7 Ways To Deal With The Stresses Of Moving

February 15, 2022

7 Ways To Deal With The Stresses Of Moving

An interview with Yael Stein, LCSW

A big move, especially if emigrating from another country, can be one of the most stressful events in life. The process typically involves selling the old place, finding a new home, packing and unpacking, and dealing with the related finances. There’s a lot of physical logistics to manage, but there can be emotional and mental challenges as well.

Emotions can run the gamut. Joy, excitement, anxiety, or stress can come when facing the unknown. There could be sadness, guilt, or loneliness from leaving people behind. One may also feel overwhelmed when the details seem daunting, or all of these feelings collide.

Yael Stein, our senior clinician and licensed clinical social worker at JF&CS, is originally from Cape Town, South Africa. She has a deep understanding of the mental challenges brought on from emigrating, or “semi-grating” as she calls moving within one country.

“Whether you’re moving from Cape Town to Atlanta, or Manhattan to Dunwoody, there are similar challenges,” she says. “There are different norms, different languages, different paces, and different priorities.”

One of Yael’s areas of expertise is helping people through transitions, especially during life-cycle events. She offers seven suggestions to deal with the stresses that can arise from moving.


“What helps is when you have both a push and a pull,” says Yael. “A push might be the river overflowed and destroyed my home and I have to leave. A pull would be that now is the perfect time to move to Atlanta because that’s where the rest of my family lives. Ideally, if you have a push, it’s good to have something pulling you to a new location as well. It’ll make for a healthier transition.”

Examples of “pulls” can be anything that gets one excited about the next destination: family, job opportunities, a chance to reinvent yourself, schools, or a great house.


“Community is something to consider when you look for a place to live," says Yael. "Where will the kids go to school? What hobbies could you pursue? Jewish families might want to live around the JCC because it’s a good anchor that brings people together. Orthodox Jews tend to live within walking distance of their synagogue, which creates community.”

It can take time and planning to find a community that you enjoy. The group of friends someone chooses often comes from where they are in their life. If someone moves for a job or school, then they may find their community within those organizations. If there are kids, families tend to meet at the kids’ schools or activities. Later in life, retirement communities offer opportunities to make new friends.


“If you break your leg skiing, you know it takes a certain amount of time to heal," she shares. "And when you make a big transition, it’s also open ended.”

Yael recommends not letting anxiety overtake you by giving yourself time to find a routine.

“People say it takes 6 months for a person to settle into a new job. It may take just as long to settle into a new home, environment, and set of friends,” she adds.


“When emigrating or semi-grating, you’re leaving something behind.” Yael continues, “People need to grieve what they lost. I don’t mean that you 'sit shiva' (the term used to describe the Jewish ritual of mourning the loss of a loved one), but it’s an adjustment process. It’s okay to have a sense of sorrow. It takes time to move forward.”


Although there is often stress with change, if the move is helping someone reach a goal — i.e., work, personal growth, family — then the move will be a productive one. Stress can also motivate a person to get things done. However, everyone also needs to make time and find activities that help them destress.

“The important thing is to have coping skills,” says Yael. “Resilience, perspective, self-advocacy, an interest in trying new things, and a positive attitude will all help.”


When moving to a new place, it can be disorienting. That’s why it’s important to learn where to find needed supplies. If someone has a medical condition, they should be proactive in finding a doctor and pharmacist prior to relocation. If they have a child, they should find daycare or schools. Learn where your supports are ahead of time and your stress will be diminished some by a sense of security.


You don’t have to emigrate from another country to not quite know the local language. Different regions may use different words, such as, “soda” or “pop.” There are various ways people may greet each other depending on the local culture, such as, “hello” or “hey” or “howzit.” Even if you don’t speak the area’s vernacular it’s good to be aware of it.

There are many stressors that can come with a major life event such as moving. If you need additional emotional support, JF&CS is here. As Yael says, “Therapy is a great way to work through emotions without being judged. We help, people deal with similar issues every day.”

If you’re interested in talking with Yael or one of the counselors at JF&CS, make an appointment today. Contact Frances Bunzl Clinical Services at therapy@jfcsatl.org or 770.677.9474.

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