Moving house is a major life event and as such, it generates a lot of strong emotions starting from Day 1 of the moving preparations and ending with the move-in day when you finally find yourself in the new home.
The thing is that even when you’ve had a smooth house move from start to finish, you never really know how you’ll get to feel when the adrenaline rush of Moving day wears off in the new place.
And while walking among piles and piles of freshly-delivered boxes, a strange feeling could creep up and catch you off guard – an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and sadness about the life you just left behind.
That strange new feeling may turn out to be a post-most phenomenon known as relocation depression.
Read on to learn what overcome relocation depression is, what are its common symptoms, and most importantly – how to overcome relocation depression after moving to a new home.
What is relocation depression?
Relocation depression – aka separation anxiety – is a strong feeling of sadness and nostalgia that appears after you’ve already made it to the new home. Depending on a number of variables, such a sense of melancholy may descend on you shortly after the move is complete or a few days or weeks into the post-relocation period.
Can relocation cause depression? Absolutely.
And here’s why:
- You just left your good friends behind and you’re already missing them terribly. And even though you know that you can keep in touch with them regardless of the distance between you, nothing really compares to spending quality time with your best pals, face-to-face.
- You just made a giant step out of your comfort zone and as a result, all the familiar things around you – comforting sights, habitual sounds, and soothing smells – are gone in the blink of an eye. The daily routine that has kept you sane for so long is now shattered to pieces.
- You just realized the enormous amount of energy you will need to start it all from scratch – apply yourself at work to prove your worth, find new friends to hang out with, explore the new town or city in order to discover its charms. You simply don’t have the energy – in fact, you feel fatigued, sad, and you want to move back to the place you just left.
When moving to a new city with a family, then the risk of getting down with relocation depression is much lower thanks to the fact that you have your loved ones with you and you’re set to face all post-move challenges together. Yes, the unfamiliar environment will still affect you and your best friends will still be hundreds or thousands of miles away, but the support of your own family will help you deal with possible bouts of relocation depression.
On the other hand, when moving to a new city alone, you should be on your guard for the most common symptoms of relocation depression (see below) as the risk of getting emotionally overwhelmed is much higher when you’re on your own.
Relocation depression symptoms
When moving long distance across the country, it’s only normal that you will start missing your friends due to the great distance between you. Oftentimes, moving house is a rather emotional affair and you’ll probably be subjected to a potent mix of bipolar feeling right after you move into the new place in the new town or city.
The thing is that it’ll be a few days before you may begin to experience any worrisome symptoms of relocation depression, mostly because you’ll be extremely busy the first few days – unpacking the essentials boxes and taking care of numerous urgent tasks that cannot be put off for too long.
However, once you get a bit more time to think, then you could get overwhelmed by nostalgic thoughts about the people and places you had to leave behind as a result of the residential move.
Here are some of the most typical symptoms of relocation depression:
- Excessive sleep or insomnia. Whenever your mental equilibrium is disturbed, your normal sleep patterns are likely to get affected, either mildly or severely. Therefore, the depression due to relocation can result in you sleeping for too many hours a day (excessive sleep) or you staying awake all night, unable to fall asleep (insomnia).
- Constant fatigue. Another symptom that you may be dealing with a case of post-relocation depression is lack of energy and feeling tired and exhausted all the time despite spending roughly the same hours in sleep as before the move.
- Reluctance to leave the new place. You suddenly realize that you have absolutely no desire to go out and meet new people – the mere thought that you have to interact with and socialize with complete strangers keeps you imprisoned within your own house or apartment.
- Uncharacteristic apathy. You don’t seem to have the desire to do anything and neither of your pre-move hobbies and interests appears to be appealing anymore. You kind of spend your time sitting in your comfy couch or lying in bed, staring into the void. You sense that something’s not quite right when you don’t even feel like watching your favorite TV shows.
- Loss of appetite. If you feel too anxious and start skipping meals too often because you’re not in the mood for food or you’re not that hungry anyway, then the case of decreased or lost appetite should be a clear sign that something’s wrong.
It’s important to note that getting down with post-relocation depression may prove to have a detrimental effect on your overall health.
The good news is that there are a number of good strategies you should use to overcome relocation depression (see below). The bad news is that if you feel genuinely worried that your spell of depression after moving requires urgent attention (in the case of panic attacks, for example), then you must seek professional help immediately to avoid more serious health problems.
How long does relocation depression last?
This is a really difficult question to answer simply because different people will adapt differently when they find themselves in a brand-new environment.
There are those individuals who will dive headfirst into the new surroundings and won’t really be affected much, if at all, by the abrupt changes following the house move. In most cases, such highly-adaptable persons happen to be extroverts who enjoy the interaction with other people and therefore, tend to find new friends almost effortlessly.
On the other hand, there are people who often have adaptation issues after moving to an unknown place and need plenty of time and effort to get used to the radical changes in their lives. For some, it could be many months before they can feel right again, finding again their mental balance and inner rhythm. Sadly, some never manage to adapt fully to the big changes and often end up moving back to where they used to feel safe and happy.
