How to Take Care of Yourself While Moving

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Like clockwork on the first weekend of June, they arrive. Sixteen-foot-long trucks crawl through narrow neighborhood streets, stopping at brownstones with doors propped open long enough for Chicago’s version of sherpas to sprint up and down three flights of stairs with wardrobe boxes strapped onto their backs. It’s the city’s version of seasonal migration: summer moving season.

In my nearly six years of living in Chicago, I’ve participated in this particular rite five times (somewhere, my dad is groaning and still wondering why I couldn’t just “stay put” for a year). From the move where it poured rain all day to the move where I was so concerned about finishing packing that I lived out of boxes for two weeks PRIOR to the move, I feel pretty secure in saying that I am a moving expert (however reluctantly that may be).

Moving is the pits. It’s stressful, expensive, and frequently leads to people (me) yelling viciously at loved ones (you know who you are, and I apologize). In the weeks leading up to and right after a move, while you’re busy trying to remember where you packed your sunglasses and arguing with ComEd on the phone, the easiest thing to do is put your health and wellness last on the to-do list. In fact, that’s the worst thing you can do. Like I’ve hinted at in my previous post about treating myself like a toddler, basic life tasks feel a million times harder when you’re not taking care of yourself. Here’s what you can do to make a move a little bit easier on yourself.

Schedule Your Workouts For Moving Week

Having workout appointments accomplishes a few things. First, it gets you out of your not-yet-perfectly-unpacked-and-organized house for at least an hour, and it forces you to take a break and clear your mind for a bit by focusing on burpees and treadmill intervals instead of shelf liners and shower curtains.

Second, the endorphins and the adrenaline rush you get from a killer workout help you chill out when you do return to that messy apartment. According to Harvard Health Publications, exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones while increasing the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural mood lifters. Plus, working out boosts your energy, so you have the motivation to tackle the hall closet that has somehow become your junk room.

Finally, studies have shown that exercising during the day can help you sleep better at night – crucial when you’re still getting used to being in a new place and settling into your nighttime routine.

My personal recommendation? Schedule a workout for the day before moving day in the morning, so you have the evening to finish up last-minute packing. On moving day, let that be your physical activity, and don’t worry about making a spin class (but do set an alarm for sometime in the late afternoon or early evening to go for a walk in your new hood and get out of the house for a bit). The day after the move, plan to do some sort of exercise after work, before returning to your new abode energized and ready to continue unpacking.

Plan For Meals On-The-Go

In theory, I should love eating the week of a move. It’s a built-in excuse to eat out for every meal and an indulgence that I normally wouldn’t allow myself. I mean, moving basically REQUIRES you to live off pizza delivery and Chipotle, right?

In actuality, I inevitably hate my eating habits during moving week. While I’ll never deny myself a moving week pizza (or two), I’ve developed a few strategies that ensure I’m eating decently to fuel my body and stressed-out brain during moving season:

  • Assemble breakfast and lunch at the office. My desk drawer is stocked with bananas and oatmeal for breakfast, as well as the ingredients to throw together a favorite salad at lunch without too much difficulty. That takes care of two out of three meals, and you KNOW I always have snacks at the office too.
  • For dinner, I rely on services like Eat Purely or Snap Kitchen. These affordable, healthy meals are ideal for lazy dinners when I don’t want to figure out where my plates are. All that’s requires is a microwave to heat things up, and some plastic utensils that I MAYBE hoarded from the office or a nearby Chipotle. Who can say, really?
  • As mentioned before, moving is expensive. There’s not an easy way to reconcile that, but I’ve found that it’s a little easier to swallow an increased credit card bill if it’s something I’ve planned for and expected. During moving month, I increase my “dinner out” budget and decrease my grocery budget a little. Something about making that conscious effort to plan gives me the peace of mind to enjoy restaurant life without freaking out about how much I’m spending.

If You Can Locate One Thing, Make It This:

A big reusable water bottle. I’ve found that when I’m moving and my glasses aren’t in their assigned cabinets yet, I’m incredibly prone to coming home from work at 5 pm and not drinking any water for the rest of the night until I get to the office the following day. Obviously, that is no bueno. I keep a reusable water container in my backpack or purse so I can fill it and keep it at my side while I’m unpacking or unwinding.

Pack A “Go Bag”

For this year’s move, I packed a big weekender bag filled with enough workout clothes and work outfits (shoes included) for about a week. I carried this bag with me to the new place, and set it in a location that I could easily access even if the whole apartment wasn’t unpacked. That way, I wasn’t scrambling in the morning to find clean clothes and a non-smelly sports bra. It also let me slow down a little bit in my unpacking madness, because I knew I had enough to get by for a few days.

Chill Out With Meditation

Apps like Headspace or a quick session with Chill Chicago are great for every day life, but they’re even more valuable during a high-stress moving week. Guided meditation offers a place to escape from the constant to-do list and what-if mental scenarios that run wild through your brain while moving. Let your mind take a break for a bit, and when you’re finished, you’ll be able to ease your way back into the everyday hustle and bustle with a bit more perspective.


What moving coping strategies have you developed? How can you stay healthy while moving?

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.