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Moving can be exciting and feel like a great adventure, but it can also cause a lot of stress and uncertainty. That’s especially true if you’re leaving behind strong friendships and social connections.
If you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming move or you recently moved to a new location and you’re having trouble overcoming those worries, you’re not alone. Many adults struggle with making friends later in life. Even if your move was a positive thing, it’s okay to be nervous about establishing new social circles.
Keep in mind, however, that it’s not impossible to make new friends. Let’s dive into how you can overcome the fears following a move and establish new friendships and strong connections that will last for years to come.
Dealing With Post-Move Stress
A 2020 survey found that 45% of Americans believe moving is the most stressful life event. The next most-stressful event is going through a breakup or divorce, so you can see just how overwhelmed people get when they have to relocate for any reason.
You’re not going to feel excited about meeting new people or motivated to explore your new location if you’re stressed and anxious about being in your new place. It’s important to understand that stress will undoubtedly be a part of the experience. Don’t try to deny it or avoid it, or you’ll end up making things worse. Once you accept that, you can start working on ways to manage it, including:
- Giving yourself enough time to unpack and relax;
- Starting small;
- Staying organized;
- Asking for help;
- Prioritizing self-care.
The more comfortable you feel in your new home, the easier it will be to step outside and take a look at what your new community has to offer. You’ll also be more likely to look for places, events, and communities that appeal to you so you can meet like-minded people. That might even be something you consider before you decide to move into a specific neighborhood.
If you tend to fit in with certain communities, whether they’re identity- or activity-based, immersing yourself in those neighborhoods will make the experience much more comfortable from the start. For example, if you’re in the LGBTQIA+ community, you might feel more comfortable in urban areas. If you come from a multicultural background, consider locations that are more diverse.
Accept and Cope With Social Anxiety
There are plenty of reasons why it can be difficult to make friends as an adult in a new location. However, many of these reasons are more internal than you might realize. You may be thinking:
- “I worry about what others might think of me.”
- “I’m fearful of rejection.”
- “I’m concerned I won’t make a good first impression.”
- “I find it difficult to communicate.”
- “I am insecure.”
If so, your social anxiety and fear of criticism could be what’s holding you back from forming new relationships. You might not have realized these struggles until you moved, because you found comfort in your social circles back home. It’s okay to stay connected with those people, too. Social media can be a big help in easing the stress you’re feeling in a new location. However, relying on those former connections too much can hinder your process in a new location.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to combat social anxiety, including disputing your negative thoughts, focusing on what you can control rather than what you can’t, and simply putting yourself out there. Mental health professionals would consider that a type of exposure therapy. While you don’t need to push yourself too far out of your comfort zone, sometimes it’s necessary to take the first step and put yourself in a social setting to really overcome your fears.
Look for Friends in the Right Places
It’s up to you to determine the types of relationships you want in your life. Maybe you’re only interested in two or three close friendships, prioritizing your alone time. Maybe you do better with larger social circles and a sense of community. Whatever the case, you’re going to have an easier time establishing friendships if you’re true to yourself, your passions, and your personality.
Consider meeting people at places you find interesting like a local dog park, art gallery, or even the gym. Give yourself plenty of opportunities to meet people at any given time. Volunteer for local organizations. Go to as many community events as possible. Attend trade shows and galas. You never know who you’ll bump into — it could be your next best friend.
It can help to know the kinds of friends you want in advance. While you don’t need to have a checklist, you’ll feel less overwhelmed if you focus on establishing relationships with people who have qualities you appreciate. Maybe you’re looking for friends who are ambitious and adventurous or loyal and kind. These don’t have to be deal-breakers, but having a list of qualities will make it easy to decide quickly whether someone feels like a good fit in your life.
Moving is always going to be a little bit stressful, and it’s okay to deal with some anxiety about going to a new place. However, you don’t have to live with those fears forever. As you prioritize your mental well-being, take the time to step outside of your four walls, and explore your new community, you could end up establishing even stronger social circles than you had before.
Luke Smith is a lifestyle and wellness writer who hopes to draw connections between our social, emotional, and physical well-being. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling or hiking with his dog.