Part 1 of this post explored the potential magnitude of stress caused by job relocation, reasons why, and some tips to cope initially with the change which is ironically coined Endings. As a wind-up, here is some help with the next phase of managing job-relocation change.
After endings there are middles
After dealing with saying goodbyes and finding closure in a way that feels right for you and your family, we go backwards from Endings to the middle stage of transition, The Neutral Zone. It starts with the departure from the old home and extends into the initial period of resettlement. It typically lasts from three to nine months but as with anything in life experiences, varies. As always, I listen to my clients’ stories. They tell me that The Neutral Zone can be a tough time, marked by a sense of displacement and apprehension.
If this is a stage you’re currently in, you’ve ventured into unfamiliar territory. You likely miss your comfortable environment, but haven’t had a chance to plant firm roots in your new area. Some of my clients have shared that this was a phase of particular vulnerability for their family members, who felt disappointed as they realized their new location did not offer the same apparent advantages, features or attractions as they had “back home.”
Silver linings in disguise
Yes, this middle stage can be unsettling. Some then, have a hard time realizing that it can also be a blessing in disguise—a time for renewal, self-assessment and redirected focus.
In fact, sometimes those moving from one country to another feel cheated out of their neutral zone, because the culture shock that often accompanies moving to a foreign country can turn into an ongoing culture adjustment. Culture shock can have many stages: pre-departure, honeymoon, intense culture shock, recovery and adjustment. But, that’s a whole other post topic.
My point is, that many clients and friends who’ve relocated for a job, took the opportunity (or wished they had) to actually savor The Neutral Zone. Some of their suggestions from the trenches:
- Accept what is. Fighting a war against circumstances that are set is self-defeating and a tremendous energy zapper. At the same time, accept your feelings for what they are. If you’re mad or sad, acknowledge them. They will lose their negative power.
- Reestablish routines. Relocation is marked by a disruption of your comfort and routine. Quickly reinstate whatever schedules or habits you can, to bring back a sense of order and structure.
- Allow yourself to linger. It’s normal to stay in Neutral for awhile. It’s a resting time between the rigors of departure on the one end; and getting newly settled and established at the other.
Safe to danger zone
So, if it’s okay to enjoy the rest period, what’s the tipping point? It’s getting stuck. How do you know if you’re stuck? Sometimes, there are signs of an unsuccessful transition:
- Emotions that are unusually intense or prolonged
- If you’re incapacitated by anxiety before the move, or are mourning the old homestead a year or more after relocation.
If you experience either of these two scenarios, it may be time to seek professional help.
Middle full circle to new beginnings
It’s not always easy to see just where The Neutral Zone merges into New Beginnings. But at some point, people look back and realize that they have made a shift. My clients who have successfully relocated have identified a common thread in making a healthy transition:
- To quickly form connections in the new community. They meet their neighbors. If religious, they seek a spiritual home. They join community or volunteer groups.
Change is hard. No two ways about it. An external change like job relocation requires us to make internal changes. We are faced with having to let go of our familiar sources of security and self-definition. But people master both types of changes all the time. They are not immune from feelings like anger, sadness or fear. But by facing and expressing these feelings, those who have successfully transitioned after a move, have moved in another way—toward the future with a sense of adventure and hope!
Oh! One more thing! My husband, Don and I are entering The Neutral Zone at this writing, embracing the now and the New Beginnings to follow in our new home in a new city!