“Below are some steps that may be helpful in adjusting to transitional anxiety brought about by relocation:
1. Allow yourself to have your feelings. The mistake I see people make again and again when they are adjusting to new circumstances is denying their emotional experience. People often imagine they shouldn’t feel a certain way, criticize themselves for having them, and try to hide their feelings from those close to them. “I knew what we were getting into.” “I should just focus on the bright side.” “It does no good to dwell on the negative.” “I should count my blessings, we’ve got it much better than others.” “I don’t want to burden my family with my sadness.” These are all ways people shut out their feelings, and disowning our feelings is where we run into trouble. We end up compounding things by feeling ashamed for having the feelings; or we may displace them onto others by way of irritability, over-protectiveness, or emotional distance. We also may cope in unhealthy ways, for example, through excessive drinking, smoking, shopping, hoarding, and other behaviors that end up having negative consequences for us. Acknowledging that the feelings are normal, reasonable responses allows us to process them and move past them, and talking about them with our loved ones can both strengthen the connection and normalize their experiences, too.
2. Recognize that adjustment is a process and takes time. Adjustment totransitions is usually temporary, though the length of time needed will vary from one person to the next. Sometimes it can take a few weeks, sometimes a few months or even longer. Keeping in mind that relocating one’s family disrupts everything that had become part of daily life–who you and your family see, where you go, what you do–all that’s familiar, it’s no wonder that the sense of well-being and security are disrupted. It takes time to re-establish this in a new place, to re-orient oneself and one’s family. It takes time to get situated and re-adjusted, to re-establish a sense of stability.
3. Focus on re-establishing familiarity and routine as much as possible. Re-establishing family and individual routines to the degree that you can, for example, scheduling consistent meal times and assignment of roles around who does what to help out, homework schedules, and leisure activities that include family interaction, are ways of re-establishing a sense of stability over your and your family’s lives. Developing new routines in a new place can also help in feeling more situated there. Also, it can be really helpful to maintain regular contact with long-term supports, people who’ve known you throughout your life and past transitions. Hearing familiar voices from the past can provide an enormous sense of comfort and optimism that things are going to be okay.
4. Get support from others who’ve been there. Realizing that you’re not the only one who feels what you’re feeling can be an enormous relief. Talking to others about what you’re going through not only offers perspective, but also provides the chance to identify aspects of the experience that you might not have realized. Hearing about how others got through it also offers reassurance that you will get through it, too. If there isn’t anyone with whom to connect in person, on-line support forums exist for just about everything.
If, after an initial period of the first few weeks or even months, you or your family members are still having a difficult time adjusting, or if during the initial period of adjustment, the feelings are so powerful that they’re interfering with your ability to manage things in your life, it may be worthwhile to meet with a licensed counselor or therapist. It may be that something about this particular transition at this time has triggered something deeper that needs a little more attention and care.
Thanks, Kaerensa Craft, for the professional advice! Your check (aka wine and cheese) is in the mail.
Kaerensa Craft is a psychotherapist practicing in New York City. She has a Bachelors degree from University of Southern California, Masters from Columbia University and decades of experience in her field. Her career began in social work over 15 years ago, providing counseling children and adults adapting to multiple life stressors and transitions. Her scope of practice has expanded to include working with individuals around a range of presenting difficulties, including difficulties with adjusting to transition, anxiety, depression, and interpersonal difficulties, as well as addressing maladaptive behaviors people in engage in to cope. She can be contacted at [email protected]. www.kaerensacraft.com
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