June 28, 2019
When you’re about to embark on a PCS, stress and uncertainty are at an all-time high. While some like to give it an appealing label—“adventure,” this inevitable event in a military family’s life can be taxing on everyone involved (especially if you’re traveling separately by plane, train, or car).
But if there’s one powerful trait you’ve acquired since entering military life, it’s resilience—the ability to withstand, recover, and/or grow in the face of stressors and changing demands.
Whether you agree or not, think back to the many curveballs thrown your way. How did you respond to those challenges? Did you eventually adapt to a new normal?
We bet you did, you rockstar you.
Though, maybe you need a resiliency refresher! That way, you’ll be nothing but confident when it comes time to take the challenges a PCS brings head on. So let’s unpack some of the top strategies your family can use to navigate your next move, shall we?
Give yourself permission to feel your feelings.
Being strong and resilient doesn’t mean you have to swallow your sadness, stress, or frustrations. Instead, you should allow yourself to feel and work through the details of the challenge you’re facing so you can engage in active coping.
Why? Because, as Maya Tamir, Ph.D., explains, “If we are able to accept and even welcome the emotions that we have, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, we are likely to be happier and more satisfied.”
So how can we tackle this while teaching our milkids, too? Model how to express feelings in a healthy way by taking opportunities to share what you’re currently experiencing. Think something like, “I feel sad that we have to say goodbye to the great friends we’ve made here. I bet you might feel sad, too.”
While we all fall into cognitive traps (like “Nothing ever works out” or “Everything is messed up”), remember that your actions can help teach your children the skills they need to cope with stressful situations in a healthy manner.
Find the silver lining.
We, as humans, have a natural negativity bias, which means we pay more attention to negative events and emotions than we do positive. This mindset can narrow our thinking and experiences.
So while a last minute PCS or change in orders can make it extremely difficult, do your best to put things into perspective and focus on the positive. Ultimately, you have to make a strong effort to “counteract” the negative thoughts so you don’t get caught in a spiral.
Keep a journal and write down what went well or what you’re grateful for. Or encourage these conversations as a family at meal time. And you can even consider creating a gratitude bulletin board (Gratitude Wall) once you get settled in your new home, allowing your family the opportunity to write their positive moments on a post-it and hang them up for others to read.
Whatever you choose to do, expressing your gratitude shouldn’t feel like a chore. Find the right fit for you to make proactive efforts to DO things that will change your thinking and how you feel.
Establish a routine.
When the majority of your belongings are packed away in boxes, and you’re living out of a suitcase for days or weeks at a time, it can be difficult to even think twice about sticking to your routine. But, as soon as you can, sit down and make a plan so you can get back into the groove as a family.
For example, return to your normal sleep schedule (remember – seven to nine hours is recommended for adults!) and fitness regimen. Map out family meals and the nighttime agenda for baths, pajamas, and storytime. As soon as you do, it’ll help create a sense of familiarity and make it much more likely that you’ll achieve your goals—no matter if you’re on the go or at your new home.
Family is your number one priority. We get it. Though you need to be intentional about making time to care for your mind and body, too. You deserve it! Initiate “Self Care Sundays” during which you treat yourself to a relaxing bubble bath, DIY skin treatment, or reading a few chapters of that book you’ve been dying to finish once the kids go to sleep. Better yet, ask around at your new location to find a babysitter so you and your spouse can enjoy some adult conversations away from the overwhelming pile of cardboard boxes!
When you consider your needs, make time for more moments of self-care, and follow through, there’s no doubt you’ll lessen the impact of the inevitable difficulties military life brings.
Stay connected to family & friends.
Thank goodness for technology, right? Because, when you’re forced to say “see you later” to the friends you’ve made and move farther away from your immediate family members, the show must go on. Keep the conversations flowing via text messages and phone calls, and maintain those relationships you worked so hard to cultivate.
Not to mention, be open to receiving help from them! Maybe they have military friends at your next base they’d like to connect you with, or a realtor contact they want to share. Accept support from those who care about you, and you’ll give your resilience a boost. Likewise, be open to paying it forward to others when their time comes as it’ll make a positive impact on you and your family!
Plug into your new community.
You have a choice to make. Will you thrive in the community you were assigned to (even in the midst of setbacks or serious waves of emotion), or will you keep your distance while sticking to that comfortable bubble of yours?
Moving doesn’t get any easier—no matter how many times you’ve done it. So what’s the secret to plugging into your new community, even when you don’t feel like it? Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. Show up to common-interest group gatherings (like the spouse’s club or MWR events; you name it). Half the battle will be won as soon as you do exactly that. And you never know what that single decision to attend will lead you to—possibly friends turned family who will be there for you when you need it most!