Moving Stress - The (Real) Reason Moving is Stressful

Jordan Brown

I'm moving today.

I'm picking up my entire physical life, and I'm going somewhere else with it.

I'm surprised I even got this newsletter ready to go out this morning.

This move is the fifth time my wife and I have moved since 2016.

And while the last two moves have been within our zone of happiness in Montana, the moving stress never completely goes away.

And because I've moved so many times, I've realized why moving is stressful.

It's not the obvious reasons, like having to coordinate getting all your junk from one plate to another and updating addresses and bills.

The real reasons moving is so stressful have to do with the messiness that is mental health.

Moving Stress, Explained

There was a recent study that became popular last year.

In that study, people said moving was more stressful than any other life event, including getting a divorce!

Now, that seemed a bit suspicious to me, but I think people are on to something.

Because getting a divorce and moving have something in common.

Extreme emotion.

You see, moving is an emotional breaking point.

It's the finality of leaving a place you'll never see again, but it also has its roots in anxiety--and a very difficult part of anxiety at that.

For me, anxiety is not just being worried.

That's certainly part of it, but my anxiety is about rumination.

It's as much about not being able to get started as it is worrying about what's going to happen next.

Because at the heart of anxiety is the realization that, once you choose one path, you must commit to it.

As long as you're stuck in your head entertaining all the different possibilities in front of you, you can pretend like you have control over all of them.

But making a decision, much like choosing or being forced to move, is realizing that there's no turning back.

That there are certain paths you can longer go down.

At least not right now.

Moving is Life--and Life is Always Moving

Life is always moving. It's how you adapt to the movement that matters.


In life, you're always faced with options.

You're tasked with choosing the best course of action in response to any number of evolving situations.

It's hard enough to know about what's happening in front of you, let alone choosing the best course of action to ensure your happiness.

When I moved from Virginia back to Montana at the end of 2019, I didn't know exactly what I was going to do.

I just knew I had to get away from the East Coast.

Even though I grew up in New York, I couldn't stand the fast-paced, work-until-you-drop mentality.

Conversations were mainly transactional, it seemed.

I missed the laid-back mindset of Montana and the West.

So my wife and I left good jobs and just decided to leave.

Yes, it was terrifying.

And yes, my brain was telling me I was stupid for not having something lined up.

But my heart knew it would be happier back in Montana.

My heart was not wrong. It rarely is.

The Real Reason Why Moving is Stressful

Making any big move, whether it's a physical move or a decision to pursue another career, is life-altering. There's no way it can't be.

Moving is stressful.

And it's as much about the unknown as it is what you hope to get out of life.

Stressful life experiences are stressful not because of what they appear to be on the surface.

Anyone can look at the surface of something and give you their take on what it's all about.

Stressful life experiences are stressful because they involve a moving of the heart, body, and mind.

It's a shifting from the known to the unknown.

In the process, you cross through the middle.

And what's in the middle can't be seen. It can only be moved through.

Most humans don't like the part in the middle.

It's not comfortable. There are no clear guidelines.

Going from A to B unexpectedly takes detours through J, R, and L.

It just makes no sense.

Still, that's what life is all about, the stirring the pot of sense-making until a clear meaning comes forth.

You can choose to be stuck and hold onto something that is always changing anyway, or you can follow your heart and see where it takes you.

I hate the physical move itself, the getting ready and packing up and saying goodbye, but I like what I find out about myself when I'm in the process of doing those things.

Packing up your life and going somewhere else takes you from point A to point B, yes, but it's in the process of moving that you learn who you really are.

It's the same thing for goal-setting.

You don't set goals to get new and bold things done.

No, you set goals to become the kind of person who can accomplish those things.

There's a big difference between the two.

So, I'm moving.

I'm tired, but I'm also hopeful.

I'm nervous, but I'm also excited.

Life can be stressful.

But it's the stress that shapes you and shows you how far you can go.