Life is an adventure, right? And going somewhere new, exploring and familiarizing yourself with a new location, can be a big part of that. Not only is “a change of scenery” often cited as a great way to lift your spirits and chase your dreams, but it is also advertised as an altogether positive learning experience. This is not entirely untrue – all new experiences teach us and expand our thinking. Doing new things is a great way to build confidence. Seeing new places gives us a fresh and renewed appreciation for the places we hold dear.
Anxiety and Loneliness Moved in, Too
But moving to a new city is also a lot to take in and can lead to anxiety and loneliness you may have never felt before. You may find yourself missing people, yes, but also unexpected things like driving through your favorite neighborhood, or sitting at your favorite park, or even the climate you grew up in. If it rained and/or snowed where you grew up, the endless string of sunny Los Angeles days might be disorienting; you might find yourself longing for the smell of rain when it first begins to dot the concrete or the need to wear your favorite sweater and coat in the fall.
The thing to remember is that it is entirely understandable to experience homesickness, even when you have made a choice that you know works for you and has many benefits. A desire for the familiar and the comfortable is a very straightforward human experience. Change is just that; it requires adjustment!
Challenges of moving to a new city:
1. Feeling lonely:
In the mental preparation stage of planning your move, you may have thought about places you’d like to check out in your new city or been preoccupied with all the details of the move. Of course, you knew that your social circle wasn’t coming with you, but you may not have had (or chosen to take) the time to really contemplate life without your loved ones. Perhaps you thought that your new group would fall into place through work or the gym or just being out and about. And that may be true… eventually.
But the work of rebuilding your social and professional network will take time. The loss of friends and/or family members may be more complicated than you thought it would be. If you have always lived in the same place and had the same friends throughout your lifetime, you may not have been able to imagine life without them – for better or for worse. While it can be exciting to think of reinventing yourself somewhere where nobody knows you, it can also make you feel isolated, untethered, and unsupported.
2. Struggling with self-doubt:
It is overwhelming to start a new chapter. There are a lot of unknowns and a lot of steps to prioritize and structure. You might feel lost. You might wonder if you have what it takes to “make it” or to handle aspects of life in your new city that are unfamiliar to you. Remind yourself that you won’t know until you try, practice, try again, and practice some more. If you haven’t attempted something yet, you have no idea how well it will or will not go. And if you haven’t practiced, you definitely cannot claim to be an authority.
For example, before moving to a city like Los Angeles, you might have heard about how horrible the traffic jams can be or how fast-paced the traffic is in general. You might think you’re not going to do well on the freeways, but the truth is that you don’t know yet how you will do it. You do not and cannot understand challenges until you are going through them. Until you have driven that route a couple of times to get the hang of when to be in the exit lane or how long it actually takes during peak traffic hours.
In a new city, in new circumstances, you might find that you are questioning yourself more than ever. This is normal. Don’t let self-doubt have more power than it needs to.
3. Financial burden:
Moving is costly in and of itself, and if after relocating you didn’t have a steady income right away, you might find it more difficult. If you are from a state or city with a lower cost of living than your new home base, you may have underestimated what it was going to cost you to cover your day-to-day expenses. You may have found yourself relocating to a new city during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the midst of several other changes and hurdles. This may have been unexpected, and it might have left you scrambling to make something happen.
The hard truth is that financial stress is very real and has implications regarding our ability to house and feed ourselves. If you have been planning your move, you may have some emergency money set aside. You may be spending all you have to get to where you’re going. This can feel like a high-stakes gamble and add to feelings of doubt about moving somewhere new in the first place. It is completely natural to want to know you have enough money to pay for your cost of living. Remind yourself that you would have bills to pay and costs to bear no matter where you live. View the money spent on relocating as an investment in your future rather than an expense with zero returns.
We can sometimes become frustrated by not having the funding to explore all the cool things our new city has to offer right away. Make sure that you are seeking free or low-cost activities to get you out of the house without breaking the bank. Many galleries and museums have admission-free times of day or days of the week, and there are lots of ways to explore a new city without paying a lot of money if you do some research.
Many of your struggles in the past may have been tempered by having your core support network around you. The idea of feeling lonely or homesick may seem a cruel double-whammy when you have to work through those feelings without your childhood best friend or your parents. It is important to remember that there are steps you can take to work through those feelings and that from time to time, you’ll simply feel homesick for a spell, and that’s okay.