How to overcome relocation depression after a move
If you suspect that you may be suffering from depression due to moving to a new home in a new city, then you shouldn’t just stand there, doing nothing and hoping for that tough period to just pass. Yes, time does prove to be one of the best remedies there are for separation anxiety, but you should also be actively fighting it in order to overcome the relocation depression as soon as possible.
Here are 10 tried-and-tested ways to deal with relocation depression so that you can feel right again and start enjoying your new post-move life.
1. Hold on to your old friends
One of the best ways to deal with relocation depression after moving to a new environment is to keep in touch with the friends you had to leave behind. The great distance between you is definitely not an excuse to let meaningful relationships fade away, and now you’re going to need to hold on to your best pals more than ever.
Stay in touch with the persons who matter the most in your life. Nowadays, that’s easier than ever – all you need is an Internet connection, really. If you wish, you can always go the old-fashioned way and exchange real letters or postcards with your best friends too.
2. Find the courage to make new friends
How to cope with relocation depression? It’s important that you keep in touch with your old friends, but it’s even more important to make an effort to make new friends in the destination place.
Start by saying Hi to the folks next door, then be friendly with your co-workers and use any presented opportunity to get to know them better. Also, signing up for various classes or joining a club or a gym is a great chance to interact with different people and hopefully becoming friends with some of them.
3. Explore your new town or city
The unfamiliarity and strangeness of the destination town or city will definitely contribute to the overall sense of you not feeling welcome there. That’s not true, of course, and the only way to combat the unsettling and frightening feeling is to explore the new place and see that’s there’s nothing distressing or scary about it at all.
Set on exploratory tours around your neighborhood first, and then around the entire town or city. Visit historic landmarks, enjoy sites of interest, take walks in the green areas, or do some shopping. The truth is that the more you get to know the new place, the better you should feel about living there.
4. Do what you used to love
An excellent way to overcome relocation depression after moving to a strange new place is to pick up your old hobbies or take new ones depending on how you feel and what the new city has to offer you.
Resume doing what you enjoyed before the move to keep your mind occupied and to free it from depressing thoughts about what you lost due to the move. The good news is that there should be many possibilities when it comes to finding and practicing an activity that brings you joy during a tough post-move adaptation period. From learning a new language and learning how to play an instrument to joining a dance /yoga class and joining a sports club – the sky’s the limit.
5. Get yourself a pet animal
If you just moved to a new city alone and you feel rather lonely as a result, then one good way to fight relocation depression is to get yourself a pet companion – a dog, a cat, or a bird is always an excellent choice. Chances are that your new pet animal will become one of your most trusted friends in the new place, thus easing the difficult post-relocation transitional period.
The main idea behind having a pet friend is to help you clear your head from sad, nostalgic, and negative thoughts. If you pick a dog, then walking him or her in the city park may enable you to meet and interact with other dog lovers as well.
6. Use your job as a shield
For your information, one of the most effective ways to cope with relocation depression after moving to a new city is to dedicate fully to your job, potentially using up all your time and energy to grow in the company you work for. That way, you should have less time to fill your head with nostalgic thoughts.
Remember that as soon as you start looking ahead into the future, the strong hold of post moving depression will start to get looser and looser.
In addition to using your job as a shield against depressing thoughts, the frequent interaction with your co-workers should help you form new friendships as well.
7. Exercise regularly
Another way you can overcome the overwhelming feeling of homesickness after a move is to increase drastically the physical activities throughout the day. Physical activity is known to release endorphins into the body, which in turn help you improve your overall mood and get you to feel refreshed and reinvigorated afterward.
So, join a gym after work or on weekends, or join a local sports club where you can practice a sport you love. Consider using your bicycle to go to work or walk to your workplace, if possible at all. Regular exercises at home should also help you fight the blues.
8. Redesign your new place
Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a big difference in your fight against relocation depression. One good therapeutic method to do just that is to arrange and decorate your new home in such a way as to make you feel comfortable, calm, and peaceful during the periods you spend inside your place.
One home decor tactic is to try to replicate the home interior design of your previous place with the purpose of invoking that former sense of security and familiarity. Another strategy that may work much better for you is to completely re-design the new living space in order to shake off that lingering sense of nostalgia and move on with a revamped home design.
9. Give yourself more time
Without a doubt, the most important thing you have to understand about depression due to moving is that it takes time to get your routine back and bring your life back on track.
So, don’t be too harsh on yourself for feeling sad or for not having the energy to get up from your bed after the move is over. You only need to take it easy at first and keep telling yourself that you only need a bit more time to feel fine again.
Use the abovementioned relocation depression strategies, give yourself more time to process the changes, and don’t stop believing in the power of positive thinking. It could be a few weeks or a few months before you overcome relocation depression once and for all, but the important thing is that you’ll come out as the victor.
10. Seek professional help
Regrettably, sometimes you may not be able to cope with relocation depression and if your feelings of sadness, alienation, and hopelessness do not go away for weeks or even months, then you must consider seeking help from a professional. Your therapist will try to get to the very source of your post-relocation depression and help you find the best way to treat it.
If nothing helps, then your only option may be to move back to where you felt happy. And if that’s the case, then you know exactly what you need to do next – find good movers to help you with the move.