4 Ways Moving Is an Emotional Roller Coaster and How to Overcome It

The moving process is a land mine of emotions. Here’s how to navigate it.

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Selling a home and moving is a process that can take homeowners through a range of feelings. And depending on the circumstances that led to selling, the entire experience can be an emotional upheaval. 

Moving is one of the most stressful experiences people will go through, says licensed marriage and family therapist Erika Beckles Camez, Ph.D. In fact, in a study of people who recently moved, 45% of the respondents cited moving as the most stressful event in their life — above divorce, having children and changing careers.

While most homeowners expect the process of selling a house to have some stressful moments, many don’t form a plan for navigating those ups and downs. And even fewer prepare for all the emotions selling a home can bring. “I’ve had people come into therapy about the grief and loss of moving,” Beckles Camez says. 

One way to mitigate the emotional impact of selling your home is to anticipate the variety of feelings you may experience along the way — and have an idea of how to navigate them ahead of time. 

Here are some common emotions you may encounter during the home-selling process. 

Disappointment

“There’s a lot of emotional investment that goes into homeownership, especially first-time homeowners, but even experienced homeowners,” Beckles Camez says. And saying goodbye to a home you’ve invested in emotionally, financially and physically can leave you feeling disappointed or let down. In some cases, it can even trigger thoughts of failure. 

We often see homeownership as a representation of success, hard work and discipline, Beckles Camez says. Even if you’re transitioning to a better situation, leaving your current home can challenge your sense of accomplishment — and sometimes your identity. 

How to deal with it 

Focus on what you’re moving toward. Remind yourself of what’s ahead of you in your next home and season. Thinking about what you’re gaining can counter the feelings of disappointment and help you shift your attention to using strategic tools to better attain and address future homebuying opportunities. 

A sense of loss

Selling and leaving a home can trigger feelings of grief. And if the decision is connected to a job loss, a divorce or similar events, then your sense of loss is layered. Beckles Camez says grief is a natural emotion when letting go of a home — regardless of the reason for leaving. “You’re going from possessing something — whether real, perceived or symbolic — to no longer having that,” she says. So, anticipate a sense of loss

How to deal with it 

Celebrate your current home. Before leaving, consider celebrating your home by having a final get-together with friends and family, documenting the positive events you experienced while living there or finding some other way to commemorate and honor your time in the home. Doing this can bring proper closure before leaving.

Anxiety

The home-selling process is full of multiple steps — many of which are surrounded by unknowns. What do we need to do to get the house ready? Will the house sell quickly? How much will it sell for? Will we be able to pack up in time? Focusing on the multiple steps and all the unknowns can lead to an exponential amount of stress, anxiety and dread, Beckles Camez says. 

How to deal with it 

Get help. “Don’t feel like you have to do this alone,” Beckles Camez says. Selling, packing and moving can be incredibly stressful. Avoid doing it in isolation. Instead, Beckles Camez suggests leaning on your real estate agent, inner circle, friends, family and colleagues. If possible, hire help, such as a moving company, to ease the pressure of doing it all on your own. Additionally, build in pauses and breaks during the process. Finding ways to recharge can ensure you’re operating from a positive and healthy headspace, Beckles Camez says. 

Excitement 

Not all emotions related to the home-selling process are negative. Perhaps you’re eager to leave your current home, ready to transition to a new season or selling to capitalize on a hot market and want to sell as quickly as possible. But even anticipation and excitement can have consequences. 

Often, we overlook negative situations or fail to maintain boundaries when we’re excited, Beckles Camez says. This can lead to rushed decisions that we later regret, such as accepting a less-than-stellar offer or agreeing to terms that are difficult to accommodate. 

How to deal with it 

Set boundaries ahead of time. Before you list your home, decide what your non-negotiables are, what you’re willing to compromise on and how far you’ll budge. Of course, you’ll need to be flexible during the process, but without clear boundaries, you may make choices you’ll wish you hadn’t made. If that does happen, Beckles Camez says not to beat yourself up. Rather, remind yourself that you did your best with the information you had at the time, and focus on moving forward.

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