The Stress of Moving: Setting Reasonable Expectations

By Christine Hammond, MS, IMH

Admittedly, the title of this article may cause you to respond with a “no duh” comment. Having to pack up all of your belongings, sort and organize them, label boxes, hope that nothing breaks, and then unpack everything while trying to find a new home for your stuff is stressful enough. Add to that whatever caused you to move in the first place: new job, new marriage, new house, new pet, more kids, divorce, foreclosure, loss of job, declining health, loss of a loved one, lifestyle change, change of schools, or expired rental agreement and you have a recipe for a full blown panic attack.

It is no wonder why moving is so stressful and it should be stressful. Yes, you read right, moving should be stressful. One of the many contributing factors to increased stress and anxiety is unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations that the move will go smoothly, that everything you currently have will fit neatly into your new space, that everything will work properly, that you will have all of the boxes unpacked in a few days, or that your new space needs to look perfect before someone visits. These expectations are unrealistic and add to your moving stress. So what do you do? Try these suggestions.

Set reasonable goals. Before you move, establish a timeline for competing of getting settled into your new space. For instance, if you have a one-bedroom apartment, it may take you a month to get fully settled into your space but if you have a four-bedroom home, it may take you six months to get fully settled into your space. Take into account any additional changes, such as new job, relationship, or town and add an additional month for each major change. This is a far more realistic goal.

Set reasonable boundaries. You do not need to have a house warming party within ten days of having moved into your space. This is far too much stress to put yourself through and may cause you to crash if you try to achieve it. Be kind to yourself and the people around you and set your house warming party up following your goal month. Allow others to help by bringing over a meal or helping to unpack some boxes while not allowing you to feel guilty for accepting help. There is nothing wrong with needed and receiving help.

Set reasonable breaks. One of the Ten Commandments is to take a Sabbath every week. This is especially true when enduring major life changes. The temptation is to work through the day of rest to get it all done but this is actually counter-productive as it leaves you sapped of your energy on the working days. It also makes you a bit snappy, irritable, short-tempered, and overwhelmed. Twenty-four hours of rest once a week is not too much and you will feel refreshed for the rest of the week.
Yes, moving is stressful but how you handle moving will determine your level of stress. By setting reasonable goals, boundaries and breaks, you can reduce not eliminate the intensity of your stress and be more productive at the same time.


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"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2011), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"

About the author- Chris Hammond is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at LifeWorks Group w/ over 15 years of experience as a counselor, mentor & teacher for children, teenagers & adults.

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