Moving homes, whether to a new town, state, country, or even just a new house can feel overwhelming. You may be responsible for moving furniture, packing your items into boxes, and saving money for moving expenses such as a moving truck, travel costs, and moving support. After a significant move, you might find yourself experiencing unusual levels of sadness, irritability, anxiety, or exhaustion.
Moving can cause symptoms of depression, anxiety, and adjustment issues. If you're experiencing these symptoms, you're not alone. Millions of people worldwide experience depression, and among those are individuals who are living with temporary relocation depression, also sometimes referred to as moving depression. Recognizing this type of depression can help you find support.
What Is Relocation Depression?
Relocation depression is a type of situational depression that occurs after relocating or moving. This type of depression is not listed in the DSM-V but may demonstrate symptoms similar to those associated with clinical depression on a short-term basis. Your symptoms are real, and support is available to you.
A recent study shows that moving is reported as one of the most stressful life events by adults around the world. The study indicated that moving was often connected to a plethora of negative mental and physical health risks, so if you are having a hard time adjusting to life in a new place, you are far from alone.
What Are The Symptoms?
The symptoms of relocation depression may appear similar to those of clinical depression. They include:
- Feeling down or experiencing a persistent low mood
- Feelings of anger or irritability
- Appetite changes
- Weight changes
- Changes in sleep schedule (including insomnia) or energy levels
- Loss of interest in regular activities
- Social withdrawal
- Difficulty completing daily tasks
- Difficulty with personal or sleep hygiene
- Thoughts of suicide*
Why Does It Happen?
Relocation depression can occur due to the stress that moving often causes. Mental burnout is a leading cause of depression, and you may feel this sensation after planning a big move.
Relocation depression might also be caused by the following:
- Losing social connections near your previous home
- Feeling far away from friends and family members
- Feeling physically or mentally exhausted from moving
- A disruption in routine
- Fear of uncertainty
- An increased financial burden
- A new job or career opportunity
- Feeling uncertain about your surroundings
- Losing support services in your prior community
- An underlying mental health concern
While we tend to associate stressors with negative changes in our lives, any change, positive or negative, can lead to stress and heighten your risk for depression. Even if you are excited about living in a new location, the energy of adapting to a new place wears on you in ways that could lead to mental health challenges. If you think you may be experiencing relocation depression or an underlying mental illness, reach out for emotional support.
Seven Ways To Cope
As time goes on, you may find it easier to handle any changes in routine or differences in your new life. In some cases, you could find that your new location provides benefits that your previous one did not. However, adjusting to changes can feel challenging, and there are ways to handle your symptoms in the meantime.
Get To Know Your New Local Area
If you've recently moved to a new city, state, or country, consider exploring. Look up tourist attractions in your area to get an idea of how to become a tourist in your new home. You might find exciting or interesting activities available that weren't offered near your old home. Additionally, exploring could be a valuable way to make new friends or learn about the locals.
If you're feeling homesick while out and about, consider taking pictures or videos of your new location and sending them to your family or friends from your old city. They might feel excited for you and help raise your spirits. See if you can find a unique spot in nature or a hiking trail near your home. Studies show that spending time in nature or changing your location can benefit your mental health.
Make Your Home Feel As Comfortable As Possible
When you first move to a new home, you may still have everything packed up in boxes. Symptoms of depression can make it feel challenging to unpack your things and settle in. However, clutter and mess can increase depression symptoms, according to one study. You may realize you feel more productive if you can unpack your boxes relatively quickly and make your home feel comfortable and familiar.
The majority of people report feeling most comfortable in their homes. Having a safe space to unwind after a long day can feel cathartic. Once you've unpacked your boxes, consider adding decorations around the house that make you feel peaceful and calm.
If you don't have many decorations to unpack or put out consider purchasing a few cheap items to make your environment feel more comfortable.
These items might include:
- Incense or candles that make you feel calm
- Wall art
- Throw pillows or blankets
- Small decorative items to put on shelves
- Photos of your parents, friends, or other people who make you feel supported
Create a space in your house where you can sit or lie down to feel comfortable. It may be a reading nook, a unique recliner, or a beanbag chair you can fall into. When feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or depressed, spend some time in that area participating in a calming activity, such as meditating or reading. Making your new house feel like home may take some time, but it is possible.
Try not to neglect self-care in the process of moving. Commit to your mental well-being and stay on top of your hygiene as much as possible. Potential self-care activities can include:
- Light exercise such as swimming, walking, or going to the gym
- Deep breathing
- Taking a shower
- Eating three healthy meals a day and snacking when needed
- Listening to music
- Spending time with your social circle
- Journaling about your thoughts or emotions
- Practicing yoga, meditation, or mindfulness
- Stating self-love affirmations
- Participating in a creative activity
- Continuing to focus on your hobbies
- Finding moments for laughter
Throw A Housewarming Party
If you feel uncomfortable in your new home, consider throwing a housewarming party to celebrate the beginning of this new chapter in your life.
