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A Holistic Approach to Make Moving Less Stressful

Moving can be less stressful by considering ways to manage your mental health.

Key points

  • Almost two-thirds of people polled reported that moving was one of their worst experiences.
  • Preparation and a written outline can make the experience feel less psychologically disorganizing.
  • Moving requires a change the routines that help to stabilize a person's mood, thinking, and sense of place.

The act of moving from one home to another is stressful for many reasons. In a recent survey of 1,000 respondents, 63 percent reported that their most recent move was one of the most stressful events they have ever experienced (Anderer, 2020).

Moving requires a change in daily routines, and it's one's routines that help to stabilize a person's mood, thinking, and overall sense of place in the world. In addition, moving is stressful because of the amount of work it requires: packing boxes, identifying the inevitable items that must be thrown out, and organizing all of the administrative processes involved in closing down one home and setting up a fully functioning new home with lights, internet, food, and so forth. All these factors are independent of perhaps the greatest stress, which is the financial cost of moving. Anyone who has moved locations understands why the moving process is challenging physically, emotionally, and financially.

A holistic approach to managing moving stress

Taking a menial process like moving and trying to make it holistic may seem frivolous, but nothing that impacts one's mental health is frivolous. A holistic approach to anything is one that is mindful and protective of one's mental health, as one's mental health forms a foundation for effective overall functioning.

Ways to holistically approach the moving experience

Approach the task in a sequential and graded manner. Planning and preparation help to mentally organize a person when the person is facing a flood of stimuli, chaos, and new experiences. While many individuals may be prone to procrastination, the experience of moving is one that cannot be avoided and managed well at the same time. The process of moving is, by definition, a disorganizing experience, which means that the only way to safeguard one's mental health during the experience is to devote focus and energy to preparing, planning, and staying as organized as possible.

Write an outline of the overall tasks required for the move. Making simple lists is not a sufficient plan to organize a moving process. While lists can be helpful for specific parts of the process, the first and most important task in approaching moving holistically is to write a map or written plan for everything that must be done to effectively move from one place to another.

Begin by writing the categories for the pragmatic tasks that must be completed. A written outline of the categories may include the following: managing your mail by changing your address with the post office; switching addresses for utilities and any other service providers used at your home; purchasing the number of small, medium, and large boxes you anticipate needing; creating a weekly calendar for which rooms or items will be packed when; organizing donation items; arranging for a moving company or individuals in your personal life who will help you physically move on the actual moving day; and so forth.

Create a plan for mental health support before, during, and after moving day. Because moving can cause profound anxiety, social support is especially important to reduce the anxiety and inevitable fears that moving may trigger. Rather than starting the packing process and getting overwhelmed to the point of snapping at friends or family in frustration, gently and clearly communicate with those close to you that you are all going to need more help than usual to meet all the demands. If you're a parent and you'll be moving with children, communicate to your children that you may need more help than usual and that they may notice you feeling overwhelmed, at times, because moving is a very demanding experience.

Prepare for extra, specific supports for the actual moving day. Given the unpleasantness of the act of moving, ask yourself what you could possibly do to make moving day a little less unpleasant or even awful. Do you have a good friend whom it would be comforting to have with you that day? Having someone you could ask not to help you physically move but to be present and run an errand or grab you a coffee certainly wouldn't add anxiety.

Plan food and breaks for moving day in advance. People need to eat and stay hydrated when going through such a physically grueling experience as moving. Decide what will be eaten for lunch and dinner, which may include something like pizza delivered for lunch and already prepared items from the market for dinner. Simply having a plan and specific items ready, such as a cooler of beverages and snacks, will make you feel more structured and supported on moving day.

Plan rewards for yourself in the week or so after the move. While the impulse may be to unpack as quickly as possible in the new home, approach unpacking in a sequential manner, too. Reward yourself with an extra-long bath each night for the first week, some new bath products that you might otherwise not want to spend your money on, or a massage. Celebrate the move with a friend who has compassion and empathy for the moving turmoil you just survived, and practice positive self-talk by reminding yourself how proud you are that you met your life responsibilities.


Anderer, J. (2020, October 1). Moving is more stressful than getting divorce, becoming a parent, survey finds.

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