My bag bulged with ALL of the things: iPad, iPhone, child headphones, over a dozen small wrapped toddler toys, and just a few snacks.
“Where is your passport?” asked the nice man behind the counter.
Oh, just with my husband that took the toddler to the bathroom fifteen minutes ago, while I waited in this long (but deceptively fast moving) line.
“Ma’am, I need your passport now.”
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I could’ve used some PCS tips to decrease stress.
I was ready to scream, cry, and demand a flight change back to Boston where we came from. For a moment, I contemplated what it would be like to allow my husband to do three years overseas without us there. Going back to Boston to solo-parent one (soon to be two) little children was totally doable, right?!
That was PCS crazy talk.
Instead, I took a breath… and thought about all the ways that I could destress to deal with this un-Zen PCS.
1. Take a minute
Or maybe a few hours? Look, we all know that military spouses are usually the keepers of the paperwork, the children, and the pets. Sometimes it can be a bit much.
So walk away, literally, for just a little while. Go see a movie alone, get a pedicure, drink a glass of wine solo, or even just sit at the hotel pool all by your onesies. If you are driving both cars cross country, hand the kids or pets over to your spouse for a leg, and then return the favor.
Getting some physical space from all your responsibilities can help you to decompress and relax before you dive right back in.
2. Take some alone time
Unless you are traveling separately from your spouse or s/he is deployed, you do have a partner in this crazy journey. Use that person!
Designate “alone time” zones for both of you. Maybe your spouse takes the kids for a walk while you kick back with a book or go for a run. Perhaps you splash in the hotel pool with the children while your husband or wife lays in a darkened room for thirty minutes.
3. Designate and Delegate
We separate the duties: he controls all the paperwork and nitty gritty of the actual PCS move (contacting movers, arranging car transport, final walk through, money things) and I deal with the kid and the dog (clothes, supplies, packing suitcases, etc.). We each have our own domains that work to our strengths, and I literally do not worry about the movers being late. I know it’s going to be handled, and not by me!
We also definitely do trade-offs, especially since travel with toddlers can be, let’s say, draining.
4. Bust out the boys
And I do mean Ben & Jerry. There is just something about frozen, creamy chocolate goodness filled with delicious swirls of flavor and chunks of even more chocolate. It does a body good!
Don’t feel even the least bit guilty about downing an entire pint in a sitting or refusing to share with your spouse or offspring. You’ve handled some stuff today, and you deserve a break.
5. Get Moving
Yes, you are moving locations, but I’m talking about your body. Even a quick walk, YouTube workout video, or game of fetch will help you to feel a little bit better.
Exercise create endorphins, and endorphins help to alleviate stress.
When I exercise during stressful times, I try to use the exercise time to block out those situations. As my mind is off topic, and zoned out to music, sometimes the solutions to my problems just pop up! I end up with a fix, and I’ve worked off my ice cream calories. Or I can at least pretend that I did.
6. Movie marathons
All the books and toys are packed up and shipped out, and your kids are literally climbing up a wall and/or your actual body. This is the perfect time to fire up your portable DVD player or tablet and throw on a movie.
The upside: movies are entertaining and will occupy your children for longer than five minutes, and hopefully as much as two hours.
The downside: none, unless you are a screen-time fanatic. I am not.
If you do want to include some slightly educational content, try a book that was made into a movie. Your kids will gain some literary knowledge, and you will still get to do stuff while they are zoned out.
7. Have fun!
Yes, the physical act of moving is generally not fun. But you can make the process of moving more fun by making it a vacation or creating vacation moments.
On our last cross country trip, admittedly without kids, we had a blast! Our stops included: the Grand Canyon, Oklahoma City, bbq in Texas, New Orleans, Savannah, and Tennessee. Yes, there was a lot of driving involved. But we also got to see a whole lot of the country and hit a lot of bucket list stops.
This time, we took a few days out of our month long stay with family to get away by ourselves, just the three of us. We went to the mountains, visited a small theme park, and hiked to a pretty waterfall. Having a few days away from the stress of moving and couch surfing was so necessary, and so welcome.
We all did eventually make it on that flight. Not without a few more moments of utter panic and a lost bottle along the way.
Our move is (still) not totally complete, but I am feeling a lot more capable and ready to tackle this monster having taken some time for myself and turned on Cinderella for the 4,000,000,000th time this month.
How do you stay sane during a PCS?
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger, and freelance writer/editor. She is published on Homefront United Network, National Military Family Association, NextGen MilSpouse and the Education Tourist. Meg currently writes about all things education at MilKids Education Consulting.
Want more posts on military life?
- 20 Must-Have Documents for a Stress-Free Military Move
- Best Moving Overseas Checklist for Military Families
- 10 Things Military Spouses Won’t Tell You About Deployment
- What Military Spouses Want Their Faraway Friends to Know