Mindful Moving: How to Stay Zen During the Chaos of Relocation

Mindful Moving: How to Stay Zen During the Chaos of Relocation
Moving house is one of life’s most stressful experiences - even if everything goes as planned, it’s still a huge transition, and the work leading up to finally settling into a new home creates a tremendous mental load.

Moving to a totally new area has all the stress and anxiety of a normal move, plus the additional pressures of relocating to an unfamiliar environment. Losing physical proximity to friends, families, school, and workplaces requires adjustment and can lead to feelings of loss akin to grief. If you’re relocating abroad, you’ll also experience a change in culture, and the lack of familiar things like your favourite chocolate bar in the local supermarkets can add to your feeling of isolation.

So how can you stay calm when everything around you is changing, and you’re surrounded by the chaos of a house move, with boxes, belongings and lists everywhere?

Why do we get stressed about moving house?

Mindfulness during relocation or local house moves can help you keep calm by reminding your body that you are not in a state of threat or attack. Our bodies can’t differentiate between an attack by a sabre-toothed tiger and the failure of a removals van to turn up on time. To our bodies, both are life-or-death situations that must be responded to, and the way our bodies do this is the same way human bodies have responded for thousands of years - fight, flight or freeze. 

So, we get short-tempered (fight), anxious and jittery (flight) or feel so overwhelmed we don’t know where to start (freeze). 

Prolonged or frequent stress reactions are not good for our emotional or physical health! Stress creates a build-up of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to have an adverse impact on our immune system. You can pick up all sorts of colds and bugs when you’re stressed because your body just can’t fight them. 

Mindfulness can help combat this stress by keeping our brains in the present and mindful that we’re not actually going to be killed. It’s just a house move - not easy, but not life or death!

Mindfulness and moving home

It can help to be aware of how mindfulness works. Your brain tends to run away into the future or the past, and mindfulness effectively lassoes it to force you to stay in the present (which isn’t nearly as bad as your brain is telling you it might be).

The ‘Four Ts’ are used in mindfulness, and these can be great to practise during a relocation or house move to cope with all the chaos. These are:

1. Tune in—be aware of the present. Note your anxieties about the future, your regrets, or your reminders of negative experiences in the past. Notice how you’re feeling, physically and emotionally, right now.

2. Take a step back—you’ve noticed your feelings. Now, try to get some perspective to create distance from those feelings. See things objectively, as though you were observing the situation from an outsider’s perspective, without the constant bombardment of jumbled fears for the future and negative comparisons with past experiences.

3. Take care - be kind to yourself, understand why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling, and comfort yourself as you would nurture a child in the same situation. 

4. Trust yourself—you’ve given this move a lot of thought, weighed up all the pros and cons, and decided that it's for the best. Trust that you have made the right decision and that although things might be stressful right now, everything will calm down soon, and life will be better.

How to remain calm during a house move

Keep negative thoughts under control by writing down what you’re worried about. Split those worries into lists of “Things I can control” and “Things I cannot control.” 

Things you can’t control:
These will be worries about things like, “What if the mortgage lender doesn’t transfer the funds on completion day?” or “What if the removals van doesn’t turn up?” If you’re relocating, you might have worries about longer-term things, such as, “Will the children settle into their new school?” 

You’ll still worry about things you can’t control, but using your Four Ts, try to limit that worrying to, say, ten-minute periods at most. There are no practical solutions to these worries because they’re not within your control. By worrying about them, you are wasting energy that could be spent on dealing with the things in your control.

Things you can control:
These will be things like, “Will I have enough packing boxes?” or “Where can I buy school uniforms for the children’s new school?” There will be an endless list of these sorts of considerations, and listing them can help get them out of your head. Once they’ve stopped whizzing around in your head, you can tackle them one by one.

Next to each item on your worry list of things you can control, write some solutions to eliminate those worries. Taking action to address things you’re worried about can really ease your stress, even if it’s simply to identify steps you’ll need to take (e.g., phone your solicitor a week before completion to check they have everything they need from you). 

Set time aside to research school uniform shops (you’ll have done the hard work of finding a school before deciding to move, no doubt), where to find free cardboard packing boxes, or who you could ask to look after your children on moving day, and take those actions at their allotted time. Sometimes, just knowing that you have set aside time to deal with something can help you relax about it, knowing it’s in hand.

Practise some relaxation techniques 
In the spirit of mindfulness, try some positive affirmations every day - tell yourself, “This relocation is going to be brilliant for me and my family,” or, “Our new home is going to be perfect for us.”

If you find yourself in a panic or tense state, try some grounding techniques to bring you back to the present (followed by the Four Ts to keep you there). For example, you could use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique, naming to yourself 5 things you can currently see, 4 you can feel, 3 you can hear, 2 you can smell, and 1 you can taste. This use of your senses can instill you with a sense of calm.

Practical steps to help you feel prepared for moving house

Decluttering is known for being good for your mental health. Psychologists have carried out a wealth of studies into how and why getting rid of excess belongings can make us feel more productive and increase our feelings of self-worth. 

Decluttering prior to a relocation or local house move has the added benefit of making it quicker (and cheaper) to move all your belongings from your old house to your new home. By recycling, donating or selling items we no longer need or want, you’ll require fewer boxes to transport everything in the removals van, and it will take less time to load and unload the van (so you should get a cheaper quote). 

Your new home will also be a chance to start afresh, so you should only take the baggage you really need or want to keep. If you’re holding onto things from your past for sentimental reasons, remind yourself that those items are not memories - they are only reminders of memories. You can remind yourself of those memories by other means - you could write down those memories or take photos of the items to look back on later if you want.

Get excited about your new home
If it’s practical in terms of time and cost, try to build in some visits to your new home/town to get a feel for the area and find some areas and amenities you like. This will give you plenty of examples to combat worries you might have about how much you’ll miss X, Y, or Z about your current home by having things to look forward to and get excited about in your new home.

Have a Plan B
Sometimes, when things go wrong unexpectedly, it can be very difficult to keep calm because it feels like a total disaster - there is nothing that can put this problem right, and everything is falling down like a house of cards around you.

To avoid this awful feeling, put some Plan Bs in place so that if a problem arises with Plan A, you’ll know what to do. Eliminating the uncertainty of what you’ll do if something untoward happens can greatly reduce your stress levels.

For instance, a common fear for people buying homes with a chain involved is that the chain will break down on completion day. Perhaps your buyers are willing and able to complete, but the house you’re buying won’t be ready as planned. This is a very real concern, and there isn’t anything you can do to prevent it - you just have to be prepared to cope with it if it happens. 

So, to combat this worry, investigate self storage options for your house contents and places for you and your family to stay, just for a few days or weeks until your purchase can go through. That way, you can still go ahead with your sale.

We have indoor self storage units that are large enough to accommodate the contents of any size of home, which you can rent for as little or as long as you need. You could check availability at your local stores, get a quote for how much it will cost, and then be ready to ask your removals firm to take your belongings to your unit instead of your new home.  As our storage facilities are open 7 days a week, a change in your plans can be accommodated.

If you’d like some information to create this particular ‘Plan B,’ contact our friendly team at any time to discuss all available options and feel reassured that even if the worst happens on the day, you won’t be powerless.

Create other Plan Bs where possible for other scenarios, and hopefully, you’ll be able to relax enough to practise your positive affirmations and Four Ts until you’ve settled into your lovely new home!


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