Chronic Illness and Moving

It’s the time of year when the real estate market opens up again after a winter lull. Particularly here in Chicago where there are LOTS of renters. When the market opens up, people move residences and moving can present challenges to people who have chronic illnesses that might not affect folks without in the same way.

There are many sites that offer tips for packing and moving, like this piece from the Huffington Post. This list is one specific to folks who are living with conditions like chronic pain, diabetes, fibromyalgia, HIV, bipolar (I or II) disorder, depression, substance use disorders, etc.

  1. Create a “Last Minute Box” (or more than one).
    This box (or suitcase) should include any medications, supplements, devices that help keep you comfortable (like ice packs, pillows, and heating pads). Be sure to label it so you will be able to find it. Tape a piece of colored paper on it, draw stars on it, etc.
  2. Schedule your move for a time of day that works within your normal rhythms.
    If you are not a morning person, schedule your move for later in the day. If you are using movers, they typically offer windows of time.
  3. Have a Packing Strategy.
    If you start early and do a little bit at a time, it will be more manageable. Do one box at a time, one room at a time.
  4. Ask for help.
    Moving and prepping to move include a lot of small tasks that can feel overwhelming. If breaking the big tasks into smaller ones isn’t your strong suit, as a friend or family member to help you. If you are a task master…delegate. Is there trash or recycling to be taken out? Is there one room that you can assign to a trusted friend or two? Sometimes packing up a kitchen is a great task to get help with.
  5. Pay attention to your personal care. Stressful times can trigger a flare up or an episode. Having a chronic condition makes us more vulnerable to the effects of stress and moving is STRESSFUL. The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory is a handy tool to assess the level of stress you might be experiencing. Keep in mind, though, that if you have a chronic health condition, your score will be higher. As you know, living with chronic illness creates ongoing stress.
  6. Listen to music or podcasts you don’t get to listen to regularly.
    Have you tried The Hilarious World of Depression? It is a great podcast with interviews with comedians (in the first season) who have struggled with Depression or other mental health conditions. The second season expands the list of guests to include folks like Jenny Lawson a.k.a. the Bloggess or Jeff Tweedy from Wilco.
  7. Talk to a friend on the phone while you pack. Friends can be invaluable cheerleaders for us. You can even text friends when you accomplish something like “I packed two boxes!” and your friend can say something encouraging.
  8. Take breaks! Powering through the physical and emotional labor of packing up belongings is only going to set you back farther. Do what you can in little bursts, then take breaks. Alternate activities that require more from you (mentally and/or physically) with activities that require less.

I hope this list is helpful! If you have suggestions to add, please do so in the comments!

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