If you are anything like me, life has given you plenty of opportunities for starting over. I’ve had lots of chances to start over—I moved every three years during my 30+ year career with the Central Intelligence Agency. When I hit the four-year mark of living in Denver, I realized it was the longest I’d lived anywhere since going to college at Penn State.

If I’m being completely honest with you, each move had a modicum of fear involved. Would I like my new home, friends, and job? How was I going to adapt to living in a different culture whether I moved overseas or to an assignment somewhere new in the United States?

I learned that no matter how many times I moved to a new place, there were things I could expect. Almost like clockwork there were various stages I’d go through as I started over. I began to realize that no matter how many times I moved, I went through similar experiences time after time.

I’d like to share those stages and symptoms with you to help prepare you for your next move. I hope by sharing the stages with you, you’ll understand that what you are going through is completely normal.

The Pre-Departure (PD) phase occurs in the months before the move when there’s great anticipation of exploring and learning new cultures. There was always excitement about the new position and knowing it would teach me new skills and give me an opportunity to meet and work with new people. These feelings of enthusiasm and excitement were coupled with some trepidation of the unknown and concerns of leaving family, friends, and my familiar environment.

The PD phase also involved becoming disinterested in my current responsibilities both at home and at work. In a way, I started detaching from what was familiar. While a bit weary from all the planning, packing, partying and parting, I generally experienced normal health during PD.

The best way to describe the first month in a new place is exhilaration—the red-carpet welcome, new colleagues, exploring sights, restaurants and shops coupled with a sense of mission and tourist enthusiasm. This enthusiasm extended to my new colleagues, the new job, and an outward curiosity about the new culture.

During the first month, like clockwork, I’d begin to have minor insomnia and intestinal disturbances.

New attitudes appeared during the second month of transition; they included bewilderment, disenchantment, restlessness, and impatience. It’s important to realize this is just a normal phase of the starting over process. The second month I was expected to be fully up to speed on the new job, acclimated to the new home, cost of living, unfamiliar sounds, smells, and local transportation. These expectations led to some typical emotional responses during this phase and included uncertainty, restlessness, some withdrawal, and the occasional inclination to relax morals, increase alcohol consumption, and be more vocal than normal. I also searched for security in familiar activities such as church, homemaking, and group activities during this time.

On an emotional level, month two is filled with skepticism, uncertainty, frustration, and questioning the values of one’s self, others, and the job. On a physical level, one experiences colds, headaches, and occasional sick days.

The general attitude during the third month of transition is one of discouragement and irritability. It is typical to drift to U.S. recreational or familiar activities while job performance is uneven. I’m just going to remind you, this is normal! A typical emotional response during month three is to be discouraged and homesick. This leads to avoiding contact with locals, a period of introspection, withdrawal, and a tendency to invoke stereotypes. On the health front, there is a continuation of minor illnesses.

The good news is by the fourth month life begins to return to normal. There’s a gradual recovery to normal job performance, constructive relationship building, and a return to normal health. By the sixth month, there’s a normal level of emotional equilibrium and professional performance.

I often tell people you can set your clock for six months and know when you wake up you will feel at home in your new home and know you’re right where you are supposed to be. Whether you are moving across town, to a new state or overseas, it’s good to remind yourself that it is a process and what you are going through is normal. Before long, you will be happy and flourishing in your new home.

Author's Bio: 

Author and leadership consultant Katy McQuaid spent more than three decades in the CIA, including 12 years living abroad. Her work in communities all over the world and the endearing, unconditional love of her four-legged muse Grace inspired her to write the “Everybody Loves Grace” series of illustrated books. Parents, kids of all ages, executives, and organizational leaders hail the series as a beacon of hope and inspiration for anyone navigating change or challenging circumstances. Learn more at www.EverybodyLovesGrace.com.