How to move house, mindfully

By Vicky Reynal,
updated on Aug 7, 2020

How to move house, mindfully

Moving house can be a massive life-change, and may bring up a whole raft of emotions, including stress. Here, we share expert advice to help your move through the physical and emotional changes

Anyone who has been through a house move knows how stressful it can be. For the most part, a move can be an exciting new beginning, but sometimes experiences that we haven’t dealt with can hold us back, and prevent us from really enjoying it.

Having been through a dozen moves myself, and working as a psychotherapist with many expat clients, I’m curious about what makes them so difficult?

There are those who had to cope with a lot of uncertainty growing up, so the unknowns that come with moving evoke early insecurities, and create a sense of unease. What will my new boss think of me? Why can’t I get along with this new co-worker? There can be insecurities about performance, belonging, trust… Or others who felt they never belonged in their family/school/social groups, and moving to a new place triggers fears of not fitting in. And with moves come goodbyes, which can be particularly hard to deal with.

Moves can also put a stress on present relationships. People have different approaches and coping strategies when it comes to dealing with change, and as these emerge people can find that they clash.

So how can it be a less stressful life event, and what should you do if it’s still hard to manage?

Be prepared and make a plan

The reality of moving is that there’s a lot that needs doing, and a bit of planning can help reassure you that you’ve set time aside for everything. Some people find ‘to-do’ lists particularly helpful in keeping them organised, and feeling that they’re in control.

Set realistic expectations

Don’t demand the impossible from yourself. Aim for a realistic amount of tasks to be completed each day leading up to the move. Give yourself time to complete the tasks, and recruit appropriate help for completing them. If possible, take a few days off work, as you’ll find that you never have ‘too much’ free time when a moving date approaches.

Focus on the endgame

When you begin to feel overwhelmed by it all, take time to remind yourself of what you’re gaining from this move: is it a bigger space? A promotion? Are you moving to a new place you’re excited about? Basically, remind yourself that the difficulties of today will be worth the effort in the end.

See the new beginning as an opportunity

If you haven’t had good experiences with moves in the past, and it’s hard to stay positive about the situation, remember that history need not repeat itself – part of what happens is in your hands, so you can decide how this next phase of your life will evolve. How can you set things up to be more successful this time? How can you learn from your past experiences?

Remind yourself that the difficulties of today will be worth the effort in the end

Rely on your support network

If you’re struggling, say so. It’s common, when family and friends ask how it’s going, to be tempted to reply that it’s all “fine”. Usually people give this response in an effort not to worry others, or maybe as a defence against recognising that it’s harder than expected. Or maybe on the surface, the actual move is going OK, but emotionally you’re feeling vulnerable (worried, lonely, overwhelmed), and it’s helpful to talk about it. With partners involved in the move, it’s beneficial to simply speak about the realities of the situation, and how each of you are experiencing the change.

Be honest with yourself

I’ve often seen parents focusing their attention on how the move is going for their children, but neglecting their own feelings, or people who just ‘power through’ by bottling up a lot of emotions, until they become unmanageable. But if the past is holding you back, or you just need to speak to someone detached from the situation, perhaps consider seeking extra support in this difficult time of transition and change.

If we’re not in touch with how we are experiencing things, if we don’t reflect on our experiences, then we aren’t just protecting ourselves from the pain, we are missing out on all the excitement. So in a move too, there will be anxieties and challenges as well as hopes and surprises. It is by managing the former that we get to enjoy the process and the endgame.

By Vicky Reynal

Vicky works as a psychodynamic psychotherapist. She has helped clients with a variety of issues, including self-esteem, relationship and sexual difficulties, depression, trauma, and self-harm.

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