How can I overcome the dread of moving?

Updated Oct 12 2015
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By: smekoshCC BY 2.0
In a month I'm moving from a small town in Michigan to Washington DC. I'm moving with my best friend, and we have a great place picked out. I'm finally moving out of my parents and becoming an adult!

The thing is, I'm freaking terrified. Every second that flight gets closer, the more I think about all the things that are going to go wrong and how much I'm not prepared. I fake my excitement when I tell people I'm moving and lie about how confident I am about finding a job. I cry at the dumbest things and I'm constantly putting myself down.

This is a huge moment in my life and I know I need to enjoy my time with my friends and family now, but my fear makes me want to hide.

How can I get over my fear of leaving and just let myself enjoy this change, or at least relax a little? -Alice

Moving can be scary at almost any age and stage in life. So what things have you done to calm yourselves?

  1. One thing you can do is make conscious effort to block negative thoughts. Every time you feel negative thoughts coming try to switch to thoughts or memories of something good or think about something really silly. Or listen to the song you like that puts you in a good mood. Whatever works for you pretty much. We tend to forget that those thoughts we have don't come out of nowhere, but instead we create them and then repeat them untill we freak ourselves out completely.
    Also, you say how you think about all the things that can go wrong. Well…maybe you shouldn't? Even if there would be problems in the future, you'll have to solve them in the future. Thinking about them now just seems to exhaust you, which means that if those problems do arise, you'd have less energy to solve them, since you've already got yourself tired worring too much.

  2. I've moved a lot throughout both my young and adult life. Moving is scary for pretty much everybody, so you are not alone. You don't have to pretend to be 100% excited to your friends and family, you can admit that you're nervous about it to them which may help a little. Here are a couple of things that have helped me with moves in the past.

    1. Pack smart. Label your boxes and don't just shove a bunch of random shit into every box. The more time and thought you put into packing, the faster the unpacking goes and the sooner your new place feels like home.

    2. Unpack right away. Don't do one box at a time. Seriously, the day after your move in become an unpacking machine and get all your books on shelves, electronics set up, kitchen set up, pictures on the walls etc.

    3. Don't be afraid of getting lost. Getting lost is how you learn your way around a city. My last move, my job was substitute teaching and getting lost trying to find all the different schools I was going to was the best way to learn my way around. It also led to me finding my wedding venue!

    4. Three years. This is the hardest thing. Give yourself three years when you move. It takes that long to make friends and establish yourself in a community. Making friends as an adult can be hard and it takes a little while to go from happy hour friends to real, confiding in friends. It takes a while to get the lingo. We have a road that is labeled everywhere as Rt 4 and everyone locally calls it Kirkwood Hwy. Super confusing! It takes three years. Parts of those three years will suck.

    Good luck with the move!

  3. I moved from Michigan to California ten years ago next month. There will be a ton of "fake it until you make it". Look for jobs now, there may not be a ton posted because of the holidays but it will keep you focused. In addition to jobs look for places to volunteer or internships, they get you out of the house and meeting local people. Making new friends or even aquantences can help make you feel less alone and out of place. Will you have a car or will you be taking public transportation? Look at those maps or Google Street view, get familiar with your new neighborhood and how to get around. Pick out a grocery store and a coffee shop or any other business you might frequent. If you know a place it's much less overwhelming just showing up. (I do this for vacations.) Get organized and make a list of the things you'll need to buy when you get there.

    It's going to be an adjustment for sure, but it really helps having some orientation with your surroundings.

  4. For me, I like to focus on the mundane. I know how to do stuff like pay my bills, go to the grocery store, get myself to the gym, etc. It's easiest if you use a national bank that has branches locally. All the daily stuff you would be doing anyway, won't be any different in D.C. versus Michigan.
    It may take some time to learn a new city, and figure out where you're going, but if you have a GPS, it's OK to rely on that for the first month or two.
    So I would say just think about the stuff you already know how to do, and tell yourself "I've got that! I can do that!" It will help keep your thoughts on the positives, the things you're not scared of.

  5. Moving to a big city full of real adults can be intimidating. One thing to realize is that pretty much everyone has very little idea of what they're doing, they've just had more time to figure out how to pretend or mask that with fake confidence. Learn about Imposter Syndrome and know that everyone feels that way once in a while.

    And don't be too hard on yourself when you fuck up. Because you will fuck up, everyone does. Everything is a learning opportunity that you take what you can from that situation, learn from it, and do better next time.

