February 4, 2014

15 Ways to Combat the PCS Blues

Moving to a new duty station can be tough. Lots of paperwork, compromise, stress, and tension. You spend months planning. After arrival, you spend months trying to fit back into your life.

I know you know what I mean, yes?

You have to find new friends. The house must be unpacked (which never totally happens for me!). You eat crappy takeout and instant meals for weeks upon weeks. Finances are wonky for what feels like forever. Your kids are driving you nuts. Your pets are stir crazy. Your old friends miss you, and you miss them.  You've got to find a new hairdresser, grocery store, nail salon… the list is endless!

With all of that going on inside of you, something is bound to snap. Often, we have issues with fatigue and depression during a PCS move. The process takes so many months, and eventually it all catches up to you. I know, because I've been there. Heck, I'm there right now!

Hubs and I are just starting to feel settled. Not unpacked, though, ha. I got lucky with my hairdresser, she moved in right next door a few days after I did. But everything else has been a huge adjustment, especially since we're living in a foreign country.

Luckily, I have some tips for you to minimize the crazy if depression settles in. We talked about similar issues with the Deployment Blues last year. Try some of these tips if your PCS move has left you feeling unsettled:

1. Meet your neighbors - Knowing the folks around you is a great way to feel at home. I'm not saying you need to be the best of friends, or bang on their door every single day. But stop by, say hello, take brownies. Better yet, take my famous chocolate chip cookies! No one can resist those. It's nice to have someone you can call if you lock yourself out, or need to borrow a screwdriver. Plus, it provides peace of mind realizing there is at least one person you can enlist for help if necessary.

2. Unpack one room all the way - When your house is in disarray, your mind is the same way. Even when you don't realize it. Pick the room you use the most, be it the living room, bedroom, kitchen… whatever. Choose a room and fully unpack it. This way, when the stress of all the boxes is driving you nuts, you can retreat to your unpacked haven. Trust me, you'll feel better.

3. Cook a real meal - After weeks of takeout and frozen pizza, your body will rebel (unless, of course, you always eat that way).  The Hubs and I are used to home cooking, so too much of the other stuff makes us cranky. Cranky leads to arguments and even more stress. Not good, peeps! I know it's difficult to cook in an unpacked house, or worse… a house that hasn't received its HHG delivery yet. But there are ways, I promise. In the next few months, I'll be posting about PCS survival cooking, which will include a list of simple recipes you can make during this time. Keep your eyes peeled for it!

One Pot Pasta

4. Find your stores - I have a shopping routine. You know, a certain place where I buy my groceries. A particular mall where I buy my clothes. Moving takes those comfort zones away from you. I always search out my new grocery store first, because cooking provides me a sense of stability. For some people, this may be a shopping mall, or a restaurant, or a nail salon. Allow yourself an afternoon, even a day, where you drive around and discover your new places. Stop into the stores and wander around. Familiarize yourself with the shops which will soon become your new comfort zone. It's amazing how these simple things can help you feel at home!

5. Get back into routine, ASAP - Routines help us feel safe. They're familiar, like an old pair of slippers. They provide structure and security. Unfortunately, PCSing takes those routines away and it's hard to find your rhythm again. But you gotta do it, people! Choose one thing… maybe you always walk your dog in the morning. Maybe you always go to the gym at night. Maybe you grocery shop on Tuesdays, or read your Bible with breakfast. Whatever it is, force yourself to start doing it again. Don't let moving issues stand in your way. Keeping the beat of your life going is a huge deal. I understand these things change temporarily, but get back to them as soon as possible. Personally, I like to start with walking my dog. Not only does it familiarize me with my new neighborhood, but it also keeps the pup from going nutty (more on that soon!). Once I've re-developed that habit, I start on another one. Don't try to do it all at once, or you could add even more stress. Slow and steady, that's the way.

