Self-Care in a New Zip Code

Adventure. Career growth. Romance. All of these are reasons why someone might pack up their belongings and move to an entirely new city. As someone who has made several big moves myself — one being to a country across the Atlantic — I know firsthand how emotionally draining it can be.

No matter how brave I felt or how much I loved the life I had created there were always times where my mental health faltered. The highs are higher and the lows are lower. When you are feeling low (and this feeling will happen) it’s hard not to drown in the “What did I do?” thoughts that swim around in your head.  

While I am a naturally upbeat and positive person, it is especially hard to keep this mentality going when feeling isolated in a foreign city. After a while, I learned five major factors that helped me keep my sanity.

1 | Make new friends —

Easier said than done, right? Hands down this is the hardest part of moving to a new area. Since your social life directly impacts your mental health it is a key component to your overall wellbeing.

What no one tells you, though, is that making new friends is just as hard as an adult as it was when you were younger. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, you have to be bold. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

Chat up a colleague and invite them out for after-work drinks. This way you have a chance to get to know the people you spend all day with. Plus, when you take the initiative you will come across as confident and happy, and who doesn’t want to befriend someone like that?

Meetup is a great tool to meet new faces in your city, allowing you to filter events based on your likes. Many of the events repeat weekly or monthly which makes it easier to befriend those people you start to recognize from previous meetings. Plus, it’s a nice way to keep your social calendar consistent and as busy as you’d like it to be.

2 | Maintain old friendships —

When you’re caught up developing new friendships in exciting surroundings, it’s important to remember not to neglect your social circle back home. Your close family and friends are the ones who are always willing to hear you vent and are the first to celebrate milestones with you. Keep up those relationships with regular calls and texts. Schedule a day to Facetime. If possible, plan trips to each other’s cities. They want to hear from you, too.  

3 | Get outside —

Maintaining your mental health requires a lot: a solid sleep schedule, a safe space to vent, mentally engaging activities, physical exercise, romantic, familial, and friendly relationships… the list could go on. And yes, it can leave you feeling exhausted.

Take a natural chill pill and head to your local park. Studies have shown that spending time outdoors is a great way to beat stress and feel happier. In fact, doctors are even going as far as writing patients “park prescriptions.”

You’ll reap major benefits from spending just 20-30 minutes of your day outside. Take a blanket and lay in the grass. Read a book, have a picnic, swap your office desk for the park bench during lunch — you don’t need to do much to instantly feel better. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths of fresh air. Meditate. Repeat a mantra. Afterwards, you’ll feel gratitude and a deeper connection for your new home.  

4 | Connect with yourself —

It’s tough to find yourself amidst a new landscape without your support group. But while you’re busy kicking ass at rebuilding your social circle and impressing your new boss, take this time to reconnect with yourself.

During those first several weeks you might spend more time alone than ever before. If you’re anything like me, this means you’ll pass the time chatting with yourself. This inner monologue can greatly affect how you perceive your experiences, and is especially true when you are out of your comfort zone.

Notice how you talk to yourself. Take note of what you think about strangers you pass on the street. Consider your thought patterns through the course of the day. Is it overwhelmingly negative? Anxious? Doubtful? If so, it’s best to get ahead of your mental health in the beginning.

Finding the right therapist, journaling, physical activities, or trying your hand in a creative hobby (think along the lines of painting, writing, dancing, etc.) are all healthy ways to shift that negative train of thought.

5 | Take yourself on a date —

When you do have a positive attitude, spending time alone is incredibly rewarding. Make it a personal habit to take yourself out on a date every month or two.

Wander through your new city. Try to find your way without Google Maps. People watch. Journal. Take pictures of unique and pretty finds. Eat a solo meal. If eating in a restaurant alone is too intimidating go on a coffee or wine date. Visit a local museum. Catch a movie. Look through thrift shops. Do anything that you might do with a romantic partner or friends.

It might be scary at first but start small and work your way up. Chances are you’ll discover something new about yourself and your surroundings.

Caroline Moore is a freelance writer, part-time English teacher, and collector of flea market finds. She likes to write and discuss topics such as mental health, fashion, feminism, and human behavior. She is from Atlanta, Georgia but currently lives in Prague where she enjoys traveling, learning about new cultures, and aimlessly wandering cobblestone streets.

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