3 Tips to Avoid Panic Attacks and Anxiety when Moving

My wife and I just bought and a new house and are in the process of packing up our old one and moving to the new one. As a person who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders, any interruption in my routine can spell trouble. Moving is difficult for even the most well-adjusted, so I don’t need to convince you of the potential pitfalls for those of us living with mental illness.

Here are three tips to avoid having a panic attack, reduce anxiety, and help to make your move as mentally healthy as possible. Please keep in mind this list is in no way exhaustive and, in this case, it assumes the move is a desirable one (i.e., moving to someplace you want to move and for positive reasons).

Anxiety Reducing Tip Number One: Preparation is Key

The number one tip I can offer to reduce the potential for anxiety and panic attacks is to be prepared. Make a plan well ahead of time. If my middle school science teacher taught me anything, it is that most people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. Cheesy? Yes. But 100% true.

When making your plan, it is important to set reasonable expectations. Don’t fall into the trap of getting behind schedule because you only gave yourself 30 minutes to pack up the entire kitchen. A psychological trick I love to use is to overestimate. If I think it will take me one hour, I budget two hours. It is a win-win, because I either finish early or I gave myself the correct amount of time.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. There is no reason you have to pack your entire place in one day. Pack one room a day for a week. When making your plan, don’t leave all the physical labor tasks for the same time frame. As an example, a good plan might be three hours total to pack a kitchen. I’ll work for 90 minutes, then sit down at my PC and update all the mailing addresses, then work another 90 minutes.

Anxiety Reducing Tip Number Two: Manage Expectations

If you want to keep your anxiety under control, it is of vital importance to manage expectations. Rome wasn’t built in a day and moving is a giant pain in the you-know-what. It is important to understand that moving is going to take time and everything will not always go as planned. From packing to the actual move to unpacking, moving is a process and an unpredictable one at that. Things will go wrong.

Understanding the nature of the process allows you to stay ahead of it. If you know that something is going to go wrong, it won’t be so bad when it does. Leaving yourself extra time to handle the things that come up ensures that you aren’t rushed and have time to make good decisions.

It isn’t a bad idea to have backup plans for common moving mishaps. What is your contingency plan if it rains, for example? I always recommend getting extra tape, packing materials, and boxes. Better to have them and not need them than the other way around.

Finally, take lots of breaks. There is no shame at all in sitting down and taking a moment for yourself. Build in time for going out to lunch so you can get away from the situation for a bit. There is no reason to go full-tilt for hours on end without a break.

Anxiety Reducing Tip Number Three: Use the Buddy System

I’m a lucky man when it comes to using the buddy system to reduce anxiety. My wife is my constant companion and is wonderful. She is helpful, thoughtful, and her presence is naturally soothing. For big projects, like moving, I lean on her heavily to keep me focused and calm. There is nothing more helpful than a well-timed hug or joke. She also notices when I start to get overwhelmed and suggests “an early lunch” or five-minute break.

The flip side to the buddy system is to not ask people to help who cause you anxiety. Sure, your best friend is a great person, but will s/he be helpful in a move? Maybe they are great to catch a movie with, but are extra critical of the dust bunnies your couch ate years ago. Part of using the buddy system is to get the right people around you. Having support is invaluable.

All in all, it is important to keep your eye on the prize. Sure, moving is a hassle, but whatever reason you chose to move should be your mantra. For this move, my wife and I are focusing on the bigger yard, the extra space, and that this is the first house we picked out together (I originally moved in with her). We are excited for the future and that helps keep me calm when I see my entire life put into boxes and carried onto trucks.

While today is stressful, the future is going to be wonderful.

Gabe is a mental health coach, writer, and speaker living with bipolar and anxiety disorders. Interact with him on Facebook, Twitter, or his website.