Wow! I know you must be thinking that I am a sage. Maybe clairvoyant. How do I know that you get really stressed out when PCS'ing? As if meeting the new First Sergeant or Commander isn't enough, you have to pack up your entire life, trust that the movers will not destroy half of your belongings, locate a new home in a hopefully good area, and ensure you are still performing at your highest level. Easy Peasy.
Of course there is always the generous 10 days of permissive TDY. That's right folks....10 days to reinvent your life. No pressure at all! How do you best utilize this time and leverage it so that you can make the process as smooth as possible? VHN Agents have gone through what you are going through and are poised to relieve as much of the burden as possible.
Seriously. If you need to cut yourself some slack at any time, PCS is the time. Throw your world into a hurricane and hope you survive with a shred of sanity. Moving stress is a real thing and added to the level of stress you already carry, it can have some real symptoms. Aside from the obvious, why is PCS stress real?
CHANGESEvery PCS carries some big changes along with it. You’re changing your duty station, the layout of your home, even your friends and your resources. These changes are unavoidable, and even good changes can throw off your rhythms. It’s okay to feel anxious at the thought of a big change, even if you know it’s for the best or simply unavoidable. While being in the military hardens us to the constant change, it does not diminish the affects on our psyche and body.
MONEYIf you are still Active Duty of course you will receive some compensation for your move but let's face it. It never seems to be enough. The nickels and dimes will eat you alive. From gas to groceries, internet hook up, utilities, a new trash can, a new toilet brush...it all adds up! Being short on cash is always a huge stressor no matter who you are!
Hurry up and wait! That's right. Time is our greatest resource and something that we do not have a ton of while serving or even after we ETS. One of my favorite quotes by the late Jim Rohn is "You can make more money but you can't make more time." From finding a home, to putting an offer in, qualifying for your VA Loan, packing, arranging car's transport, DMV lines, waiting for internet installation, meeting your new CO and inprocessing, time is a luxury. The lack of time to actually focus on yourself and the needs of your family, causes a huge level of stress. Luckily, VHN can help to leverage some of that time for you with our rock star network, but in the end, you still carry the bulk of the stress.
Self inventory is key and it is crucial you recognize the symptoms of PCS stress and make an attempt to address the symptoms. While I am certain you are very clear on how stress feels, sometimes the symptoms are subtle until you explode like a crazy person. Some of the symptoms include:
- Difficulty when you try to relax
- Avoiding other people
- Overwhelmed by all of the things coming at you
- Quick to anger or annoyance
- Worthless or depressed
- Aches and pains throughout your body
- Chest pain
- Low energy
- More prone to sickness or infection
- Shaking caused by stress
- Difficulty focusing on one thing, as thoughts seem to rush by
- Disorganization and forgetfulness
- Excessive pessimism, making it hard to see the positives
- Impaired judgment, making it harder to make good decisions
- Persistent worrying
- Avoiding duties and responsibilities
- Changes in your eating habits, either eating too much or not eating enough
- Using alcohol or drugs more often than usual
So what is a realistic way to help manage PCS Stress?
KNOW THAT IT IS TEMPORARY - Developing the right attitude behind your PCS is crucial. Let's face it. You are not going to change the fact that you MUST move, so seek out the positives. Maybe you can have a spirit of adventure in seeking out a new restaurant, trail to hike, or a new gym that has a great vibe. Look at the "to do" list as an opportunity to prove to yourself how much you rock and knock it out. Use time-blocking and ensure that you block out, no matter what, time for yourself and your family each day.
DO YOUR RESEARCH - As priceless as it is to have a Veterans Housing Expert in your corner to know where to buy your home and the features of different communities at your new duty station, you will feel more empowered if you do your own research regarding the area. Understanding the culture of where you are going will help you assimilate faster and feel more at home.
MAKE, AND USE A CHECKLIST - I can't imagine going camping without my handy dandy checklist and I certainly would not dream of PCS'ing without one. We have compiled a checklist to help you get started. The added bonus of the checklist is that every time you check something off of your list, you get a nice dose of serotonin to the brain to ease your stress.
DECLUTTER EARLY - Start early when you receive your new orders. Begin listing and selling items of value that you don't want to take with you. Clutter causes stress and releasing the things of the past that no longer serve you frees up your brain. Let that s*** go!
ACCEPT HELP - I know the way it goes. Someone offers to help you and your first inclination is to say "Thanks man, but I've got it." It sucks to ask for help but it does not mean you are weak. Think how great you feel when you are able to help someone else....share that gift and let people help you.
USE RESOURCES - So many great resources are available to reduce stress. Try pumping iron, go for a run, yoga, healthy eating, outdoor walks, playing with the family pet, or whatever helps you feel in control again.
SAY GOODBYE - I don't know about you but I really don't say goodbye. When I left my last duty station, I told my friends that I would see them later. We all knew we would most likely not see each other again, but it helps to have a bit of closure. It is also nice to say goodbye to the places you have gone to get coffee, the gym, the places where people know your name. It leaves them knowing what happened to you and closes out that chapter of your life.
If you have children, it is also important to remember that they carry a burden of stress as well. Military families are very resilient and used to change, but they also tend to hide their stress levels in an effort to support you. As much as possible, try to make moving fun for children. Give them a sense of control with age appropriate responsibilities. Bring them with you as much as possible when discovering new places or viewing homes with your VHN agent. We will cover more regarding family support in a future blog but is important to remember that the entire family is moving and everyone will have varying levels of stress.
While you can't change the fact that you must PCS, hopefully some of these tips will help you manage the transition better. Once you are settled in at you new Duty Station, the moving stress will be behind you and you will begin to focus on the new chapter of your life and create more stories to tell. As always, reach out to us for more tips and checklists.