I thought about an article that might give practical tips on how to keep your head under control when moving but wasn't sure I was best placed to write it - having not done the move myself. Around the same time I was lucky to meet the fabulously helpful Cat Williams who seems to have a great deal of experience in the moving thing. I bow to her better wisdom!
How to stay calm whilst relocating
Is there a ‘secret’ to staying calm in spite of everything involved with relocating? Cat Williams, a relationship counsellor, Army wife, writer, blogger, and the author of ‘Stay Calm and Content No Matter What Life Throws At You’ shares her thoughts…
Relocating is an exciting, but potentially very stressful time for you and your family.
It is probably one of the greatest changes you will ever face; you might be changing your job, your house, schools for your children, friends, colleagues, and family routines, all at the same time.
We each experience ‘stress’ when we perceive the demands being placed on us as exceeding our ability to cope with them.
The ‘secret’ of calm relocation is self-esteem.
Your ‘old life’ no matter whether you love it, hate it, or a bit of both, will, to a certain extent feel safe and familiar. Now, with only change ahead of you, it can potentially be difficult to maintain your self-esteem (a combination of self-confidence and self-worth) when very little is the staying the same.
‘Tell me how a person judges his or her self-esteem and I will tell you how that person operates at work, in love, in sex, in parenting, in every important aspect of existence… The reputation you have with yourself - your self-esteem - is the single most important factor for a fulfilling life.’
When we feel ‘at our best’ is when our self-esteem is good. We usually feel confident in our ability to cope with life, even under unpredictable or challenging circumstances, and we don’t feel too sorry for ourselves.
“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not
possible to find it elsewhere” Agnes Replier
Those who relocate most ‘successfully’ are those who can acknowledge and accept that adjusting to a new house and location will be challenging. He or she doesn’t ‘beat themselves up’ if they find it hard on some days, or if things go wrong. They focus instead on what they can control, they maintain their self-belief, and they work slowly but surely towards building a new life.
“The grass is always greener where you water it” Anonymous
What controls self-esteem?
If we feel stressed or overwhelmed by our circumstances then we are feeling ‘emotionally threatened’ and our physiological ‘fight or flight’ instinct kicks in. This causes physical changes such as an increased heart rate; or we might feel sweaty, or sick, or agitated, and we will describe these physical experiences as ‘negative emotions’ such as frustration, anger, panic, or fear.
If we are unaware of what generates our negative feelings, then we will also be unaware that our subsequent actions are attempts to protect or repair our self-esteem. We do what makes ourselves feel better at the time, maybe become angry or defensive more quickly, or argue with our spouse or children, or do something to ‘take our mind off it’ such as drinking or eating too much.
If we are behaving in a negative way to ourselves or others then it is a clear sign that the pressure of relocating is affecting our self-esteem, because we are trying to ‘make ourselves feel better’.
What can I do to stop feeling stressed?
- First of all, take responsibility. No matter what circumstances have caused you to be relocating, you are the only one responsible for how you feel about yourself. Take responsibility for maintaining and building your own self- worth and self-confidence so that you can ‘be at your best’.
- When you start feeling stressed, or start ‘getting at’ other people, find somewhere to be alone, even for a couple minutes. Take slow deep breaths and imagine you are breathing in a warm, bright light and breathing out self- doubt and self-criticism. Say to yourself, out loud if possible, – “I am okay, I can only do my best, I can cope with this, I believe in myself”. Smile and stretch your arms to relieve your tension.
- Allow yourself, and your family, time to adjust. If you have a day when you feel down then don’t beat yourself up about it, or anyone else. You are changing many aspects of your life all at once. Even though you might have chosen this change, you will still to go through a grieving process in order to let go of the things you will miss. This doesn’t mean wallowing in grief, but it does mean accepting how you feel, and then choosing to express your feelings and handle them positively, rather than ignoring or ‘running away’ from them.
- Write a list each day to help you feel clearer about what needs to be done or decided upon. Choose what your priorities are and be realistic about what is achievable. Look at each decision in terms of its effect on your self- confidence and self-worth. What is best for the self-esteem of your family as a whole? How do your spouse and children feel about the choices you need to make?
“Fit your own oxygen mask…”
- Find ‘time-out’ from the stress of relocation by prioritising time for ‘giving yourself oxygen’ i.e. for activities or people which help you to feel confident and relaxed e.g. exercise, hobbies, spending time with loved ones etc. Encourage your partner and children to do the same.
- Maintain a smart appearance in order to maintain your self-confidence.
- Don’t be a ‘martyr’. Delegating shows healthy self-esteem because you don’t always need to be ‘in control’. Showing trust in others will also help to boost their self-esteem.
- Communicate with those around you. Let them know how you are feeling and why you are feeling it, ask them how they are doing, and listen carefully to what they say. Say “I feel…. because….” Never say “you are making me feel….” because we are each responsible for our own emotions. Blaming someone else for how you feel will cause them to defend themselves which can easily create a pointless argument.
“…before helping others”
- encourage and praise your partner and your children during this major life- transition. Giving praise and recognition shows healthy self-esteem and is the most likely way that you will receive the same in return.
“praise is like sunshine to the human spirit,
we cannot flower and grow without it”
- be positive and welcoming to your new friends and neighbours, even if they perhaps don’t appear to welcome you very much at first.
“Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how” Anonymous
Remember “the four A’s”:-
Acknowledge – that this is a potentially difficult, but exciting time.
Accept – what you can control (your self-esteem), and what you cannot.
Adjust – what you can in order to achieve the best for yourself and your family.
Achieve – a successful new life in a new location!