Coping Through a Move

Young woman in straw hat and summer dress with backpack waiting for flight in modern airport terminal building, watching airplanes in window on sunrise or sunset, back view

A year and a half ago, I began one of the hardest journeys of my life when my husband and I decided to follow his career halfway across the world. I quit my job, not knowing if I would find work in the Netherlands. I said goodbye to my best friends, not knowing if I would make friends once we arrived. It felt like falling headfirst into a life I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted and I definitely didn’t know how to navigate.

As much as we tried to avoid it, the inevitable stress of moving began to pile on. From how to move our dog to finding a permanent place to live, from searching (unsuccessfully) for English-speaking teaching positions to something as simple as purchasing a cell phone, we found roadblocks at every turn. I wasn’t proactive in setting up adequate support, accountability, and self-care, and quickly found myself sliding backwards in my recovery.

I isolated myself, I constantly thought about moving home, and ultimately, I didn’t take advantage of the wonderful opportunity I had been given to live abroad.

As our time abroad comes to an end, and we prepare to make another move, I’ve spent a lot of time soul-searching and thinking of ways to make this next transition a little more smooth. I keep coming back to four key principles that looking back, would have helped me lessen the stress of moving and enjoy my time here, and looking forward, will hopefully provide me with a more peaceful move in the future.

1. Avoid isolation

Not only do eating disorders thrive on isolation, so does depression, both of which can be exacerbated by the stress of moving. It can be easy to isolate yourself upon moving to a new place, but doing so won’t lessen the stress of the transition or the impending implications of that stress on your recovery.

Meet people, however you can. Coworkers (or in my case, your spouse’s coworkers), friends of friends, or random strangers. Join groups, book clubs, sports leagues. It may be intimidating, it may be out of your comfort zone, but it will be worth it.

Avoiding isolation is absolutely necessary in helping life feel a little more normal after a move. Not only will interaction help decrease the stress post-move, it can help minimize the negative impact that stress has on depression and recovery.

We need people – it makes life a little easier and a lot more enjoyable!

2. Give yourself time to adjust

Moving is stressful for everyone – you need time to process that stress, to mourn the loss of your pre-move life, and to adjust to post-move life. Allowing yourself adequate time to process these thoughts and emotions surrounding a move can help you transition from a place of overwhelming anxiety to a place of peace and acceptance.

The time needed to process these thoughts and emotions will vary from person to person, move to move. Just because someone else may have processed and adjusted to the same type of situation in a specific time frame, doesn’t mean you will have the same experience. The time needed to process and adjust can be dramatically different based on external and internal factors – anything ranging from location, to language barriers, to culture shock, to specific aspects of your recovery – know that everyone’s experience will differ, and it’s not helpful to try to compare yours with anyone else’s.

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3. Be patient with yourself

Because the time necessary to process and adjust to a move differs for everyone, it’s important to be patient with yourself. Know that you are doing the best you can with the situation you are in, and it’s okay to not be okay for a little while, as long as you just keep pushing forward.

Being patient with yourself can look different for everyone. For me, it means not comparing my progress to anyone else’s. It means forgiving myself for missing out on experiences that I wasn’t ready for. It means pushing myself to step outside of my comfort zone, while also knowing my boundaries and when I need to pull back and ask for help. It means taking the time to give myself a little extra love and gentleness during a bad day.

Whatever patience with yourself looks like, do those things. Find ways to reduce the stress of moving, wherever you can. Push yourself to step outside of your comfort zone, but on days you can’t, don’t beat yourself up over it – try again tomorrow. Take care of yourself.

4. Move past regret and learn from past experiences

Finally, once you have reached a point of lessened stress and acceptance for where you are, try to let go of regrets you may have regarding the moving period. Continue to find ways to move forward, learning from your experiences. Life is too short to live consumed by regret over what could have been.

This has been the hardest part for me. My rough transition period took about a year and because of that I missed out on experiences while we were here – friends I could have made, trips I could have taken – because I wasn’t in a place where I could accept this life and appreciate it for what it was.

It’s hard to reflect on how different my life here could have been without having regrets. But, it’s also not helpful to do so. I know that I did the best I could at that point in my life. I know that I needed that time to process, adjust, and accept moving. I know that I am stronger in my recovery because of the work I did during that time.

So, as hard as it is to move past regret, I know that is my next step. And in doing so, I set myself up for using this experience to foster a (hopefully) easier transition during my next move.

Everything happens for a reason. Moving past regret, learning from your experiences, and using that knowledge to nurture a better future helps all of the struggles and trials and slip-ups to have purpose.

Moving, no matter the distance, is never easy. However, as with any change or transition in life, you have the opportunity to come out stronger. Be patient with yourself, give yourself time to adjust, reach out to your support group, meet new people, and in the end let your experience help you grow and prepare for life’s next obstacle – you owe it to yourself and to your recovery.

 

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