    Like the others have said, for more practical advice, be prepared. Check out reviews for cool restaurants and night spots nearby. Make a bucket list of places you want to check out and try to do them (because once you're a local, you'll forget about the touristy things).

    And as HeatherB said, give it a few years. It's hard to establish a new support circle. The first year can feel lonely and isolating. Find listings at coffee shops or online for activities you're interested in and go! Other people will be there because they're looking for like-minded individuals too, most groups that post events publicly are very welcoming. Find your tribe and make new connections, it's like dating, some people are fun in the short term, some you just don't click with, just keep at it until you find the people who fit into your life.

    Good luck! 😀

  6. Welcome to DC! We love you already! But seriously moving is hard. I liked the 3 years rule posted above because thinking back even in college yeah it took about three years before I really loved my college town. That being said, you're moving not dying. You should absolutely take time now to eat at your favorite local restaurants and see friends, but you can always go home to visit and if you really truly hate DC you can always move back home. Now from someone who lives here let me give you some DC related moving tips (other homies please feel free to add more)
    Traffic here sucks, always. So get yourself a map of the Metro System and learn to love it.

    Your first few weeks/months take advantage of all the free stuff going on. The smithsonian is free so are most festivals/events. It's a cheap fun way to orient yourself around the city.

    Try new things. DC is the melting pot inside a melting pot. There's food and festivals, shops and museums to reflect anyone and everyone. Trying new foods, music or activities is a great way to meet new people and learn more about the people in your neighborhood.

  7. Oh sweetie! That kind of distance is difficult, for certain.

    1. Keep super important stuff like a favorite stuffed animal or a treasured picture with you. Set it up when you arrive.

    2. It is 110% ok to cry, call your mom and tell her you miss her, cry some more, curl up in a little ball, whatevs. Honor the fact that you're in a transition. And then…

    3. ENJOY IT! You are moving to an area with tons of amazing restaurants and things to do. Be a tourist for a day if you've never been here before! (I've lived in the DC area my whole life and I still love having tourist-wandering-days) Find the Metro station closest to your new digs (www.wmata.com — you can put your street address into the trip planner) and get yourself a day pass.

    You will totally rock this. <3

  8. Make lists! You're probably worried you'll forget some Big Important Thing, so all the things you need to remember are constantly going round and round your head making you a little bit crazy. Just getting stuff down on paper really does help with that and should help you relax a bit more.

    Also, try not to keep things bottled up. Moving away from home and having to take care of all the boring grown-up stuff like bills and insurance for the first time is scary for everyone (we're actually all still faking it and hoping no-one finds out). Your friend is likely feeling nervous too and your parents were probably worrying about the same things when they first left home. (Offbeat Home has some great posts about "adulting" too: http://offbeathome.com/search?cx=017084245293590213244%3Ao7gogtoquga&cof=FORID%3A10&ie=UTF-8&q=adulting)

    Good luck!

  9. Can you make up a little treat at the bottom of each box (or every few boxes)? – just like a cookie or a new lip balm, or a magazine/comic under your books.

  10. I agree with not bottling it up. Talk to someone who can hold space for you (who will just listen, do some reflection and help your fears feel heard). Bonus points if they can then deep breathe with you, smile and hug you. You can also try making a list of your fears then show it to someone. The key is that you don't have to solve or fix anything. You are just acknowledging the parts of you that are afraid and thanking them for their messages (fear is just trying to protect you). By doing this, you get to be in the driver seat, not the fear. Trying to contain fear on your own can make it grow. A great audio talk you could listen to while traveling is called Smile at Fear by Pema Chondron. Good luck on your great adventure!!!

  11. Take things one step at a time and know that you actually *will* be able to accomplish all the tasks involved with moving. All together, moving and setting up in a new city can be hard and can seem overwhelming. But all of the things you will face won't really happen all at once; you will have time to face each one in turn, and you'll be able to do it.

    Moving stresses me out even though I've done it lots of times (I've never lived 3 years in one place consecutively as an adult, so I'm wondering what this 3 year rule is all about). I was especially stressed out before moving to my current location because I was arriving first without my partner – I had to do all the regular moving-in stuff, plus figure out how to buy a car for the first time in a new state, plus start a brand new job. Before I left, I thought "I can't possibly do all of that stuff, it's too much." But when I arrived, I did each thing in turn and was able to take care of it all. Some things might be more difficult than others, but you will still be able to take care of them all.