3 ways to thrive when you move to a new city
1. Lean into curiosity:
Change is scary, but if we learn to face change and the unknown with an open heart and curiosity, it can feel less intimidating. Remember to validate your feelings. Don’t be hard on yourself when you feel out of sorts by telling yourself that someone else would be fine or that you “should” be handling it better. Change is not hard for only you! It is hard for anyone who is going through a similar situation. Don’t compare yourself to other people and conclude that they are having an easier time with relocating. Even if you ask them about their move, and they seem in much better spirits than you are, try not to let that get into your head. Instead, ask them what their favorite thing about the city is, and add it to your list of activities or locations to check out!
When you are in a negative headspace about your new home, explore and investigate the feelings that come up. Ask yourself questions about why a specific day may feel more overwhelming than others. Sometimes, our anxieties exist without any real reason, but sometimes there is a rational explanation for our stress and/or discomfort.
- Are you commuting to an unfamiliar area and worried about getting there?
- Is there a special event happening back home?
- Is it a day that commemorates an event in your life, and your usual group isn’t around to help you celebrate or to help you get through it?
Remain curious about the change, rather than skeptical about it. How can this difference be a learning experience or an opportunity? Perhaps you are a member of a religious or spiritual denomination, and you haven’t yet reached out to your local organization. If you find yourself feeling homesick for an observed holiday that you can’t participate in back home, ask yourself if this might be your opportunity to connect with the community that exists in your new city.
2. When things get tough, remind yourself of your why:
In the midst of anxiety and fear, we can lose our sense of direction. Due to intense emotions, our judgments can get clouded. If we are consumed with negative thoughts such as, “It was a foolish idea to move here” or, “How am I going to make this happen? This is just too much to handle,” we can forget all the reasons behind our decision to move. There was a reason for starting a new chapter in your life – take time to remember it!
Sometimes, your distress may stem from the idea that your why isn’t happening for you, or happening fast enough, or in the way you wanted it to. Maybe you moved because you were starting college or university, but classes are more challenging than you thought, and you haven’t made any real friends. Maybe you moved for a job opportunity, but you’re not enjoying the job, or the upward trajectory doesn’t feel as certain as it did before you signed on.
In Los Angeles, we see many people move here because they have dreams of being artists and entertainers; that is a very difficult, uphill climb of an ambition. When you find yourself feeling like your why isn’t coming true, or was misguided, remind yourself that things take time. Adjustments can happen slowly. Networking can be tedious. And, worst-case scenario, you can know that you made a move so that you never had to wonder what would have happened if you had just tried: if you had just gone to your dream school, or taken that job, or pursued that acting career.
Sometimes your why isn’t a guaranteed success, and knowing you gave it your all becomes your true purpose. Remind yourself of the bigger picture so you can regain your clarity and release some of the pressure you feel. If you are feeling like a fish out of water, you need to repair and strengthen your sense of self-trust and self-confidence.
3. Create routines:
This can be one of the most fun aspects of moving to a new city because it’s where you get to design your new lifestyle. It might not feel as fun right away when everything is new, and everything is a change. To make the unfamiliar familiar, you need time. But there are things you can do to use that time effectively.
A great way to begin to create a routine is to get involved in your surroundings. If there is a coffee shop near you, commit to going there the same day every week. Our minds feel calmer when they can anticipate and predict, and having one or two weekly touchstones is a great way to provide that framework. Setting your alarm for the same time every day helps with sleep and provides structure and consistency that you can utilize no matter where you are in the world. You can make a list of the local attractions you want to explore and set aside a time every week.
Perhaps Saturday mornings for landmarks and/or Thursday evenings for a well-reviewed local restaurant. Doing so will not only keep you focused on moving forward and exploring your new home but give you something to look forward to.
You may want to think of previous times you have relocated, even if you only moved one hour away from your parents’ house to go to college. Even if it wasn’t as big of a move, some of your tactics for that change might still apply. Ask yourself how you coped with it to help you come up with solutions for your current situation.
Regardless of the reasons for moving to a new city, it is bound to be a time of stress, excitement, exploration, and discomfort. Have patience with yourself as you create your new existence and routine. Take the time to set up habits that are sustainable, and provide compounded emotional, mental, and social rewards over time.
Remember, the goal is not just to survive but to thrive. By being honest with yourself as you go, you will be able to acknowledge and handle homesickness, isolation, and loneliness as you need to while continuing to build the life that works best for you.
Embracing You Therapy Group Practice
Here at Embracing You Therapy, we invite you to explore with us how life would be different if you had more control over your thoughts and emotions, and we invite you to consider that it is possible to accept things just as they are, embracing imperfections to create a gentler place for calm in your life.
Let’s learn what drives your unique perspective on anxiety and stress. Then, let’s find the tools-your unique tools-that help you respond to life in a healthy, calm way. Contact us today for your complimentary 15-minute phone consultation with one of our Client Care Coordinators.