I’ve always tended to romanticize the thought of moving away. Once I shed my hometown, I would finally become someone who never forgets to floss and sleeps precisely eight hours a night in crisp white linens. Making the big move is an ideal time to introduce other changes in your life too, but you can’t move away from yourself. Or your anxiety. After the move, I might have become slightly more committed to my oral hygiene, but my Persian cat’s weepy eyes still constantly left mysterious beige spots on my cotton sheets.
Perhaps, like me, the idea of starting over somewhere new is your go-to escapist daydream. As the realities of moving set in, however, it can become difficult to keep your anxiety in-check.
Before setting off I tried to deal with the less romantic realities. Pondering housing, thinking about relationships, and coping with these changing elements of my life gave me somewhere to focus my anxiety. I reasoned that this focus would help me identify everything that could potentially go wrong and eliminate the risks. This strategy, however, kept me from acknowledging I was doing something brave and that the risk was part of what made the experience exciting, too.
Securing housing is what I found to be the greatest source of anxiety. An AirBnb that looks nothing like the pictures is hellish enough for a weekend away, but having to negotiate your way out of a lease for a place you’ve never seen can be catastrophic. Thankfully, Craigslist is not the only way to find an apartment.
Although, classifieds are not to be ruled out entirely, you might find your network to be more reliable. Distant relatives willing to put you up, employer’s suggestions, and even a tweet can get you a lead on a place to live. It is easier to evaluate the quality and location of housing once you’re in the city, so it might be best to look for something short-term initially, or to visit before committing with a check for first and last month’s rent.
Relationships are influenced by geographic convenience and moving gives you a unique freedom to maintain or end them naturally. I anxiously considered whether this soul-mate level friend and I would just drift apart, while using the move as a pretext to burn bridges with other acquaintances. This can make for an awkward holiday season at home when you run into both the friend you pinkie promised to call everyday, but haven’t spoken to in weeks, and the one you threw a drink at during your going away party.
Setting reasonable expectations with people you want to keep in your life makes maintaining relationships easier. Reasonable expectations differs for each relationship, however. A Skype call every Sunday and a visit twice a year might work for you and your bestie, but you’d expect less commitment to your former officemate.
As you try to make new friends you might not want to have a commitment to call home every evening. To make new friends and acquaintances, you might try volunteering or attending work outings. I said “yes” to all social invitations.This often meant, however, that I would then find myself exhausted after tagging along on someone else’s errands all afternoon and subsequently cancelling on drinks in the evening.
Keep in mind your old routines — what made you comfortable — and choose how you spend your time and energy. If you’re not into nightclubs or you’re overbooked, then make another suggestion instead of saying yes. I get anxious about being perceived as flaky and coordinating a social schedule I can look forward to, instead of dread. I always ask myself: is this activity something that makes me less likely to cancel due to anxiety and be a better friend?
Once you’re all moved in, let yourself make a new routine. Your time zone likely left you a bit jetlagged, but managing anxiety takes a global approach and exercise and sleep can make the adjustment easier. Your gym membership at home could be replaced by a pass for the public bike sharing system.
When I’m struggling most with anxiety and wondering if I made the right decision in relocating, I try to stop the cycling thoughts by reminding myself that, at one point, this was my dream and it might be again tomorrow.
Moving is an ambitious step to take and a universally stressful experience. It is important to maintain existing coping mechanisms. When planning for your move, you may want to research local mental health services and support groups online. To continue mental health care no matter where you go, you can try online therapy, including texting therapy.
Your current therapist might be able to offer you a referral so you can maintain your existing sources of support. If you’re moving abroad you should also check to see if medications you currently take are available and pack accordingly.
It’s always challenging to settle in. Allow yourself to get excited about the brave change you’ve just made. Try to enjoy the adventures as they unfold while you discover the best cafés, get lost on public transit, and find your place in your new community.