What is PCS Stress?

A permanent change of station, also known as PCS, causes stress many military families experience. The uncertainty of when you will move to another city, state, or possibly a different country can be incredibly inconvenient and strenuous for everyone in a military family—especially the spouse.

The summertime, June to September, is generally called “PCS season” when millions of military families are restationed and prepare themselves for their permanent move. While it can be stressful for the soldier, the spouse often experiences a different type of stress due to them having to base their whole life around their spouse’s profession.

PCS stress is so every day in military spouses because, amongst other things, they can never fully commit to beginning a new life in each new city. Military life is unpredictable and not consistently stable in some ways.

How to Cope with PCS Stress

You must learn to cope if you can’t change a situation. Coping with PCS stress as a military spouse is incredibly difficult at times, but to maintain your well-being as well as your marriage—it’s imperative.

1. Get an online therapist

Talk therapy is one of the most effective ways to discuss emotions with a professional that can teach you ways to manage them. Licensed therapists are professionally trained to navigate our feelings and identify unhealthy patterns.Attending more than one session is r ecommended to receive the ultimate experience from talk therapy. Attending therapy consistently allows the therapist to become familiar with you and your situation—which helps them better understand who you are and the solutions you need.

2. Remember why you’re doing this

When you start to doubt your life, remember why you chose it in the first place. Marrying a soldier is a permanent commitment guaranteed to come with much change and uncertainty. When you married your spouse, you knew the life you were choosing to live.
Remind yourself that you’re choosing to live this life because you love your spouse and vowed to support them unconditionally.

PCS moves are part of the life you signed up for, knowing that you would most likely not live near family or friends, and may have to change jobs constantly—unless it’s remote. After a few times, moving places becomes just another part of the process you’ll get accustomed to.

3. Look at it as a new adventure

A new city and home can be considered an exciting new adventure. You get to explore and experience a new state, and you also get to decorate a new home. Change can always be considered a positive and new adventure if you choose to. Your perspective can alter how you view the world and how you feel about it. Life is all about attitude, and how you decide to look at it is up to you.

4. Remind yourself that it’s temporary

Military moves are almost always temporary. If you must move to a state or country you don’t like, remind yourself that you will be there for a while. In the meantime, try your best to find the positives in your living place. Please make the most of it, and don’t sulk in your misery. You can always find something good in life—a specific location you enjoy, an activity, a restaurant, or a park. Spend time in places you want and doing things that make you happy.

5. Practice self-care

It’s an essential part of prioritizing your mental health and emotional well-being by doing things that make you feel relaxed and happy. A few ways to practice self-care could be going on a walk or a run, taking a hot bath, journaling, practicing mindfulness meditation, reading a book, playing your favorite sport, painting, or drawing, etc. Self-soothing doesn’t have to be this huge task that takes a lot of planning or effort—if doing something drains you, it’s not self-care. Everyone deserves to be a bit selfish if that results in their happiness—so allow yourself the freedom to do the things that make your life more enjoyable.

6. Lean on your support system

Another positive about moving to different cities is making new connections and friends wherever you go. Although it can be sad to leave friends and family, you will always have those connections that are just a phone call, a drive, or a plane ride away. When times get tough, and you start to get down on yourself, remember to surround yourself with the people that love and care about you. Whether or not your spouse is in town, you should always have someone that you can call up when you need encouragement or just someone to talk to.

7. Take it one day at a time

Constantly worrying about the future and what comes next is something we as humans desperately need to do less of. Worrying will only produce more stress and anxiety for you and your spouse. Taking life one day at a time allows you to focus on the present moment rather than being anxious about what’s to come.

An article from Psychology Today talks about mindfulness and how to live in the moment and the benefits, stating that “Cultivating a nonjudgmental awareness of the present bestows a host of benefits. Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure…Mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure. They have higher self-esteem and are more accepting of their weaknesses. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces impulsivity and reactivity that underlie depression, binge eating, and attention problems. Mindful people can hear negative feedback without feeling threatened. They fight less with their romantic partners and are more accommodating and less defensive. As a result, mindful couples have more satisfying relationships.”

Finding activities and ways to self-soothe is a constructive way to help you enjoy the present moment and worry less about what comes next. As a military spouse, your day-to-day life can get lonely and mundane—so self-care and keeping yourself occupied are essential for your well-being.