Staying Sane and Healthy Throughout a PCS Move

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The average military family is on the move every two to three years; in our particular case it’s been once every 15-18 months. And when it comes time to PCS, I will admit I have developed some bad habits. But on our most recent PCS, I was determined that this time I would not stress out. This time, I would not eat a whole bunch of garbage for three weeks. This time, I would not use the move as an excuse to skip a workout. This time, watching the movers pack us out would not count as my cardio! This time, I would really try to savor the time we had left before the big move. This time, I would not sacrifice my mental and physical health. And this time… it worked.

So once we had orders in hand and the PCS train started moving on its very fast track, I had to buckle down. Step one: avoid stress. I can hear the groans already, “impossible!” you’re yelling at the screen, “PCS defines stress!” I know, I know, it’s a rough time. But let’s take what we know to be certain about a PCS – something will go wrong. Actually, it would be more accurate to say some things will go wrong. Someone might, who knows, start vomiting the night before the movers come. Or the moving truck will forget to pack up something really important – like the crib. Or maybe the moving truck will get a flat tire and show up two hours late. Or maybe, after the temporary furniture was removed from your new home to make room for your HHG arrival, you’ll find out that your HHG is actually not coming for another two days and you’ll have to eat all your meals using your toddler’s plates and plastic utensils. If you have a dog, you can bet they’ll either run away or meet a new friend, the skunk, the night before you hit the road to the new post. So my approach, this time around, was to arm myself with the knowledge that “it happens”, and while it’s not so funny while you’re in it, it makes a great story once you’re on the other side. So I took some deep breaths, I served pasta on Dr. Seuss plates, and we moved on. Step one: complete.

Step two: eat right and exercise. It sounds so simple and cliche. But it made a huge difference this time around eating cleanly. We stocked up on the healthy snacks we knew we could keep at arms reach and didn’t keep any junk around. I tried to keep our usual suspects in the fridge-lots of fresh vegetables, protein-rich grains, and seasonal fruits. I made my husband do a crossfit-style boot camp with me in his parent’s driveway while we stayed with them before we PCSed. Even if it was just a nightly stroll or a few pushups thrown in here and there, I tried to keep myself motivated. And I’ll be honest, it was hard. I had plenty of excuses not to put energy into taking care of myself: my 4 month old, my toddler, it was too hot outside, it was too cold outside, I hate running, I had no gym to go to, I had no free weights, I needed new gym shoes… the list of excuses was endless. Bottom line, there are always excuses, but I have never said to myself, “wow, I really regret that workout”. I have, however, said on several occasions, “Wow, I really regret that candy bar/cupcake/bag of chips/jar of frosting.” This time I made myself spike those endorphins a few times a week to keep myself healthy and happy. I may have regretted eating dessert, but I never regretted the walking lunges or -eek- those mountain climbers in the driveway. Squeezing in a workout always makes me feel stronger and more capable, the secret weapons of a spouse during a PCS.

Step three: enjoy! Whether it was strolling over to our favorite Greek restaurant to take advantage of the gorgeous spring evening on a random Tuesday, meeting our friends (from a previous post – how rare but wonderful!) for a play date, hitting up the local coffee joint to enjoy a “goodbye” cafe and gelato, or hanging out with my in-laws… we really tried to take advantage of the last few weeks we had before our PCS. We threw our son’s 2nd birthday party just a week or so before our move, and while it was definitely more work to add “party planning” to the already insane schedule, it was worth it. We were able to get most of our family and friends together to celebrate and say farewell. What’s an extra trip or two to Costco and the commissary compared to quality time with those closest to us? And, okay, I may have deviated from step two by having a cupcake (or two…), but they were well-earned and relished.

For me, a healthy PCS is all about maintaining control-of my health, my mind and my happiness. During our PCS’s, things will inevitably go wrong. We’ll find a broken dish during our unpacking, the cell phone charger will disappear for months, and someone will boycott naptime. Recognizing the importance of the few things that we can control (like how we choose to nourish and care for ourselves), and taking time to recognize the beauty in the life we have now, prepares us to conquer those things that are bound to go wrong. By remembering to take care of yourself on your next PCS, you will in turn take better care of your family and overcome those lovely surprises that every PCS brings… like seeing your brand new white couch dangling from your balcony four stories up while the movers decide how to get it inside your apartment.

Now it’s your turn: what are some things that you do to maintain control of your health and happiness during your PCS?

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