6. Have an adventure - Don't stay home until you're "unpacked". We all know this never fully happens anyway! Every move, there are boxes still sealed from the last PCS. Am I right, or am I right? Pick a day, gather up your hubs and kids, and get out of the house. Enjoy the sunshine, explore your new town, try something different. It helps to break up the monotony of moving with some fun. You might not get any unpacking done that day, but it will be worth it.

A hike to the "Broken Castle"

7. Skype dates - OF COURSE, we all miss our family and friends. PCSing means leaving behind all the people you've grown close to over the last several years. New friendships take time to develop, so we often feel alone during a PCS. Don't let this happen to you! The world is so small now that the internet can connect you in a second. Make dates with your pals. Call them, Skype them, Facebook chat… the options are endless here.

8. Care packages - This mostly applies to people living overseas, but you can vary the idea for almost any duty station. Sometimes, thinking outside ourselves help us deal with stress and depression. Create care packages to mail your friends and family. Include all the best local items from your new home. Ask your family and friends to reciprocate by mailing your favorite treats to you. Everybody loves mail, right? I've been doing quite a lot of this since moving to Germany. Candy, crafts, random food stuff… they all make their way into the box. And my peeps have all sent me my favorite things from home too!

9. Make your house a home - A lot of the time, I get stuck in my unpacking process. The boxes may be mostly unpacked. My furniture is pretty much where it's going to stay. The kitchen is functional. But it's still not quite a home. For a while, it's just a place we're living. To really make it a home, try some of these things: Put pictures and magnets on your fridge, hang your kids' artwork. Hang your curtains, add pictures to your walls. These little touches make a big difference.

Bathroom Makeover 

10. Exercise - It's not just a nasty rumor… exercise really does help with depression. All that activity and those endorphins are excellent for a natural boost. PCSing cramps our workout style in a major way. We tend to put the exercise off until we get settled, and then it's even harder to find your rhythm again. Join a gym (also a great way to meet new people!), take a yoga class, or simply walk your neighborhood. Get out, work up a sweat, and you'll notice a change, I promise.

11. Find a new church - I know not everyone attends church regularly, but if you do, this is definitely something you miss. Explore your area, try a few different places of worship. Look for bible studies, women's groups (or men's), Sunday school. If you're having a difficult time finding someplace new, try internet sermons until you discover the right spot for you. Lots of churches offer this service now, so you might even be able to keep up with your old congregation. Buy a daily devotional book if need be. Get your worship on!

12. Join a club - Look both on and off post for groups that fit your style. Into photography? Join a photo club. Love Zumba? Check the local gym. Love cooking? Take a class. Obsessed with reading? Ask the library about book clubs. There are so many opportunities to get out there. Take them! Check your local paper, look online, ask at ACS. Volunteer if you can. These things won't just fall in your lap, you have to make an effort. But the reward is sweet.

13.  Join your FRG - This is a great way to meet fellow spouses. I know the FRG gets bad rap. And I won't deny there are both good ones and bad ones. But give your new one a chance. If it's terrible, you never need to go again and there was no harm done. However, if it's fabulous, then you've made new friends, have a great source of information, and even more opportunities to get out of the house and volunteer.

14. Rest when needed - Yep, this is a BIG one. Sometimes you just need a day, or an hour, even 5 minutes to stop, take a breath, and relax. Listen to your body. Try to take those moments before you're already exhausted. You don't want to make yourself sick, do you? That most certainly wouldn't help with the PCS blues. My favorite way to rest is pajama day! I stay in my pjs all day long, watch bad tv, and eat ice cream. Trust me, this works wonders (in small doses).

15. Seek Counseling - If your move was simply more than you can handle, that is nothing to be ashamed of. Depression sometimes takes hold of all of us. I know it's gotten me a time or two! Please, please find a counselor if you just can't shake the blues on your own. Military One Source is an excellent place to start. You can receive up to 10 free sessions, with a civilian counselor, off the books. No pressure, no stigma attached to it. Take advantage of this opportunity and let someone help you, please.  

I know I'm no psychological expert, but I hope some of these tips help you through your next PCS move. They've helped me countless times. Do you have some tips to share? Add them in the comments below!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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