try sticking to their current routine as much as possible, and communicate with them every step of the way.

Your Child Might Struggle to Catch Up Academically

If your move requires that your child must change schools, it can also be difficult for them to adjust. This is especially true if you’re relocating during winter because they will have to change schools mid-year. Your kid will probably feel overwhelmed, and if they have trouble catching up to a more advanced curriculum, it can impact their self-esteem in a negative way. That’s why it’s important to help them with their schoolwork during the transition and maybe even prepare them in advance.

They Will Have to Make Friends All Over Again

For less outgoing, introverted children, making friends can be very difficult. That’s why it can be especially hard for them to adjust to having to do it all over again. It might be easier for the more extroverted kids, but relocating frequently can have long-term effects that can bring out attachment issues later on. That’s why it’s important you encourage them to make friends, as well as remind them that nowadays it’s easy to keep in contact with old ones from back home.

How to Deal With Relocation Depression – It’s Not the End, but a Beginning After Moving Cross-Country

From missing the family you left behind to losing your favorite coffee spot, leaving the familiar and entering the unknown is hard for everybody. Now that we’ve covered all the reasons why relocation can be a hard thing to deal with, let’s talk about what you can do to make things easier. So, how do you mentally cope with moving?

First things first, you can’t start dealing with a problem if you don’t acknowledge that it exists. That’s why it’s important to assess the situation as objectively as you can. Everybody will feel a bit sentimental and nostalgic after the move – that’s completely normal and almost unavoidable. But if you’re dealing with certain symptoms that we talked about, and they’re not going away for months, or even years, it’s time to take action and figure it out.

Keep a Steady Routine and Take Care of Your Physical and Mental Health After Long-Distance Moving

One of the best ways to combat feeling down is to create a solid routine and try to stick to it as much as possible. Knowing what the day has in store for you, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, can have a positive effect on feeling like you’re regaining the stability and control you once had. It will keep you going, and after a while, you will realize just how much progress you have made.

Aside from taking care of your mental health, you should stay physically active as well. Just get out of the house – a simple walk can completely refresh your mindset, and you will also be able to explore your brand-new place of residence. Maybe take up a fun activity you’ve always wanted to try out, and you can easily make friends there and feel less isolated. Whenever things get tough (and believe us, everyone has those days), remember that keeping in contact with your family and old friends is easy as a click of a button.

A woman talking on the phone
If you need help, don't hesitate to contact your old friends

Focus on the Positive Aspects of Starting From Scratch After the Cross-Country Movers Leave

It’s all about adjusting to your brand-new home with an equally fresh mindset. Going to an unfamiliar place can be scary, but look at it as the perfect opportunity to get out of your comfort zone. Remember, real progress and growth always happen once we’re willing to enter the unknown. When you start seeing things from that perspective, you’ll come to understand that you’re able to have a fresh new start.

Keeping a positive attitude will also help you see why this change was necessary in the first place. You’ll quickly realize how much progress you’ve made in a short amount of time since the move. This will improve your self-confidence, and you’ll start getting excited about what the future has in store for you. Check out this helpful video for additional tips about staying positive and grateful:

Minimize the Stress During the Relocation by Investing in Cross-Country Moving Services

There’s no way you can tell if you’ll be dealing with transitional trauma once your move is over. But because going through stress can be a huge trigger for it, there are things you can do to make the transition itself easier for you. The most important relocation hack is always to plan ahead and do everything in advance, from creating a household inventory list to thinking about what kind of packing services you’ll need.

The best way to move efficiently is to hire cross-country movers that will take care of everything without you having to stress over unpacked boxes. With professional long-distance movers by your side, you will be able to prepare emotionally for this transition, and starting the next chapter of your life without stressing over the less important stuff will definitely be life-changing.


Is Moving Considered a Traumatic Event?

For some people, moving across the country can be a positive and exciting opportunity to start fresh and explore new opportunities. For others, it can be a more difficult experience, particularly if they are leaving behind familiar people, places, and routines. The stress of packing, cross-country moving, and adjusting to a new environment can also be challenging, particularly if the move is sudden or unexpected. Additionally, factors like social support, financial stability, and the reasons for the move can all play a role in how traumatic the experience may be.

What Factors Can Make Moving Traumatic for Some People?

One significant factor is the reason for the move. For example, if the move is due to a job loss, financial hardship, or other negative circumstances, it can be more challenging to adjust and may lead to feelings of loss or grief. Additionally, leaving behind familiar people, places, and routines can be difficult, particularly for those who are socially connected to their community. Moving to a new environment with different social norms, cultural values, and geographic features can also be challenging, particularly for those who struggle with change or uncertainty. Finally, the logistics of moving, such as packing, selling or buying a home, and navigating a new city, can also add stress and anxiety to the experience.

How Common Is It for People to Experience Trauma Related to Moving?

Whether someone experiences trauma related to moving can depend on a variety of factors, including their personality, social support network, and the circumstances of the move. For some people, moving can be a positive and exciting opportunity to start fresh and explore new opportunities. For others, the stress and disruption of moving can lead to feelings of anxiety, sadness, or loss.

While it is difficult to say how common it is for people to experience trauma related to moving, research suggests that most people are able to adjust to a new environment and develop a sense of attachment and belonging over time. However, for those who do experience trauma related to moving, seeking support from mental health professionals or other resources can be helpful in managing the transition.

What Are Some Symptoms of Trauma Related to Moving?

Some common symptoms may include feelings of sadness, anxiety, or depression, as well as difficulty adjusting to new routines or social environments. People who have experienced trauma related to moving may also experience physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, or digestive problems. They may feel a sense of disorientation or disconnection from their new surroundings and may struggle with feelings of homesickness or nostalgia for their previous home. Other symptoms may include avoidance of social situations or activities, irritability or anger, or difficulty concentrating or making decisions.

