Looking into my son’s room, I imagine it empty and the tears well up. This is our first home as a married couple. This is our first home with a child. This home is our first everything. It’s so sad to think sweet little Jameson won’t even remember this special place where everything began. By the time he is old enough to remember anything, we’ll be long gone. Sigh. Sniff. Sniff. Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season is upon us, and along with it comes an emotional rollercoaster filled with mixed feelings, stress, and unfortunately a heaping dose of chaos. We make the lists, check the boxes, do the paperwork, run the errands, and make ten more lists. It’s enough to make us all need a live-in shrink to survive this crazy time. It’s okay. Put your seatbelt on, hands on the wheel, and foot on the gas. By preparing emotionally for a PCS, we can make it through with some sense of sanity.
1. Know that change is hard.
Change, especially when preparing to PCS, is both challenging and stressful. There is always a feeling of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Your entire life is packed in a box sitting somewhere in transit. In fact, you may not even know where your ‘life’ is actually located at any given moment, as it sits in a semi-truck on the traveling the interstate. With all of these twists and turns and peaks and drops occurring at a furious pace, a PCS can be emotionally overwhelming.
It’s overwhelming because we essentially leave behind one life to start another; we give away our possessions and farewell our support network. We catalogue all the ‘lasts’: the last time eating at the little deli down the road, the last time going to a favorite shop, the last time parking in this driveway, the last time sleeping in this house. Moving is stressful and tumultuous, and it’s completely reasonable to feel like you are a damsel in distress. Simply knowing that drastic change (like a big move) is hard, better prepares us emotionally for a PCS.
2. Communicate above and beyond the norm.
I’ve written on the importance of communication before, and I say this with great humility because I have experienced the negative consequences of my own poor communication: excellent communication will minimize stress and better prepare you to emotionally manage the PCS.
Maximize both verbal and non-verbal communication. Hold weekly meetings with your spouse to verbally discuss the progress of your impending PCS move. Weekly meetings eliminate day to day nagging and provide structured accountability for your family. Consider placing a written PCS moving checklist on your refrigerator to promote non-verbal communication and to decrease stressful verbal communication within the family. I’m going to be honest and share that I get a little anxious sometimes, which results in my ridiculous tendency so shriek, “Did you do this! Did you do that!” Clearly, my shrieking is not helpful. The written checklist can also help your family visualize progress on your PCS moving-checklist. Hyper-communication eliminates the element of surprise, which in turn, helps reduce stress and encourages more balanced emotions when preparing for the PCS.
3. Make time to de-stress.
As often as possible, go out and do something for yourself to take your mind off the stressful process of moving. Grab a cup of coffee with friends, share your struggles, and listen to their encouragement. Sharing my struggles with a friend validates my feelings and lifts my spirits; sometimes a quick venting session is just the ticket.
Make a concerted effort to take care of yourself. It is so easy to say we have no time for exercise or to eat well, but we all need these things to maintain high energy and to relieve stress. Connect with a support person: your best friend, a close family member, or your pastor. Leading up to the PCS, take breaks often to clear your mind, reminding yourself to simply focus on one thing at a time. Do your very best to de-stress often to maintain emotional balance and better prepare for the PCS.
4. This too shall pass.
The best part of moving is that it’s temporary. It is only a brief period of time during which all this craziness occurs. The idea that ‘This too shall pass’ reminds us all that there is light at the end of the tunnel. We will all arrive to our new duty station, and before long, we will settle in and everything will start to feel like home again. After settling in at your new location, there are some great ways to build community to help you transition. For now, focus on the future and know things will get better.
Moving on military orders is an emotional rollercoaster, catapulting us in all sorts of different directions. We may long for the days that we sit in our comfort zone with a blanket and a giant piece of cake. You are going to have some good days and some bad, so take each day one at a time. Really focus on staying organized, communicating with your spouse, and de-stressing as often as possible. With a little emotional preparedness, maybe, just maybe, we will better enable ourselves to make it through the PCS with our sanity.
How do you emotionally prepare for a PCS?
Lauren is a critical care nurse turned stay-at-home-mom. She writes about practical parenting, enjoying motherhood, and navigating the ups and downs of military life. Lauren can be found at The Military Wife and Mom.