relocation depression is normal: find your healthy way out

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written byContent Strategist, Remote Lifestyle & Career, EPAM Anywhere

With a focus on remote lifestyle and career development, Gayane shares practical insight and career advice that informs and empowers tech talent to thrive in the world of remote work.

With a focus on remote lifestyle and career development, Gayane shares practical insight and career advice that informs and empowers tech talent to thrive in the world of remote work.

Relocation depression is a familiar feeling for many, especially in the information technology industry, where job changes often require moving to new locations unless you’re in work-from-home IT jobs. While it’s completely normal to feel out of sorts after a big move, understanding its implications and effective coping strategies can aid in a smoother transition.

What is relocation depression?

Relocation depression, also known as moving depression, is a psychological response that results from a drastic change in one's surroundings. It stems from the combination of leaving behind familiar surroundings, social isolation, and the challenges of adjusting to a new environment.

This concept resonates with the four stages of culture shock: Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment, and Adaptation.

relocation depression: four stages of culture shock

When someone moves, the initial excitement (the Honeymoon stage) eventually gives way to the Negotiation stage, where differences between the old and new location become evident and may result in anxiety or frustration. This can develop into the Adjustment stage characterized by relocation depression. Eventually, as one adapts and begins to feel more comfortable in their new environment, the symptoms of relocation depression subside.

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What are the symptoms of relocation depression?

The symptoms of relocation depression can range from mild to severe, often closely resembling those of general depression. They include:

  • Persistent sadness or feelings of emptiness
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Feelings of isolation or loneliness
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Physical symptoms like headaches or digestive problems

This condition may coincide with burnout, especially when relocation is imposed by the employer.

Who is most at risk for relocation depression?

It's common for people to feel defensive when they move to a new place. This is a natural animal instinct that helps us stay safe. If you're feeling stressed about moving, know that it's normal. Younger people and children may feel relocation depression more strongly, as big life changes can have a greater impact on their mental state.

Anyone who has relocated, either when working remotely or for personal reasons, is at risk of developing relocation depression. However, people who have uprooted their lives and moved to a new location without family or friends may find it particularly difficult to adjust. Moreover, people whose moves did not come with any support systems may face difficulty in forming social connections and acclimatizing to their new surroundings.

Do you have relocation depression?

If you've recently moved and are feeling out of sorts, use the following checklist to determine if you might be experiencing relocation depression:

  • I feel sad or down more often than not.
  • I am struggling to adapt to my new environment.
  • I find it difficult to concentrate or make decisions.
  • I feel alone and isolated.
  • My sleeping and eating patterns have changed.
  • I no longer enjoy the activities I once did.
  • I often feel guilty or worthless.
  • I have unexplained physical discomforts like headaches or stomach issues.

If you find yourself checking off multiple statements, consider seeking professional help to evaluate your mental health.

How long does relocation depression last?

The duration of relocation depression varies widely from person to person and is largely dependent on their personal resilience, social support, and the degree of change they’ve experienced. For some, it may last a few weeks, while others may experience symptoms for several months.

Regardless of duration, this is a normal response to a significant life change, and there are ways to help manage these feelings.

6 ways to overcome relocation depression

#1. Get comfortable

It's possible that you haven't unpacked your things yet and may feel isolated from your old social networks. If you're experiencing relocation depression, start by making your living space comfortable and livable. Begin with your most important spaces like your bedroom and living room, and decorate them quickly. Get your bed and couch set up along with a TV or computer. Prioritize whatever you need to destress and unwind.

#2. Stay connected

If you don't have your previous support system available, any emotional hardship may be more challenging. As a result, negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, and regret can intensify.

Keeping in touch with friends and family from your previous location can provide emotional support. It helps to know that there are people who understand and care about your feelings.

To make adjusting to your new location easier, focus on creating new social networks where you currently live. Don't rush into forming deep connections right away. Instead, try to meet a variety of people who share your work and hobbies or who live in your neighborhood.

In many cases finding support from colleagues at your company who have had similar experiences can help significantly.

#3. Take care of yourself

To cope with any life disruption, focus on staying healthy. Don't forget to prioritize your health during this difficult time. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Eat well and get enough sleep. It's not recommended to start a new diet or try to lose a lot of weight. Wait until you've overcome the challenges of moving to another country first.
  • Getting proper sleep is crucial. If you struggle to fall asleep in an unfamiliar environment (as many do), try employing some coping mechanisms such as using a night light.
  • To boost your well-being, exercise regularly.
  • Sun exposure can improve your mood and elevate your spirits, as well as reduce eye strain caused by spending too much time in front of a computer.

#4. Create a routine

Having a routine can create a sense of calm when you’re feeling stressed, as well as provide a sense of normalcy and control over your life. This could include exercise, meals, work, and leisure activities.

If you're new to routines, start with small steps. Eventually, you can create a morning routine to begin your day and an evening routine to wind down.

To start your day, you can follow a simple routine that includes making your bed, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, and eating breakfast. If you want, you can also incorporate a morning jog or a quick yoga session. If you live with your family, try to establish an individual routine that’s separate from the group's activities. For example, you can savor a peaceful cup of coffee in bed without any interruptions from your kids.

Create a routine that you enjoy and make sure to follow it at the same time and in the same order every day until it becomes a habit.

#5. Explore your new surroundings

Get to know your new environment. Visit local attractions, try out new restaurants, join local clubs or activities. Explore the city to discover hidden gems and interesting places. When you visit a new place, record your experiences in a journal or photograph them. This will help create memories that can become a part of your identity. As time goes on, these treasured moments will help create a sense of place in your new surroundings.

#6. Seek professional help

If your depression persists or worsens over time, seek help from a mental health professional. Therapists and psychologists can provide strategies to help you cope with relocation depression, as well as provide you with greater insight into the emotions you're experiencing. Additionally, they may prescribe medication if necessary.

Conclusion

No matter how long it takes, remember that relocation depression is a normal response to an unfamiliar situation and it will pass.

Moving to a new place can be both exciting and scary, and it's okay to feel overwhelmed in such situations. With the right attitude, strategies, and support, you can overcome these feelings. At EPAM Anywhere, we provide full relocation support for our employees, as shared in Diego’s story of moving from Colombia to Spain in just one month.

Give yourself time to adjust to your new surroundings. Remember, there are many others who have gone before you and faced the same challenges. You are not alone in this journey, and there are resources available if you need them. You can overcome this difficult but necessary phase of life with confidence if you stay positive, keep an open mind, and be willing to ask for help when you need it. Good luck!

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published 23 Jun 2023
updated 23 Jan 2024
Gayane_Hakobyan.jpg
written byContent Strategist, Remote Lifestyle & Career, EPAM Anywhere

With a focus on remote lifestyle and career development, Gayane shares practical insight and career advice that informs and empowers tech talent to thrive in the world of remote work.

With a focus on remote lifestyle and career development, Gayane shares practical insight and career advice that informs and empowers tech talent to thrive in the world of remote work.

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