Moving Stress: How to Cope With Relocation

These 7 expert-backed strategies can make moving easier.

Moving somewhere new can be incredibly exciting. It opens up a world of new friendships and experiences, and can even foster positive self-growth as you navigate fresh surroundings. That said, relocation is not without its challenges; it’s even considered one of the most stressful life events we can go through.

“Moving is an overwhelming endeavor that can easily activate many of our emotions, including stress, exhaustion, and anxiety,” says Hillary Schoninger, LCSW. “Although moving may be a happy change, it is still change which can be challenging.”

Whether you’re relocating across the state, country, or even globe, the following can help fill your move with more joy and stave off moving stress.

1

Focus on the Positives

Moving is stressful and not without challenges, but it can be helpful to focus on the positives versus dwelling on, or getting swept in, things that don’t go according to plan. 

“Regardless of the reason for your move, remind yourself that this move is necessary and will do you good,” says psychotherapist Heather Kent. “Make a list of all of the things you can look forward to, such as meeting new people, making new friends, starting a new job or career, eating new delicacies, and exploring new sights.” 

You can even make a plan for things you may do differently in the new place, such as starting new traditions, creating new habits and routines, or building new relationships within your new community.

Interestingly, a 2017 study found that when people make an effort to foster positivity in their day-to-day life, they may be happier.

2

Prioritize Self Care

While a positive mindset can help prevent us from spiraling around negatives and mishaps, we also need to accept that our bodies and minds need rest and care. This is especially true when doing something highly stressful, such as relocating.

Hillary Schoninger, LCSW

Whatever encompasses your self-care, commit to making it a priority, as it will help prevent burnout.

— Hillary Schoninger, LCSW

Schoninger says that by practicing radical self-care, we empower ourselves to deal with everything on our plate. “Self-care will only aid your ability to show up for yourself in reliable ways,” she says. “So, whatever encompasses your self-care, commit to making it a priority, as it will help prevent burnout.”

3

Stay Organized

Relocation often comes with a pretty heavy task load. Keeping organized during this stressful time can help you stay on task and knock out to-dos, which can reduce stress now and far along in your move.

Start by making a simple checklist that includes your overarching goals, advises Kent. From there, list small tasks underneath that you can tackle before moving day.

These tasks might include securing packing boxes, hiring movers, decluttering, and creating a timeline for packing and moving day. If this feels very overwhelming, consider hiring an organizer to help you through the process.

4

Consider Moving an Opportunity to Purge

Speaking of packing, there’s nothing like a big move to motivate some physical and emotional purging.

“It’s important to remember that everything you value, such as experiences, people and places, are memories that will move with you. Similarly, you can also choose to leave the painful memories that do not serve you behind in the old place that you are vacating,” says Kent.

Of course, physical “spring cleaning” frees up space for new belongings and fresh energy. It also is much easier, and often less expensive, to relocate with fewer items.

5

Steer Away From a Perfectionist Mindset

Moving is inherently messy and stressful. In many cases, it becomes even more challenging than we anticipated. Understanding and embracing this fact can be tremendously helpful from that very first packed box to months after moving into your new space.

Hillary Schoninger, LCSW

When you avoid the perfectionist trap, you are honoring the process of moving while modeling healthier expectations, which will open the door to things being more manageable.

— Hillary Schoninger, LCSW

“Embrace the messiness and chaos that comes with moving, rather than clinging to the idea that everything needs to be as perfect as possible,” advises Schoninger. “When you avoid the perfectionist trap, you are honoring the process of moving while modeling healthier expectations, which will open the door to things being more manageable.” 

Some levels of perfectionism can be helpful by keeping us on track. However, scientific research tells us that negative perfectionism—which involves dwelling on negatives when things don’t go to plan—can actually lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.

6

Maintain Existing Relationships

One of the hardest parts of relocating is moving away from your closest friends and support network. However, moving doesn’t mean that your relationships have to end.

“Long-distance relationships are much easier these days thanks to apps that allow you to text, chat with, or video-call your old friends, colleagues, and neighbors,” says Kent. “Having this kind of mindset will help reduce stress and help you get settled faster.” 

7

Get Out and Meet New People

Along with leaning into your existing relationships, allow yourself to engage with the local community even if you don’t feel entirely “settled” in your new city and space. 

Kent says, “Meeting new people is a part of the challenge of moving, so being available as soon as possible only helps support you. Don't worry if you don't yet have your home in order; that will always be waiting for you.”

A Word from Verywell 

Moving is a stressful event whether you’re moving a short distance or relocating thousands of miles away. Staying organized, practicing self-care, focusing on positives, and nourishing relationships old and new can help ignite excitement and keep you feeling mentally and physically healthy. 

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lahnna I. Catalino, Sara B. Algoe, and Barbara L. Fredrickson; Prioritizing Positivity: An Effective Approach to Pursuing Happiness?; Emotion. 2014 Dec; 14(6): 1155–1161. doi: 10.1037/a0038029

  2. Afshar H, Roohafza H, Sadeghi M, et al. Positive and negative perfectionism and their relationship with anxiety and depression in Iranian school students. J Res Med Sci. 2011;16(1):79-86.

By Wendy Rose Gould
Wendy Rose Gould is a lifestyle reporter with over a decade of experience covering health and wellness topics.