Can Moving Trauma Lead to Long-Term Mental Health Issues?

In some cases, moving trauma can lead to long-term mental health issues if it is not addressed or treated effectively. For example, if someone experiences significant stress or disruption due to a move, they may be at increased risk for developing anxiety or depression over time. If these symptoms persist or worsen, they may lead to other mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, or other mood disorders. Additionally, people who experience moving trauma may be at increased risk for relationship difficulties, social isolation, or other stress-related issues.

Are There Any Specific Types of People Who May Be More Susceptible to Experiencing Trauma Related to Moving?

One group is individuals who have experienced significant life changes or stressors prior to the move, such as divorce, job loss, or health issues. These individuals may be more vulnerable to the stress and disruption of a move and may experience more difficulty adjusting to their new environment. Additionally, children and adolescents may be more susceptible to moving trauma, particularly if they are leaving behind familiar friends, routines, or social environments. People who have experienced trauma in the past, such as abuse, neglect, or violence, may also be more susceptible to moving trauma, as the disruption of a move may trigger memories or feelings of anxiety or helplessness.

How Can I Prepare Myself Mentally and Emotionally for a Move to Reduce the Chances of Experiencing Trauma?

One way to do this is to focus on building a support network in your new community before you move. This can include reaching out to friends or family who live in the area, joining online groups or forums for people in your new city, or researching local clubs or organizations that align with your interests. It can also be helpful to create a plan for staying connected with loved ones in your previous community, such as scheduling regular phone or video calls or planning visits back to your old hometown.

Additionally, focusing on self-care practices like exercise, meditation, or therapy can help reduce stress and anxiety during the transition. Finally, setting realistic expectations and maintaining a positive attitude can help you approach the move with a sense of optimism and resilience.

What Can I Do to Cope With the Stress and Anxiety of Moving?

One effective strategy is to create a plan or checklist for the move, breaking down tasks into manageable steps and setting realistic deadlines. This can help reduce the sense of overwhelm and uncertainty that can contribute to stress and anxiety. It can also be helpful to practice self-care techniques like exercise, meditation, or deep breathing, which can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Seeking support from friends or family members, or working with a mental health professional, can also be an effective way to cope with the stress and anxiety of moving.

Is It Normal to Feel Sadness or Grief When Leaving a Home and Community?

Moving cross-country can be a major life change, and it’s natural to experience a range of emotions as you prepare to leave behind familiar people, places, and routines. Whether you’re moving across the country or across town, it’s common to feel a sense of loss or nostalgia for the community you’re leaving behind. It’s important to give yourself time and space to process these feelings and to practice self-care techniques like staying connected with loved ones, engaging in activities you enjoy, or seeking support from a mental health professional.

Can Seeking Professional Help Be Beneficial for Those Experiencing Trauma Related to Moving?

Yes, seeking professional help can be highly beneficial for those experiencing trauma related to moving. Mental health professionals can provide support and guidance for managing the stress and anxiety of a move, as well as help individuals process any feelings of loss or grief related to leaving a familiar community behind. They can also provide strategies for building resilience and adapting to a new environment, as well as tools for managing symptoms like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Additionally, mental health professionals can offer a safe and supportive space to explore any underlying issues or challenges that may be contributing to moving trauma, such as previous trauma, relationship difficulties, or financial stress. If you are experiencing moving trauma, seeking support from a mental health professional can be an effective way to promote healing and recovery.

How Can I Support a Friend or Family Member Who Is Experiencing Moving-Related Trauma?

One of the most important things you can do is to listen non-judgmentally and offer empathy and validation for their feelings. Acknowledge the challenges and losses they may be experiencing, and offer support and encouragement for building new connections and adapting to their new environment. You can also offer practical support, such as helping them with packing or moving tasks or connecting them with resources or organizations in their new community. Finally, encourage them to seek professional support if they are struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety, or trauma related to the move.

Can Involving Children in the Moving Process Help Reduce Trauma?

Children may feel a sense of anxiety or uncertainty about the move, particularly if they are leaving behind familiar friends or routines. By involving them in the moving process, parents can provide a sense of structure and continuity, and help children feel like they have a role to play in the transition. This can include tasks like packing their own belongings, choosing new decorations for their room, or researching fun activities or attractions in the new area. Additionally, parents can encourage children to express their feelings and concerns about the move, and validate their experiences of loss or sadness.

What Are Some Tips for Making a Move Less Traumatic for Children?

One key strategy is to involve children in the moving process, allowing them to participate in tasks like packing, organizing, or decorating their new room. This can help children feel a sense of control and ownership over the transition, and reduce feelings of anxiety or uncertainty. Additionally, parents can provide a sense of continuity by maintaining familiar routines or traditions, and by emphasizing the positive aspects of the move, such as new opportunities or exciting activities in the new area.

Can Taking Breaks During the Moving Process Help Reduce Trauma?

Moving can be a physically and emotionally demanding process, and it’s important to take breaks and rest as needed to prevent burnout or overwhelm. This can include taking breaks to engage in self-care practices like exercise, meditation, or spending time outdoors, as well as taking time to connect with loved ones or engage in enjoyable activities. Additionally, taking breaks can help reduce stress and anxiety, and promote a sense of control and empowerment during the transition.

How Long Does It Typically Take for People to Adjust After a Move and Overcome Any Trauma Related to It?

Some people may adjust relatively quickly, particularly if they have strong social support networks, are excited about new opportunities in their new environment, or have experience with previous moves. For others, adjusting to a new environment and overcoming moving trauma may take longer, particularly if they are struggling with symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. On average, it may take several months to a year for people to feel fully settled and adapted to their new environment.

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