How to Cope with Moving to a New City

By UB therapist Chelsea Alarcon, LPC

Several years ago, I made the decision to move to Chicago. I never thought the words, “I am moving to the city,” would come out of my mouth. Growing up, I had dreamed of living a quiet, simple, slow-paced life out in the country somewhere. I come from a town with a small population where there was hardly anything to do besides walk around Walmart. It only took you ten minutes at most to drive almost anywhere you needed to go. That was the kind of life I was used to. I never pictured myself taking public transportation or getting lost in a sea of people walking down Michigan Avenue. While I was excited for a new chapter in my life in Chicago and knew with certainty that it was what I wanted to do, I felt uncertain about how quickly I would adapt to everything.

Can you relate? If so, you are not alone. Moving to a new city can feel exciting, sad, scary, daunting, and lonely. Sometimes it can feel all of those ways at once. While it is normal to feel these things even after some time has passed after the move, these strategies can help to ease some of the distress associated with moving to a new city.

Research information about your new city

This is a step that is best taken prior to moving, but it still can be completed even within the first few months of your move. Knowing more information can potentially help ease some anxiety associated with uncertainty. Some ideas for topics to research are: places to live/neighborhood culture, public transportation and patterns with arrival/departure times of it (if you plan on using this way of getting around), cost of specific services in the area, useful businesses near you (e.g., grocery stores, medical centers, fitness gyms, pet daycare), organizations to join (e.g., place of worship, sports clubs), and fun things to do on weekends. Some employee assistance programs even offer a service to do the research for you and e-mail you the information. Furthermore, once you have moved, asking people who have lived in the city for a while for recommendations can be a great conversation starter!

Keep in touch with friends and family as much as possible

Even if you are very busy, it can be helpful to dedicate some time each week to staying in touch with people you already know to maintain your current level of support. Even taking five minutes to video chat or send a text can go a long way. It may also be helpful to plan a visit with a friend or family member that is to take place after your move. This may also be reassuring to you and your loved ones that your moving does not necessarily mean that your relationship will fade out.

Try several new ways of making friends

If you are in school, joining extracurricular activities may be a good way to meet new people. If you are out of school and working, making new friends may require a bit more intentionality and effort. Many people recommend trying While that can be one avenue, there are other ways such as Meet My Dog (for dog lovers), taking up a volunteer opportunity, asking a co-worker or fellow classmate to lunch or coffee, joining an organization (e.g., place of worship, athletic club), allowing people you already know to introduce you to others, or going to a place where people may typically meet up to do something that you are interested in (for example, if you like archery, going to an archery range). These actions may be outside of your comfort zone; however, having the courage to step outside of it can be rewarding in the long-term.

Treat this experience like an adventure

I read this tip on Reader’s Digest, and I think it is a pretty useful tip. Change in any part of your life, especially moving to a new city, is an opportunity to learn something about yourself and to explore new things. Your taste in food choices may expand. You may grow an interest in an activity that you may not have been able to do where you previously lived. Your perspectives on certain issues may be challenged from meeting people who are different from you. All of these experiences (and then some) can help us grow as people. Having an open attitude toward growth, even if it initially feels uncomfortable, is key.

Consider seeking therapy

If you are aware that you have a history of difficulty adapting to change or find yourself feeling distressed to the point that it is affecting your functioning in some way, consider seeking therapy. It may help to have additional support when making a potentially stressful and life-changing transition.

Urban Balance prioritizes the safety of our clients and staff and will provide teletherapy counseling services.