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Change Management—Negotiating A Big Move

Change is always daunting, especially if we’ve been living in status-quo mode for a while and are unaccustomed to seismic shifts in our lives. Recently, after 20 years of living in the city, I moved to a much smaller university town, several hours away from my friends and all that had been familiar and safe to me for most of my adult life. Although the decision felt right, the weeks prior to the move were a disruptive and emotionally tumultuous period. After the dust had settled and most of the boxes emptied, I thought about some of the things that I had done well during the transition . . . and some “not so well.” Here’s what I have learned about how to “manage the mayhem”:

Make Lists, Start Early

It might sound a bit “Type A-ish” to make lists, but there is nothing more distressing than waking up at 2:00 a.m. with the clutching recognition that you have a hundred things yet to do and there is no more time to do them. From recycling old electronics to signing leases to last-minute appointments with friends, there is a lot to stay on top of, and it’s important to do a little bit each day. Fewer things can go wrong if you are organized and persistent. You might break your list into more manageable categories such as “People,” “Finances,” and “Utilities,” or with titles like “Immediately,” “Before the Move,” and “After the Move.” Some things simply can’t be done before others, and if you try to rush them, chaos will ensue. It also can be helpful to decide what doesn’t have to be done right away so that you can focus on the bigger priorities. Buying new throw pillows for the couch and updating your Netflix account can probably wait!

Maintain Regular Routines

During the weeks before the move I made the mistake of leaving many of my regular healthy routines by the wayside. I stopped exercising; I ate more takeout; I neglected my daily meditation practice; I didn’t get enough rest. At the time I told myself that these were unique circumstances and I was too busy to keep up my customary habits. What I didn’t realize is that I was doing myself more damage than good by abandoning them, as they would have kept me balanced and calm, as well as stronger and more resilient during the moments of highest stress. As expected, once the move was over, I felt exhausted and strung out, and had no reserves of strength to draw from. Although you should be kind and gentle with yourself during these times of upheaval, it is also important to continue to do the activities that have been buttresses for you in the past. Once you’ve moved, try as quickly as you can to return to the patterns and people that have been a support to you.

First Things First . . . Find the Coffee Pot!

Most of us have a natural need to nest. When we find ourselves in new and strange surroundings, we want to mark out our territory. After the moving van pulled out of the parking lot, I looked around at all the chaos and clutter and wondered where on earth to begin. Then I went on a scavenger hunt . . . for the coffee pot. I knew instinctively that a cup of strong coffee the following morning would do wonders for my morale and make me feel more at home. We all have those little “must do” things that help us get acclimated, from putting out a special photo to setting up the computer. For me a functioning coffee pot and clean sheets on the bed were non-negotiable items that had to be in place before anything else could be tackled.

Do What Works for You

To some degree your personality will drive how you behave the first couple of weeks you are in your new home. Rest assured there is no “right” way to do this. For some people moving is a far more lengthy procedure, drawn out over weeks and months. For them, exploring the area, meeting new people, beginning a new job, etc. will take first priority. For others like myself, creating a livable home and workspace was most important. I knew I couldn’t begin to socialize and try new things until I felt safe and happy with my own surroundings. Don’t try to rush to do things until you are ready to them. You may feel a need to get out a lot, or you may feel a need for solitude. Do what you are able to do at your own pace and in your own style. You will need extra rest and sleep during this period. Everything will be new to you, which can be exciting, but also stressful. Expect to get lost sometimes or for things to go wrong. Try not to sweat the small stuff, even when the toilet overflows at 6:00 in the morning and you can’t find the paper towels!

Stay Connected

Saying goodbye to loved ones can be the hardest aspect of moving. But we are very blessed today with so many more ways to stay connected. It wasn’t so long ago when people who moved away from the neighborhood would never be seen or heard from again. Distances between people are much shorter now, and we have many more technologies—from IMing to texting to Skyping—that allow us to stay connected with the people who mean the most to us. Stay in close touch with your friends and other sources of support during this time. They will buoy you up during those inevitable moments of homesickness and uncertainty.