Why Is Moving So Unsettling for Introverts and Highly Sensitive People?

A highly sensitive introvert feels unsettled when moving to a new home.

According to the clock on the microwave, it was just past two in the morning. I stood in the entryway of my new home, clad in my pajamas and holding the bag of chocolates my parents had given me in an attempt to settle my nerves. I wandered through each room aimlessly, feeling disconnected and thoroughly lost. Though only 1,200 square feet, the house seemed to be endless.

I was nine years old; introverted, anxious, and highly sensitive — and my entire world had been turned upside down.

They say hindsight is 20/20, and looking back, it’s easy to see why it took me so much longer than the rest of my family to adjust to our new home and city. And yet, even armed with that knowledge, I didn’t expect to have any of the same issues when I moved out of my parents’ home as a young adult.

Spoiler alert: I absolutely did.

I cheerfully picked out an apartment, packed up my belongings, and immediately set about making my new home a place I could call my own. But on that first night, as I lay in bed in a room that felt too big, surrounded by unfamiliar sounds and smells, the anxiety began to creep in. Again, I found myself wandering, submerged in a sea of emotions — and this time I had done it to myself.

But, as with so many things I’ve googled when wondering what the hell is wrong with me, these feelings surrounding a move are not uncommon to introverts and highly sensitive people (HSPs). And, as it turns out, there’s nothing wrong with me — it’s all just an innate part of my introverted, highly sensitive nature.

Why Is Moving So Unsettling?

As introverts and highly sensitive people, we crave the feeling of comfort and familiarity in our everyday environment. For this reason, moving is often an extraordinarily stressful event. Moving brings up a veritable smorgasbord of emotions. Our homes are attached to our wellbeing, and physically tearing ourselves away from them may cause feelings of sadness, regret, frustration, and anger.

Getting used to a brand new house, where things feel, sound, and look different, can be very difficult. Your former home, neighborhood, and familiar places kept you centered, and now you may feel unanchored, set adrift. For all intents and purposes, moving leads to a grieving process of sorts.

There’s also quite a bit of overwhelm and exhaustion that comes with moving. You have to go through the entire rigamoroll of buying a home or renting an apartment, logistically plan the entire process from beginning to end, pack all your worldly belongings into boxes, and actually move heavy items from one place to another. There’s so much multitasking, hurry, and commotion about that it’s incredibly easy to become completely overwhelmed. Moving takes a lot of energy — and it doesn’t offer many opportunities for introverts and HSPs to recharge.

When introverts and highly sensitive people are deprived of the opportunity for emotional quiet, the “fight or flight” response can kick in and hinder the ability to settle into a new environment. If this goes on for too long, anxiety can rear its ugly head.

Fortunately, this anxiety is a temporary response to feeling overwhelmed. It will clear up as you become more comfortable in your new life.

However, if symptoms of sadness or unease don’t dissipate within a few months of settling in, you may have relocation depression. If so, check out our advice for introverts dealing with depression, and consider talking with your doctor or a licensed therapist.

How You Can Make a Move Easier

Now that we know why moving can be so hard on introverts and HSPs, let’s look at a five ways to make the process less painful:

  1. Give yourself ample time to physically, mentally, and emotionally prepare for the move. Make a list of the good things that will result from the move, as well as a list of things that worry you and how you might mitigate them.
  2. Take time during the move for quiet time alone. This will help to replenish your energy stores and prevent burnout.
  3. Clutter and general disarray can make the anxiety of being in a new place worse. Unpack as quickly as you can to add a sense of familiarity to your new home.
  4. Resist your natural introvert urge to go into hermit mode. Ask family and friends to visit as frequently as you’re comfortable with in the first few months. The close relationships you have with your loved ones can do wonders during times of change and upheaval.
  5. Finally, if at all possible, take a day or two off after you’re fully moved to settle into your new home. Having just gone through a major transition, you’ll need some time to put down roots before going back to your usual schedule.

Moving is stressful, especially for those of us who are introverted and highly sensitive. However, by preparing yourself ahead of time, finding quiet moments to recharge, and allowing yourself to process your emotions, you can take some of the sting out of the move. 

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