Relocation depression: It’s a real thing and you’re not alone if you’re experiencing it. People move for a wide range of reasons, whether it’s financially motivated, due to a marriage, when welcoming a baby, because of a divorce or when the loss of a partner occurs. Left unchecked, that sadness can lead to depression.
Whether you’re downsizing to a nearby neighborhood or embarking on a long-distance move, it’s normal to feel like the road ahead is bittersweet. While a new home is a new beginning in many ways, it’s also a goodbye to a place where you made memories, hit milestones and returned to each day, through thick and thin.
What We’ve Learned
Over the past year, it’s evident Americans have had to weather some storms, from inflation to a housing market that potentially priced them out of a dream home. That reality — and the ways people rose above it — shone through in the Mayflower 2022 Finding Home Study.
Of the 1,100 surveyed U.S. respondents — 550 of which moved to a new state in the last two years and 550 of which plan to move soon — there’s a lot of meaningful insight into present-day motivations for moves.
For one thing, cost of living (46%) and affordable housing (40%) were among the most influential reasons for moving, followed by proximity to family (32%) and financial reasons (28%), suggesting a not-always-celebratory undercurrent, especially when you factor in the fact that 19% of respondents moved to a less expensive area and 16% downsized their living space.
Adding to those realities:
- Planning, organizing and packing your belongings can be stressful
- Even when you opt for a full-service move, moving is hard work
- Feeling lonely when leaving family and friends behind is tough
- Your routine is disrupted
- Anxiety or fear about being in a place you’re unaccustomed to is normal
- Moving is expensive and can zap your resources
So, how do you find the silver lining to a move that simply had to be? It starts with giving yourself grace.
Moving is a big task, so it’s helpful to follow checklists, like the one from Mayflower, to help instill a sense of progress. From starting packing to transferring utilities, a moving checklist gives you a sense of accomplishment, while breaking tasks up into digestible bits and helping you to stay on track.
Call it What it is
Identifying your feelings throughout the journey is the first step to coping with them. By acknowledging you’re in mourning or are homesick due to a move, you’re better positioned to work through your emotions and begin to embrace life in a new abode.
Experiencing ups and downs when moving is part of the process. The key is finding your center of gravity. It may help to:
- Stay active
- Practice self-compassion
- Enjoy old hobbies
- Develop new hobbies
Just because you moved doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch with family and friends you left behind. A text exchange, social chat, Zoom session or phone call, can go a long way toward helping you feel less isolated.
Most of all, don’t cut yourself off from human connections — support is something you especially need at a time like this.
Much like an unmoored ship floating out to sea, it’s human nature to feel untethered and set adrift in foreign surroundings. You had a routine at your old place, after all, and it’s time to establish a new one that anchors you to your new place and space.
Ultimately, the sooner you develop structure and routine in your new community, the better. Some examples of this include:
- Finding your grocery store
- Choosing a coffee shop
- Finding a dog-walking route
Make Your Mark
While packing and unpacking aren’t something people usually look forward to, redecorating is pretty fun. When setting up your new home, you begin weaving together your “old life” and “new life.” Pick out some new items that speak to your new home’s architecture or your new location, mixing those items in with treasured belongings.
The process can be as therapeutic as it is symbolic.
Put Yourself out There
One of the hardest things about moving can be making new friends in an unfamiliar place — especially if you’re an introvert. However, it’s important to begin meeting like-minded people, a potential support network and way to help you feel at home.
Consider your hobbies — whether it’s woodworking, painting or working out — and sign up for small-group classes or clubs that let you interact with local residents and begin to form bonds. A church, community center or cultural center are other ways to meet people on common ground. Joining a yoga studio or gym is a smart idea, too. Not your cup of tea? Try participating in:
- Game nights
- Team sports
- Activism-related activities
- Interest groups
- Volunteer opportunities
Make Time for You
The weeks before and after a move are a flurry of activity, with little time for yourself. Once you’re settled in, be sure to carve out time to do things you love and fulfill you.
A little pampering goes a long way, so don’t feel bad about booking that spa appointment, heading to aerobics class or catching a movie.
Talk to a Doctor
Situational sadness on account of a move is common but it’s important to recognize if those feelings have become pervasive and are getting in the way of a fresh start. If your sadness is present for a long time or begins disrupting your way of life, it’s time to talk to a professional who can help you work through the transition and associated grief. A doctor can also recommend support groups or activities and strategies to assist with settling in.
As hard as it can be, a move also has the potential to be a fun adventure — even in challenging times. Putting a positive spin on a difficult move is not only a way to work through it, but also an opportunity to grow and learn new things about yourself.
Still struggling? Try watching TED Talk “Relocation: The Woes, The Grows and Glows,” featuring psychologist Lisl Foss. And don’t forget to give yourself kudos for a job well done.