If you have friends and family in the area, invite them to your new home. Doing so may motivate you to finish unpacking and clean up the house. You might also buy a few cheap party decorations and use your new kitchen for cooking a housewarming meal.
If you're not up to a highly social event, invite only a few people for a calming or low-key activity like watching a football game or chatting under the stars while sipping a drink.
Give Yourself Time
Try to give yourself time to adjust to your new situation. Your symptoms of depression may lessen over time as you learn more about your neighborhood, home, and new city. It’s okay to spend more time at home or focus more on self-care while feeling down in the first few months after moving. It can be a significant transition, and your body may require time to rest and recover.
Make New Friends
If you have moved to a location where you lack a social circle, it can seem challenging to make new friends. Just like in post-college depression, being far from close friends is one of the reasons for relocation depression.
If this is the case, research social groups in your area. You might be able to attend a support group or find a club that meets on a regular basis. If there’s an activity you've always wanted to try, consider signing up for a group course or excursion. For example, you could try rock climbing, hiking, art, or poetry to make new connections with people who have the same interests. See what's available where you live.
If you're in a more rural area, sign up to meet friends online. You might be able to get local tips from others on a friendship or dating app and meet someone for drinks or food. As you make new friends, your new home could start to feel less overwhelming and you may feel a greater sense of hope for a happy future in your new location.
Meet With A Counselor
Finally, meeting with a counselor may be beneficial if you are unable to relieve symptoms of relocation depression on your own. Therapists are trained in providing mental health services that can address depression and other mental health conditions and concerns. If your depression worsens or lasts longer than a few weeks or months, your therapist may have the tools to support you during the healing process.
Online Therapy With BetterHelp
Finding a therapist can feel like another stressful task when you're in a new location. Many people who move to a new country where the culture or language feels unfamiliar may experience depression symptoms, including prior college students who might be at risk for post-college depression. Online counseling could be valuable for you.
Online counseling allows you to meet with a counselor from any location with an Internet connection and is often more affordable than traditional in-person counseling. A platform such as BetterHelp may be able to answer your questions about online therapy and match you with a therapist to speak with who meets your preferences and needs.
The Efficacy Of Online Therapy
Studies indicate that internet-based counseling is significantly effective in helping people manage symptoms of isolation, loneliness, and depression. If you’ve recently experienced a big life event, such as moving, online therapy could be even more beneficial than traditional, in-person counseling.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Long Does It Take For A New Place To Feel Like Home?
Moving from one place to another involves packing supplies and loading and labeling boxes of different sizes. It is a venture that can affect a person’s mental health in a big way. Even one’s behavioral health is not left out. When you arrive at the new destination, you are most likely tired of all the packing. You may also feel unsure of how long it will take for you to feel at home or be mentally ready to settle.
Then, perhaps you think it would be better for you to unpack and arrange your stuff so the new place can feel like home already. Even when you get past the unpacking, you have to search andsearch until you find your supplies as they are not in familiar spaces anymore. For some people, it takes them only a few days to feel at home. For many others, it takes months even to arrange the house. Even after arranging, others may need individual or family therapy to learn coping mechanisms and strategies to help the new environment feel like their home.
Why Is Moving So Hard Emotionally?
It is really difficult to tell how much local moving or long-distance moving may affect you or your relationships. Moving can be hard on a person emotionally because of a lot of reasons. For instance, living in a place for several years means you’re likely familiar and comfortable with the unique things in your city. You must have mapped out the environment and gotten used to the people around there. So, having to leave a family or a friend behind to start a new life in a new city where you would meet new people can be hard on your behavioral health.
Having to change your daily activities due to the necessity of creating a new daily routine based on your new location can result in depression or overwhelm, or just a general lack of interest in day-to-day activities. Also, keeping up with long-distance relationships with former colleagues, friends, and neighbors that you spent much of your time with before moving can make you feel sad. That’s because you know that relating with them from afar shifts the relationship to a new dynamic. It cannot be like when you could meet up with them a few blocks away. This isn’t necessarily bad, and it certainly doesn’t mean that these relationships will become less meaningful; just that they will be different and will need to adapt.
How Do You Cope With Moving To A New Place?
Since moving to the new place was in some way necessary for you or your family, it is important that you learn how to cope with it for your mental health. Dealing with moving to a new place, whether it was a local move or a long-distance move, is possible. What can be quite beneficial is working on reducing stress.