  12. I've moved all over the country by myself, and the bottom line is that it is hard and stressful no matter now many times you've done it. It sounds great that you're moving with a friend, so you won't be lonely in your new city, and you will have someone to empathize with each step of the way! Embrace this – I'm sure your friend is having a similar experience, so you should agree to make times for you both to just vent and be cathartic and let the emotions and stress flow free! It really helps.

    My other three suggestions, having done this many many times, are:

    1) Prioritize – you don't need to bring every single thing that you own with you, and you don't need to do everything there is to do in the city the first week that you're there. Bring the most important, essential things. You need a bed, the basic kitchen items, bathroom stuff, and clothes. See if your parents will let you leave some stuff in storage at their house (or since you're doing this with a buddy, you guys could go in together and rent a cheap storage unit for 6 months as a holding space for stuff you're unsure about.) If you don't bring something and you end up missing it, you could always ship it down later. As long as you have storage, stuff isn't going to grow legs and wander off forever! Also, all "things" can be replaced, and even replaced on the cheap for temporary situations. Craigslist is your friend. As long as you've prioritized and have your basic needs covered, everything else can be taken care of once you're there.

    2) Hire help. I'm serious – the actual physical moving can be so damn hard, it's totally worth it to cough up a few hundred dollars to pay some people to help you move the big stuff. Make this part of your moving budget. I'd recommend checking out local college job boards – lots of strong college students need part time work, and it's pretty easy to hire a couple of people for a couple of hours just to move the big/heavy stuff. Or, if either of you has a job or school lined up, you could reach out to some of your new classmates/coworkers for help! This is a way to get help and ease the physical moving process and make some new friends as a bonus! Then, instead of paying them if you can't afford it, "pay" them by taking them out for drinks, or having a house warming party once you're all set up. Again, this can be a great way to get physical help and make new friends.

    3) After you're settled, join Meetup.com. There are tons of people in the same situation in your city (especially a big one like DC) who want to make friends in a new place. Meetups are fun because there is so much variety on there – you and your friend could do it together! I found a book club and a fun social/drinking group on there, and having those "organized" events to go to really helped me get out and have a chance to do stuff in my new city 🙂

    Best of luck to you and your friend!

  13. If you're anything like me, what you may need to do right now is be honest. For me, pretending to be happy and confident is absolutely draining. Next time someone close to you asks about the big move, share your fears. By refusing to say that you're nervous, you may be cutting off opportunities for other people to help you feel better–and to express their own anxiety about your leaving. Just say that you're 100% going and thrilled to be starting a new chapter of your life, but that you're nervous about specific aspects of the move. They may have wonderful advice or lots of empathy to share.

  14. Set a timer. 10 minutes or so will do. Tell yourself, "I'm going to journal/blog/vent/otherwise express my anxieties about moving during this time." Do not censor yourself, do not judge what comes out of your mouth/head. When that timer rings, you are done. Go pack, hang out with awesome people, eat food. Then you can have another timer session later. How often is up to you. Mine were once a day, but you could do every few hours, you could do in the morning/night, as needed, whatever works.

    Moving out of state stressed me out hard. It's okay to acknowledge it. Bottling it up only made me feel guilty when the thoughts inevitably popped back up. Some things I did:
    – made an awesome playlist for packing. It was much easier to do when I was bopping along.
    -made a list of the great shit I was going to do when we got to the new place. Helped me feel excited about the new location.
    -avoided the hell out of bucket list thinking. "Ohhh, it's the last time I'll X" is super unhelpful. There are visits. If anyone tries to pull a "one last time at x" on you, add "for now" either mentally or out loud.
    -window shopped for a thing or two for the new place.
    -packed early, as much as possible.

    Be kind to yourself. This stuff is hard, and you are doing it, which is awesome. Go you!

  15. I like the mindful approach. Acknowledge the fear in the moment, the thoughts in the moment, but don't live there. Thoughts are just thoughts, not always reality.

    As far as faking excitement, I do think it's important to recognize that even in "good" and "exciting" transitions there is a lot of stress. Adjustment disorder is a real thing, and often surprises people because they're like "whoa i just did this amazing xyz, why do i feel depressed or blue or sad or anxious?" Going out of our comfort zone forces our whole nervous system to readjust and it's scary on a totally evolutionary biological scale. To survive we want to minimize terrifying experiences (WHAT IF THERE'S A SABER TOOTH TIGER IN DC THAT WILL EAT ME?! sort of thinking mentality). Go easy on yourself. This whole rite of passage walkabout journey from home base to "yay adulthood" is a hard…but SO worth it.

