As a military wife of 25 years who moved 14 times, I learned how to overcome PCS stress.
A 2020 study listed moving as the most stressful life event and ranked it more traumatic than divorce. Military families move every few years! Here are my top 5 tips for PCS or other moving stress relief:
Mental Health Impact
With the military, there is often a “hurry and wait” mentality with waiting on an assignment or PCS moving orders that can consume your thoughts. Waiting can be so hard! Moving has tremendous effects on your mental health, including increased stress, anxiety, and mental exhaustion. PCS season usually brings with it an immense level of stress and fear. As a military spouse for twenty-five years who moved fourteen times, I want to share with you five tips for PCS stress relief:
1) Exercise Faith in God
Some fears that can flood our mind include fear that we’ll get the assignment at the bottom of our list. Fear of missing the will of God. Fear that you won’t be able to find a home on base or in the right school district. Fear of employment change. Fear of loss of friends.
Although it may seem like the personnel office is controlling where you live, it is, in fact, controlled by a power that outranks even the General or Admiral officers.
Scripture tells us that in His sovereignty, for every person, God, “determined the appointed times and the boundaries of where they live” (Acts 17:26, CSB).
For information and strategies on building faith in your family, check out my article on Doing Family Devotions with Your Kids.
Acts 17:26 tells us that God has ordained the exact times and places you’d be. Nothing is an accident. He knows and has planned who will be your neighbor to the right, to the left, and who you’ll wave to across the street. He knows your report-no-later-than date of arrival at your next military installation. He knows and has picked out where you’ll live and where your kids will play and attend school. None of it will be a surprise to Him.
As you wait, remind yourself every day that none of this is the reach of your Heavenly Father to manipulate as He sees fit.
When I realized that God had divinely orchestrated the details of every PCS, I posted this verse all around my house on little sticky notes – words to remind me not to let fear paralyze me. To remind me that God was sovereign. To remind me to trust in His timing and His plan. To excite me about the next new neighbor God would divinely place me next to and the work He had for me to do in that location.
It is also a good idea to get involved in regular worship services where you can hear a pastor or priest teach from the Bible. I’ve found that God gave me a word of encouragement through the regularly planned preaching in my church because He’s good and works like that!
2) Stay in the Present
Try to stay connected with your friends at your current location. Try not to jump too fast to the next installation location. Focus your attention on your current friends and current environment and enjoy it now. When your thoughts turn to the unknown future, remind yourself of a fond memory you’ve had at this assignment and thank God for your friends. Each time your thoughts wander to fear, listen to the advice of Romans 12:2 and take those thoughts captive by turning them to gratitude.
3) Find and Give Support
Resist isolation. You need the face-to-face support of your current friends and connections. Online media won’t do as good of a job giving you the positive reinforcement you need. Get off your device and get in the presence of others. Open up to friends about your need for support or get involved in a group with your church or installation. Military spouses often don’t like to ask for support. Ask for and seek support. When you are honest about your need for support, it opens other spouses up about their need for support too.
4) Seek Out Counseling
There are times when we all need help processing hard moments. During my husband’s military career, we had to seek help in professional counseling numerous times. During a long period of waiting and uncertainty, I had weekly sessions with a counselor to help me process my fear. There are times when we all need help! Installations have MFLC (Military and Family Life Counselors) that are free and available to speak confidentially, on a first-name-only basis, to service members and their families. Contact your installation Family Readiness Center or Group to find the number of your unit resource or find a link to your installation’s center here. Military One Source also offers free and confidential counseling for military members and their families. Check out this website for more information on One Source Counseling.
I'd love to speak to your group on coping with the military life. See this page for more information or to schedule me to speak to your group (live or virtually).
Exercise had many health benefits, not the least of which include mental health. Even if you don’t have a regular exercise routine, gentle add some walks or workouts to help manage the stress of your move. Exercise has direct stress-reducing benefits which include pumping up your endorphins, reducing the negative effects of stress, improving your mood, and helping you focus less on your thoughts as you think about your movements and physical activity. I enjoy combining physical activity with meditation as I walk through nature and focus on how God has provided for the beauty, animals, and creation around me, so He’ll provide for me and my family too.