The stress of moving house

 With the Reserve Bank slashing the official rate for the second consecutive month, many property experts are predicting an increase in buyers entering the property market. Whether this is a good thing or not is very much a matter of perspective; it’s probably good news if you’re planning to sell as the buyer pool will be larger, it also seems like good news for buyers who will pay less for their loans. However there is the less rosy view that the cuts will lure home buyers into stretching their budgets to take advantage of these historic low rates, which may come back as mortgage stress down the track when rates rise.

But assuming you’ve done your financial homework and are still thinking of buying, or selling, what does moving house mean for you in terms of your stress levels?

Depending on which poll you read, moving house is at the top of the stress list, for some people triggering more stress than relationship breakdowns, divorce, or changing jobs. Personally, I like the idea of moving, and one of the kids has asked for a new house for their birthday (they’re too young to understand the concept of money!). But yet the same kid had a meltdown just yesterday, when we did a drive by of a potential block of land to build on! And my hubby, while indulging me in driving past various blocks of land or houses for sale, never wants to move again (our last move was two years ago).

And that’s not surprising; moving is one of life's most stressful experiences, because it involves having to cope with change and transition. For many people change and unfamiliarity cause stress and anxiety. It’s important to remember that feeling stressed and overwhelmed is normal, and there are a range of actions you can take to reduce the stress.

1.     Preparation

Whatever you can do in advance will be one less thing to worry about; and this will vary depending on whether you’re moving to a new area or staying local. For example, if you need to find a new GP, dentist and so on, these are things you can research and get out of the way in advance. Facebook groups can be a great source of advice on local facilities and activities.

There are heaps of checklists available to help keep on track; most banks, removalists etc have one on their website, or to save you the search this one can be printed and ticked off.

Make sure you advise utility companies as soon as possible, as generally at least a few days notice is needed to ensure a smooth changeover.

2.     Focus on the positives

Remember why you’re moving. For example, if it’s to a bigger house, then while you’re busy packing all of the things crammed into your current kitchen cupboards, imagine them organised in your new space.

Moving can put a strain on the whole family, and on relationships. Take time to do some fun things together. If the new place isn’t too far away, take time to go for a walk in your new neighbourhood and find local parks, or try some of the cafes and restaurants that will become your new locals.

If you have kids, take them on a few walks or drives by the new place, so they get used to the idea of their new street, and talk about the move, find out any anxieties they have, so you can address them early.

3.     Helping kids move

Talk about their new bedroom, and consider a new lamp, picture, or bedding that they can choose. Keep some familiarity as well; when we moved we packed the kids bedding, soft toys, blankies, toothbrushes and pjs straight into a large bag each on the morning of the move, (Ikea blue bags are great for this) and took these with us in the car. At the new house they each got to pick their room, and the bag went into their room straight away, ready to unpack once the beds were in and assembled. This makes it easy to make their bed for the night and give some familiarity to the new surrounds.

(An overnight bag for the grown-ups is also a good idea, plus a box/basket with the kettle, tea bags, etc. and a few snacks for everyone.)

4.     Look after your health.

Staying active, eating well, and getting outdoors are all part of reducing stress and anxiety. In addition to getting out and about in your new neighbourhood, try to keep the basics in check and ensure you get enough sleep, eat healthy, and exercise. Do menu plans in the weeks leading up to the move, with a focus on planning healthy meals that also use up the contents of your fridge and freezer.

 Do a grocery order for home delivery or click and collect for after you’ve moved, so you are restocked and ready to go.

5.     Take time to breathe (and other anxiety reducing tips)

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at any point stop, and notice how you’re feeling; increased heart rate, more rapid breathing, racing thoughts and tense muscles are due to adrenaline and our sympathetic nervous system, and can be countered by deep breathing, engaging our parasympathetic nervous system.

Belly big - breathe in - belly small - breathe out

  • Take a slow breath in through your nose for a count of 4, breathing into your lower belly so it inflates

  • Hold it for a second or two

  • Breath out slowly through your mouth for the count of 5, and feel your belly deflate

  • Wait a few seconds then take another deep breath, and find a breath pattern that suits you.

Kids can also learn to do deep breathing to calm down; one tip that worked for us was getting the kids to lie down with a favourite toy on their belly (eg soft toy, action figure) and try to make that toy fall off!

Progressive muscle relaxation

Lie down if you can, then close your eyes and tense your body. Starting with your toes, progressively relax each muscle group, working your way up through your calf, thighs etc, and imagining that you’re so relaxed, you’re sinking into the surface that you’re lying on.

Stay in the present moment

Rather than focusing on all the things that you have to do, or that could possibly go wrong, focus on right now. If you’re doing a task, do only that one task rather than trying to multi-task (which has been found to be a bit of a myth, less efficient than doing one thing at a time, and infinitely more stressful!)

6.     Ask for help

 And be specific; have a list of jobs that need doing, and match people to the jobs that best suit them – people respond much better to a specific request such as ‘can you collect moving boxes for us’, ‘are you available tomorrow night to help me wrap and pack kitchen stuff’ and, if you have kids, having someone lined up to keep them entertained for at least part of moving day is also a major help for many families.

If you’re overwhelmed before you’ve even started, remember that there are buyer’s agents and other professionals who can help you from the very start of the process. For example Jayne from The Informed Buyer has a range of services from helping you with your property search action plan to doing the search and even negotiating for you, and reducing stress is part of her goal.  

7.     Keep an eye on your wellbeing

While it’s perfectly normal to feel stressed or anxious, it’s important to be aware of the impact of a move on any underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety, OCD, or depression.

If you find you can’t concentrate, experience mood swings, palpitations or other symptoms, pay attention to these signs and consider seeking support from your psychologist or a counsellor.

As ever, if you have any queries or would like some further strategies to reduce stress and anxiety, please give me a call or email.