For example, rather than rushing the relocation, you can move moving day to a time when you have prepared mentally. Also, keep a positive attitude toward the situation. Be cheerful that you can meet new people and go to places you only could have imagined. Then, establish a support system for yourself. It can be in a family or even local support groups around you. Remember to engage in daily self-care activities to help keep yourself grounded, such as simple mindfulness exercises, going for walks, taking a bath, lighting candles that you like, eating your favorite comfort food, and so on.
Don’t be afraid to find a support group, a resource center, or perhaps a book club or neighborhood meetings. You can also seek professional help as an individual or as a family for family therapy. For example, family therapy helps you improve your behavioral health and overall mental health. So, rather than resorting to excessive sleeping or extreme consumption of alcohol and drug as treatment, or eating disorders, which are symptoms of depression, your mental health becomes stabilized.
How Do I Stop Being Sad About Moving?
There are a couple of reasons that feelings of sadness might come with a move, and that can be part of determining what you can do to get into a more positive mental mind frame. It could be nostalgia, a matter of adjustment, or you may find that you feel lonely. The sadness might come right away, or it could come after the initial excitement of a move passes. It could also ebb and flow. For example, feelings of sadness might come when you miss old friends, even if you are still happy that you moved after you take the first step and start adjusting to your new place. Stay connected with people and consider finding a fun activity in the area.
Is It Normal To Regret Moving?
Some people do regret moving, whereas others do not. This is dependent on a number of factors. It is also possible to experience feelings of regret at first but feel that it was the best choice for you, or you and your family, long-term. Sometimes it just takes time.
How Long Does It Take To Settle After Moving?
Everyone takes a different amount of time to settle after they move to a new home. Sometimes, there will be an additional level of adjustment if you make a big move, rather than simply moving to a new house in the same area. It is important to take care of both your physical health and mental well-being during this time. Sometimes, self-care activities and other tools, like meditation or mental health apps, can be helpful during a tough time. However, these things do not replace professional support if you need it. Remember that anyone can benefit from therapy, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you think that it’s something you may find helpful.
Do People Get Depressed When They Move?
Some people do get depressed when they move. Moving to a different town, state, country, or even just neighborhood can be tough, especially if you were already struggling with your mental health or didn’t want to move in the first place. Depending on the circumstances, moving may mean having to part ways with old friends and family and starting a brand new life with no support system nearby. But is not only those who weren’t keen on moving that can get depressed. Even people who plan a big move because there’s something exciting waiting for them at their new destination can experience feelings of sadness once the initial excitement wears off. Luckily, these emotions are often temporary. If you find yourself unable to cope with overwhelming feelings of sadness even as you start adjusting, try these tips:
- Seek professional help. Relocation depression can be successfully managed with therapy and sometimes medication. If you just moved to a new city and still aren’t sure where to get professional support, consider signing up for online therapy services through BetterHelp.
- Stay connected with your loved ones. It goes without saying that there’s no need to stop being friends with your friends or close with your family just because you moved away. In fact, some people find themselves becoming closer to old friends and loved ones when they move away because they feel the need to reach out more often than when they lived closer.
- Find a support group. Support groups, or any group for that matter, are a fantastic way of meeting people that you're interested in when you’re new in town. There are also many online support groups that connect you with people going through similar situations from across the globe.
- Prioritize self-care activities. Join a book club, reach out to an elderly family, sign up for a local fun activity, or try arts and crafts and DIYs to help make your new home feel like home – in other words, find activities that spark joy and help you feel like yourself even if you no longer are at your familiar spaces. Self-care also means paying attention to your daily habits to see if you’re developing unhealthy partners, such as excessive sleeping, eating too little or too much, or using alcohol and drug as a coping mechanism
What Is Moving Anxiety?
Relocation anxiety is a sense of overwhelming stress, apprehension, uneasiness, or dread about moving to a new house, city, town, etc. These feelings can arise months or weeks before the move or during the moving day itself, and they can linger for a few days or weeks. If you just moved or are about to move and anxiety is keeping you from doing your daily activities or affecting your overall mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. One benefit of online therapy, if you are moving soon, is that you don’t have to interrupt the continuity of your treatment or sessions once you get to the new place. If you are interested in starting online therapy through BetterHelp, the first step is to get matched with a licensed mental health provider. Click here to get started.
Why Is It Often Stressful To Move To A New Place?
How Do The Places You Live Impact Your Mental Health?
How Is Relocation Stress Syndrome Defined?
What Is The Most Difficult Part About Moving To A New Place?
How Long Does Relocation Depression Last?
Why Is One's Mental Well-Being Worse In The Rural Parts Of The Country?
Can Relocating Be A Traumatic Experience?
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