When a military service member gets orders to a new duty station, it’s usually an occasion for joy and excitement: the start of a new adventure. However, once reality sets in and you realize that you and your family will have to leave your home to head into the unknown, a PCS can also cause stress.
How will you manage to get everything packed in time? Are you going to be able to find a great place to live? How can you even afford an overseas move?
One Step at a Time
Before panic sets in, remember that the military has been issuing Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders constantly for many years.
When you begin to feel overwhelmed at the very thought of your PCS, remember many people have come before you. The details of a PCS move may vary slightly, but there are proven, tested methods to reduce the amount of stress involved, no matter where you’re moving.
Photo Credit: Logistics Readiness Center Rheinland Pfalz
Research and Plan Ahead
One of the first steps you should take when you get PCS orders is to set an appointment with your base’s transportation office. They’ll teach you about the different types of moves and help you decide whether to use a government-contracted mover or if a DITY (do it yourself) move suits you better.
Photo Credit: Photo by Ellenberg & Co.; Military Families Magazine
Contact the Family Center at your new location and ask about their relocation assistance programs. They can help you learn about your new community, so it will be familiar when you get there.
Looking at housing options before you arrive will save a lot of time, but don’t sign an agreement until you have official orders in your hands. The military, for better or worse, can change its mind and you don’t want to be locked into an agreement you don’t need.
Simplify Your Home
Start organizing your household goods as soon as you can. Make sure you know where all your important documents are, so you don’t accidentally pack them out of reach.
Find out the weight allowance for your move so you can plan accordingly. Donate items and have yard sales if necessary. The move could be costly, as we’ll discuss next, so if you can meet the weight allowance you can save yourself money.
Handle Your Finances
While the government does offer a pay advance for your move, in some cases, you will ultimately face many out-of-pocket expenses. Talk to your base finance office about your options, including relocation benefits.
If you know when you accept your orders that you’ll hit another PCS cycle in a few months or years, you can start planning by saving money for the next move.
A move to a new duty station is also commonly used as a chance for a vacation, so don’t forget to set aside money for that, too.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
You and your family are about to plunge into a whirlwind of activity that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster.
From the initial excitement of a new adventure, you’ll also find yourself feeling quite sad at saying goodbye to the life you’ve come to know.
Then you’ll ride the adrenaline train for a while as you try to sort through your life’s belongings to determine what should stay and what should go.
Balancing all of that while researching an unknown location and watching your checking account balance dwindle can be enough to make anyone doubt their sanity.
Photo Credit: Karen A. Iwamoto/Army Military Times
The Only Thing That Stays the Same is Change
Change is always challenging, and there are probably a few rough days ahead of you, but if you prepare for the challenge, you’ll conquer it like any other.
- Don’t procrastinate. Ignoring the move isn’t going to make it not happen, so get all the hard work done even if you don’t feel like it. Make the last few days before the move relaxed, not frantic. Plus, when something unexpected pops up at the last minute (like they always do!), you’ll be able to handle it without balancing four other things simultaneously.
- Accept that you and your family will get on each other’s nerves. It’s natural for stress to cause us to lash out at our loved ones, so try and be gentle with each other when that happens. Find support within your military community – your friends there have probably been through this before and will have tips to help you through the dark patches.
- If doing all this hard work makes you resentful, remember why you are doing it. You and your family have committed to serving a cause for the greater good. Though your role may be small compared to the big picture, it’s vital, and you should be proud to play it wherever your country deems you needed.
- Allow some time for self-care and quality family time. Take a break from packing boxes and go for a walk outside. Take a nap. Spend time journaling and reflecting. Put time for it on your calendar, and don’t let it slip by. Whatever your form of self-care is, make it a priority. Moving in a “go-go-go” mode all the time will eventually lead to a faceplant, and the middle of a PCS move is not the time for that.
Photo Credit: Newcomers Tour: Ramstein AF.mil
After the PCS Move
Once you’ve arrived at the new duty station, attend an orientation with your family. You will get insider tips, like where the best places are to visit and shop, and you’ll also get to meet other people going through the same thing.
Getting through a PCS move is less stressful when you know you are not alone.
Though moving to a new duty station can be highly stressful, these tips can help prepare you mentally for what lies ahead.
By planning and carving out time to relax, you can stop dreading your next PCS move and embrace it as a new adventure.
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