We are creatures of habit. We have our comfort zone established and even extroverts want that space to return to. So change is understandably hard for most of us, often causing stress or anxiety. I recently moved to a new city, both my family and my counseling practice. Along the way, I learned some things I want to remember, to help me with the next change. Maybe they’ll help you too.
The biggest piece for me, and the most exciting actually, is the planning. I’m a planner. I love to plan. I love to learn all about the change, in my case the new town I’d be moving to and the new town I’d be working in. I’m in my Zen when I’m planning. I like the Internet so I look online at community pages, city government pages, shopping mall pages. I visit the towns to get local newspapers. I read the help wanted ads, events pages, and grocery store sale pages so I could get a sense of the environment. I look at local schools and read their blog posts to sense how staff relates to each other and children.
As an introvert, I’m not as good at asking others for information but when I do, it’s really helpful. I like to visit the local library, community center, farmer’s market, or church in the new neighborhood and listen to the conversations and vibrations. You can ask people you see what they like about being there. What they wish were different. Also ask around and see if any of your current friends have been to the new town. Take a hike or walk through the neighborhoods and chat with people you meet. The act of walking can lessen stress and increase excitement about the move too.
My next step is setting things up. You can visit the schools and walk through their neighborhoods, maybe talk to the secretary and parents, and then apply to the school that fits your kids best. If the move is easily drivable and you have a religious affiliation, you might start attending church or synagogue in the new town. This will help you have friends by the time you actually move. If you have pets, you may also want to seek out a new veterinary office, walk in and read their bulletin boards, look for cleanliness as well as the kind of environment you feel comfortable in.
When I have plans - even though I know they’ll likely need adjusting - I feel more settled, less anxious, and able to cope with change.
Now follow the plans you made above, as much as you can.
For changes go as smoothly as possible, as well as dealing with glitches in plans, it helps me to pay attention to my mind and body health. Keep your routines as regular and simple as possible. As much as possible, make sure you eat at your normal times, foods you typically eat, and even add in a few healthy extras like salads, apples with peanut butter, and extra water. If you are a regular meditator, don’t let that slide. If you’re short on time and can’t meditate for long durations, at least try for short meditations at your regular time. The same is true for exercise and fun: if you need to keep them of short duration, so be it, but try not to skip altogether. If you jog, jogging a shorter route is better than not at all. If you have game nights with the kids, but the hour is getting late, play quicker games like twister – a good way to add movement, fun, and reconnection. Moods are important and keeping rituals helps keep our moods healthy and light.
I also try to keep important rituals such as bedtimes, homework, and screen time. Although I may need it more, I try not to add too much mindless TV or other screens. If you have date nights, you’ll need that together time to keep each other strong. The same with family outings and holidays. It’s fine to cut things shorter or simplify them, but eliminating them can make you feel “off” or separate or like something’s missing. At Christmas, go for a small movable tree rather than none at all. During camping season, take a weekend instead of a week, at a closer spot.
You can also add new rituals if you like. It’s alright for plans to be altered, but try to keep the pieces that are most important to you and your family. In fact, one of your new rituals could be family meetings to talk about what’s important to each family member. And if you’ve taken drives to explore the schools, neighborhoods, and parks, you could keep up the drives, adding a stop for ice cream or singing on the road. This makes a positive addition for your family that came about due to the change. However difficult the change, you’ll have this new ritual as a bonus memory to carry forward.
Another key is relying on others where you can. Who do you have that could bring you dinner while you pack? Who could host a play date for the kids while you spend time on the internet planning? Who has moved before, or faced other big changes, that can talk you through the feelings that come up when we’re subject to changes? And if you feel like you don’t have family or friends for these or other things, ask the family and friends you do have if they have ideas of who could help. If not them, then who?
When I keep my rituals, and have the support of others I can roll with change much more easily.
Let it go
After planning and executing, is letting go. This is more mental than activity based, but activities can help you let things go too. Try to remember you have made it through 100% of the changes you have made in your life. You have a 100% success rate. This is an awesome record!
Expect glitches. Things aren’t likely to go exactly as planned. Something will break, a scheduled task will be forgotten, someone will cry or yell. But that’s a normal part of growth, and how you react to it can set you at ease or complicate things. If you don’t know it, learn Elsa’s song from Frozen and sing it loud while swooping and dancing around the room. The movement and breathing required to sing will ease your stress level and be fun for your kids to watch or join. They’ll like you silly.
Remember “no do-overs” is just a schoolyard slogan. If something doesn’t work the way you want – the church is too stuffy, the moving truck isn’t big enough, or the office isn’t as you hoped – you can redo, as often as you like. Find a new church, call another truck company, or find a better office.
That’s a perk of adulting: you get do-overs.
Reflecting is a great way to keep what works and toss what doesn’t. Since change is inevitable, and will happen again, reflecting on this move will help future moves go more smoothly. So even if this move was anxiety provoking, the next will be less so.
I like to take time to journal – no I’m not great at consistency. But journaling what went well or gratitude about the move, is a good place to start. In fact, I’ve recently switched to listing “done well’s” instead of “to-do’s” in several areas of my life and the feeling of success I get is huge! Try to add a bit, in thought or on paper, or in conversation with your family, about what you wished could have been different or better. Keep this knowledge for next time!
And lastly, reflect on how your beliefs about yourself changed throughout this move. When all is done, do you feel more capable? What can you add into your life to increase those feelings over time. Less capable? Time for changes to increase your esteem. Did your stress level, behaviors, parenting, or relating to others change? If these things feel better than before the move or change, what else can you do to keep those great beliefs and feelings? If worse, how can you release them and increase your self-regard and strength?
As always, thanks for reading. I hope this is helpful when you feel anxious about change. If you live in the Snoqualmie Valley and want more help with change, stress, or anxiety call me to schedule a free telephone consultation to see if you might need one on one support.