Looking After Your Physical and Emotional Health While Moving

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We all know that overstated, exhausted cliché about moving, usually asserted without any significant research or peer-reviewed study: it’s supposedly among a small group of uniquely stressful events, such as bereavement and divorce. While there’s no good reason why moving house should batter you emotionally in the manner of a devastating, traumatic loss or heartrending breakup, it should still be acknowledged that the process does come with its own emotional and physical challenges.

While any reputable moving company will make it a priority to minimise your stress throughout a house or flat move (and you can take off even more pressure by using their in-house packing/unpacking and other ancillary services), there’s no surefire way of uprooting yourself and your possessions and moving them somewhere new that comes completely free of tension or worry. Even in the event that you delegate every single task, you might still experience concerns and moments of alarm, some of them just created by your own thoughts. 

And, of course, if you’re taking on some of the figurative and literal heavy-lifting yourself, the opportunities for worry to come your way can increase. It’s not just the emotional straits of a move that can weigh on you. Moving can be an immensely physically taxing undertaking, from the moment you start filling up cardboard boxes. Fail to take the right precautions when heaving a sofa and you could cause yourself long-lasting injury. There can be little doubt that rigorous fitness makes moving easier and less dangerous, but not all of us are Olympians and neither should we attempt to become so simply because we’re changing properties. 

So what should we do? Well, the next best thing to completely banishing stress and the risk of injury is to mitigate those risks. Sensible self-care before, during and after a move will make a huge difference to the state you’re in when it’s all over. With the right guidance in place, there’s no reason why you can’t have a wonderful, auspicious first day in your new home and set the perfect tone for all the happy years to come.

  1. How Does Moving Affect You Emotionally?
  2. Moving Anxiety Symptoms
  3. Physical Impact of Moving
  4. More Ways to Look After Yourself During a Move
  5. Relocation Anxiety
  6. Feeling Unsettled After Moving House?
  7. Resources Recap

How CAN Moving House Affect You Emotionally?

According to research by AnyVan published in Metro last year, one in five couples split when moving house, so it’s safe to say that the aforementioned adage about moving being almost as stressful as divorce does hold some water after all, given that the former can seemingly precipitate the latter. The same research also found that during a move, 70 per cent of couples experience conflict and argument. And 10 per cent confessed that they didn’t exchange so much as one friendly word with their partners the day after moving into their new abodes, but instead sent each other to Coventry. Another alarming statistic arising from the same research was that 20 per cent of couples claimed their move had lowered their libidos and had a negative impact on their love lives. Stress, tensions, marital disharmony… clearly, a move that isn’t handled optimally can be disastrous. That out-of-control feeling can leave even the most level-headed among us gasping for breath. And that’s before you take into account that sometimes the very causes of the move are stressful; not everyone is upsizing or moving to their dream home. Some are moving because of a family death, or because a relation needs help, or because a marriage has ended.

A key resource for anyone whose move has led to the kind of romantic/inter-personal problems described above would be relationship charity, Relate. This long-established, well-trusted, nationwide organisation can connect you to relationship counselling, children’s counselling, mediation services, sex therapy and much more. If a house move has really put your romance, love life or family through the wringer, there is help at hand.

Moving Anxiety Symptoms

In the worst circumstances, a move can bring on anxiety (so much to plan, so little time; what if it all goes wrong?; are you making the right choice?), depression (leaving behind old friendships and networks, fond familiar places, large parts of your personal history) and fear (stepping into the unknown). There are potentially perilous impacts to your finances and there’s so much to do, it can be hard to visualise yourself getting to the other side of it all. Everything from your breathing to your sleep can be negatively impacted. 

If you’ve experienced this unpleasant moving side-effect, and don’t have help for it, you could start by looking at the Anxiety and Self-Care For Anxiety sections on the website of mental health charity, Mind. Mind operates across England and Wales to support people with any kind of mental ill-health or psychological disturbance. There are local chapters sprinkled through the two countries. For support that homes in on anxiety specifically as it relates to moving house, there’s No Panic, a registered charity that focuses on helping people with panic attacks, OCD, phobias and related suffering. They have a page designed to help people who are in the grips of moving anxiety or fear they might become so.

Physical Impact of Moving

The emotional toll alone can be tough, but what about your body? There’s no doubt that physical fatigue can be part of the picture and that this will be exacerbated if you’re also contending with sleep deprivation. Then there are the mistakes people can make when lifting heavy items. If this isn’t done sensibly, the potential consequences include back injury, pulled muscles and also damage to extremities, whether that’s cuts, grazes and bruises on the hands and fingers or a sprained ankle. You could also become so caught up in how busy you are, that staying hydrated falls by the wayside and diet devolves into nothing but coffee, carbs and sugar, compounding the exhaustion cycle. And then there’s the potential for anything from disrupted sleep to full-on insomnia. 

