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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

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.

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 Doing It 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

Frequent Relocation Can Be Especially Hard for Kids

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

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

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

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:

You Might Not Be Able to Prevent Feeling Down After the Move, but You Can Minimize the Stress During the Relocation

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.

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