    P.S. any challenges are better than saber tooth tiger eating you upon arrival at the nation's capitol, ammirite?

  16. There is so much good advice on the thread already.

    Don't be afraid to be scared. Leaving town is an exhilarating, hyperemotional time; it’s fun and exciting and damn scary. When I was 21, I moved 1000 miles away. I didn't really know anyone (I had a couple online friends in the suburbs, but no one in the city). I was afraid of failing, but confident it would work out. I had a job, but no place to live. I packed up my car and drove off into the sunset.

    I was afraid that I would do something wrong and lose my job, but I never told anyone this. When people asked me about leaving, 90% of the questions were about how I would handle the weather or parking.

    Realize that you may have to start at a crappy job just to make ends meet (I don’t know how much you have saved, but I hope it’s a few months worth). But don’t let that get you down. And when it does get you down, let out your frustration in a non-destructive way.

    Best of luck! I want this to work out for you as it has worked out for me!!!

  17. Hello from DC!

    #1 thing to remember: There is NO reason to be down on yourself for being scared. You are doing a big, exciting, risky thing and it is natural to be scared! When you get to DC, you will discover that many people moved here from small towns–and we were all scared out of our minds when we did it! You aren't alone and you are not weird for being intimidated.

    There's two different sources of stress here, it seems like: first, the logistics of moving, and second, the whole "being in a new place really far from home" thing. There have been some great tips here for getting the logistics down pat, and if you google "moving tips" you will find many more.

    So now there's the being in a new place. One thing that seems to help is connecting with your new neighborhood in a way that fits your interests: your first day there, look up a restaurant nearby with your favorite food, or find the local library and get your card, or sign up for a yoga class. Find the places where you'll soon be "one of the regulars" and get on it! This strategy helped me put down roots during my two big, cross-country moves. After three years here, my favorite Thai restaurant is STILL the place I went to on my first night in DC!

    Once you've established a "home base" it can give you the confidence to explore the rest of the city!

    ps. Metro (subway) is *almost* always better than driving, parking and traffic here are ridiculous. That said, for getting literally across town or visiting the great international restaurants and hiking in Virginia, a car is very handy.

  18. If it's feasible/desired, arrange for a friend or close relative to come visit you within, say, a month of the move. Someone supportive and fun. When I moved to Chicago and knew no one in the city, it helped me immensely to know that my mom was going to come see me just two weeks later. It gave me something familiar and happy to look forward to, and also helped push me to unpack all the boxes and hang curtains because I wanted to show her just how well I was doing.

  19. As a transplant to Washington DC back in 2007, let me just say 'Welcome'! The wonderful part of living around a big city is you can find all kinds of people and all kinds of hobbies and activities. I highly recommend things like meet-up and taking advantage of the many free/low cost activities and parties to be had around DC. I hope your move goes smoothly and that you love your new home.

  20. I've lived in five states since moving out of Michigan (yay Michigan!) in 2010. My biggest piece of advice is: jump into something social. Anything. Volunteering, a group from Meetup.com, a book club, a dance class, ANYTHING.
    Most of the times I moved I was good at integrating myself into a community, but when I moved to Wisconsin a few years ago I didn't put myself out there very much, especially in the first few months. I stayed there two years and by the end I had two good friends, but it took a LONG time for that to happen. The first year I was there was really sucky and lonely. So get out there and find people!
    I'm now in Oregon and I jumped into a few different things the moment I moved here and it's been amazing.
    One thing I worried about when I left home was just the whole "being an adult" thing. How do I pay my bills? Do taxes? Take care of my car? Buy a grill? (<- the first moment I truly felt like an adult, haha). But I took it one thing at a time. I asked my parents, friends who had already done these things, consulted the internet, and I figured it all out. You just do. It's not nearly as scary as it seems, and it feels really awesome when you've figured out something new.
    Goodluck on the move! Leaving Michigan was one of the scariest things I have ever done, but it has been the absolute best thing for me. There are so many experiences I've had and so many wonderful people I've met that I never would have had I stayed put.

  21. Those feelings you are feeling? They are ok feelings to have. You're going on adventure and one of the things people don't say enough about adventuring is that it can be scary.
    I recommend How to Adult on Youtube, Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown, and the always useful Captain Awkward.
    Good Luck!

  22. Everyone else echoes whatever sentiments I might have but as a DC-ite I say welcome to our wonderful city, join Meetup.com to get to know the locals, and have tons of fun with the free cultural events put on by the museums 🙂

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