For the last of these issues, The Sleep Charity is an important resource. It campaigns on all issues surrounding sleep, from how to get a better quality of it to understanding its myriad complexities. It estimates that nearly half of the UK population suffers from some form of sleep problem and seeks to provide good quality research and information, spread awareness of the benefits of good sleep, campaign for more readily accessible sleep support and much more. They can also connect you to accredited specialists for more intensive help. For help with the more general physical impacts of moving house (prevention of injuries, maintenance of balanced diet, hydration), a certain level of conscientiousness is required. In the weeks leading up to a move, for example, you could pay extra attention to stretches and doing weight-aided exercises, so that you’re that bit more flexible and tough by the time you’re lugging furniture. 

More Ways to Look After Yourself During a Move

To minimise the emotional impact of a move, the best approach is to allow more time than you need so that, further on, you can take breaks at regular intervals, such as when you feel overwhelmed or tired. If you’re someone who gets overly drawn into social media platforms, then doing whatever you can to take them off the menu during your move will also pay dividends. Replacing the time you spend online with, for example, an exercise class, will diminish your stress in a pronounced enough way that you’ll feel the benefit straight away. If you’re at all worried that you and your children are living with an excess of screen time, there are some resources, including the UK Safer Internet Centre’s pages on supporting young people and their screen-time overload. Their research may help you judge whether or not you or your family are displaying any of the signs of screen excess, from sore eyes, to fatigue or restlessness to recurring headaches.

Other steps you can take to keep yourself on an even keel during your move include: getting outside, whether that’s for walks in nature or a run; making a conscious effort to keep your sleep optimal, declining late nights out until the move is over; learning to ask for help, if it’s not something you’re already good at (remember that a lot of people like helping their friends/family, so it’s never as big an ask as you might think); delegating some of the tougher parts of the move to your removals company (e.g. packing/unpacking); breathing exercises. Lastly, try viewing your stress from a mindfulness perspective – allowing it to happen and observing it from one remove, rather than struggling with it or denying it. Though huge numbers of us are now familiar with mindfulness, which seems to have divided the nation into half skeptics and half believers, if you’ve yet to look into it, you can find out more via The Mindfulness Initiative. One of its benefits is that it’s an approach that roots meditation squarely in the realm of the secular/ecumenical, not requiring participants to have any particular kind of faith or supernatural belief. Mindfulness-based intervention is possible to access via the NHS, though generally as a depression treatment. To get started remotely (and instantly), digital resources that are well thought-of include headspace.com and bemindfulonline.com

To keep yourself going physically during your house move, start with eating healthily (there will be psychological benefits to that, too) and drinking sufficient water. If you’re looking for resources in this subject area, start with the British Nutrition Foundation and Nutrition and Diet Resources UK. If you’ve taken on any of the most physical work entailed by moving, then apprise yourself of how to do it safely. If you’re middle-aged or older, put on knee-protecting pads and braces, bend at the knees before attempting to lift boxes/chairs etc, protect your hands from cuts and abrasions with gloves and minimise the likelihood of accidents by always clearing a path before you move a heavy item out of the house – you do not want to be stepping over obstacles while carrying an armchair. You can find information about best practice when it comes to heavy lifting at the Health and Safety Executive website. While this is aimed at employers needing to protect employees from injury, the information on heavy lifting can easily be applied to moving house. 

Relocation Anxiety

Lest anyone tell you that this is all a fuss about nothing and that all one needs for a move is a stoical, pull-your-socks-up attitudes, it’s worth bearing in mind that relocation anxiety is a widely recognised affliction. Moving, when not undertaken with the right precautions, can lead to depression, anxiety and difficulty adjusting. People whose moves don’t go well can end up feeling withdrawn, unmotivated and burned out. However, the steps we’ve outlined above can ensure that your move is a positive experience. You might also find the information at Relocation Support Services useful. Even though its advice is aimed at people whose anxiety relates to moving country, much of it applies just as much to moving in general. And the No Panic information, discussed in greater detail above, also comes in useful here. 

Feeling Unsettled After Moving House?

And what about when the move is over? Sometimes, this can actually be when all the feelings catch up with you. This is when to apply a post-move regimen which can include: setting up a new daily routine; reinvesting yourself in a hobby you didn’t have time for during the move; getting to know your new area in a proactive and engaged way; deliberately spending time with friends/family; picking a DIY task that your new home needs and setting about it. This Healthline piece on Relocation Depression has some pointers for shaking off the post-move pits.

Resources recap

Relationships: Relate

Mental health: Mind; No Panic

Sleep: The Sleep Charity 

Screen Detoxing: The UK Safer Internet Centre

Mindfulness: The Mindfulness Initiative; Headspace; BeMindfulOnline

Nutrition: British Nutrition Foundation; Nutrition and Diet Resources UK

Lifting heavy objects safely: Health and Safety Executive

Relocation Anxiety: Relocation Support Services

Relocation Depression: Heathline

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