“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” –– Laurell K. Hamilton
Jane had had the blues before, but she recognized this as something else entirely. More intense, more pervasive, more threatening. Jane felt as if all the color had been drained out of the world. Her thoughts felt cold, slow, and distant, somehow. She felt guilty for no reason, and she felt a blankness where she once felt a sense of purpose and excitement. She crawled through her days to crawl into bed and rose to greet mornings that felt more like unwelcome visitors than anything resembling an opportunity. She was wearing thin and she knew it.
What was happening to her? She didn't necessarily feel "sad." Sadness was a part of it, sure, but this thing felt more complex. If sadness was a paper cut, this was losing the whole finger.
Jane was right. She wasn't just struggling with sadness. She was now experiencing her first bout of real-life depression, which, as it turns out, is a lot more than just a fancy word for feeling sad. What triggered this? It turns out, it was moving. Jane was suffering from what is known as "relocation depression."
Just a couple months prior, Jane was chomping at the bit at the thought of moving to Austin to start her career at a small technology startup. She got excited just thinking about moving into a new apartment, being around new scenery, meeting cool people and creating a completely new life for herself.
So, why was she feeling so off?
Dealing with and Overcoming Relocation Depression
Depression after moving is an all too common side-effect of relocation. Even the most gung-ho of movers are not invulnerable to this lurking beast. Unfortunately, many people today are intimately familiar with the symptoms of depression. For those who have never felt its icy claws, the American Psychological Association describes it as "A mood disorder that causes a deep sadness in its sufferer." But, as we saw in Jane's case, it is often more complex than just a feeling of sadness.
With all that said, depression and, more specifically, relocation depression, doesn’t feel the same for everyone. Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "You know, I feel sad after moving, but Jane's experience doesn't quite resonate with me." Maybe Jane's experience matches your own perfectly. Maybe you're still not exactly sure what you're feeling.
That's okay. Keep reading.
Below we've listed some of the common symptoms of relocation depression. Read through these and count up the number that describe how you currently feel. But before we go on, we need to say this: if you are having thoughts of harming yourself, please talk to someone. Don't suffer alone. You can call the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or, if you don't feel like you can talk on the phone right now, you can chat with them on their website.
Relocation Depression Symptoms
- Lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities
- Significant amounts of weight loss or weight gain
- Extreme insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Feeling lethargic and running low on energy
- Having either difficulty or an inability to concentrate
- Experiencing feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- A shorter fuse; getting angrier quicker in normal daily situations
- An increase in alcohol and drug consumption
- Excessive time spent watching television and scrolling through social media
- Unwillingness to leave the house
- No desire to socialize or meet new people
- Lower interest in sex
How to Combat Depression
Let’s talk about how to overcome feelings of depression after moving. Depending on how intense it is, you may be able to work through this one on your own with some of the tips we've listed below.
However, if you've experienced more than 5 of the symptoms listed above in the same two-week period, we recommend you reach out to someone. Counseling and/or medication could work wonders for you. Or, if you don't feel ready to sit down with a counselor, check out 7cups, an online therapy and counseling resource.
But let's say you're somewhere in the middle. You don't think you need to seek professional help, but you're definitely suffering from more than just the blues. In that case, here are a few helpful hints that individuals affected by depression have used to overcome it in the past.
- Get some exercise every day. Multiple studies have confirmed that, when it comes to treating depression, aerobic exercise is just as effective, if not more effective, than taking antidepressants. Now, we realize that when you are depressed, often the last thing that you want to do is go outside and push yourself. So start out with baby steps. Maybe just three 5 minute walks throughout the day. As you start moving more, you'll start feeling better, which, hopefully, should make it easier to work out. It's a virtuous cycle.
- Stay connected with people. When you're missing loved ones and friends miles away, you may be feeling isolated. Depression after moving to a new city is often caused by the simple fact that you don't have a social network in that new city. A great way to mitigate this feeling of loneliness is to get yourself out of the house and meet new people. The quicker you can build a supportive friend group in the new city you are in, the quicker you can overcome relocation depression. Also, don't be afraid to call up old friends or family. They love you. If you're having a hard time, reach out. They would love to talk.
- Expose yourself to new experiences. Feelings of loneliness and depression can leave your life feeling mundane and monotonous. Overcoming relocation depression can be as easy as exposing yourself to new and exciting experiences––live music, trail runs, museums, new restaurants, etc. It's tougher to feel depressed when you are constantly on the go, seeing new things and experiencing new feelings. Again, we recognize that when you're depressed, this sounds like the last thing you want to do, so we recommend you start out slow. Maybe it's just one new experience a month. See how that works for you then go from there. Baby steps.
- Cut back on alcohol and caffeine consumption. While you may be quite the fan of those vanilla lattes and/or Whiskey + Cokes... alcohol and caffeine are anything but tasty for your relocation depression. Alcohol is a depressant (so obviously not great for someone struggling with depression). And, caffeine is a stimulant–– and what goes up must come down. A strong caffeine buzz can lead to a monstrous crash.
- Eat healthier. You are aware of the age-old saying–– you are what you eat. Well, there is actually some truth to it. What you put into your body has a huge impact on your brain. Take a look at this link to see what a good diet for overcoming depression looks like. If you are a little bit strapped for time, it’s basically veggies, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats.
- Try getting less sleep. Okay, this one is a little weird. While this may seem counter-intuitive, numerous studies have suggested that sleep deprivation may be an effective antidepressant. The neuroscience is a little complicated, but if you're interested, do a little googling. Oftentimes, depressed individuals will sleep too much, potentially worsening their depression. Try getting a little less sleep and see what happens.
Overcoming Depression After Moving
We would like to end this article by saying, once again, that while a little bit of depression and sadness is completely natural after a big move, thoughts of harming yourself are not. The Bellhops team cares about you and your well-being, but we are by no means experts on the subject of depression. Please be sure to seek out professional help if your depression gets worse.
Lastly, cut yourself some slack. Moving is a huge change of pace. It's a big decision, and moving is extremely stressful. While it is wonderfully rewarding once you get all settled in, having a couple weeks or even a month of feeling down in the dumps is okay. In other words, don’t beat yourself up about it.
Next time you are feeling out of sorts, take a look at the list above. Which one of these things can you do to get you feeling back to your normal self?
Our biggest advice, though? Hold on. Patience is your friend here. It will get better, we promise. Joy comes in the morning, they say.