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Moving Stress – Managing the Emotions of a PCS Move

Moving Stress – Managing the Emotions of a PCS Move

contributed by Melissa Lucas, senior staff writer

There’s just no way around it. One of the best parts of being part of a military family is also one of the most difficult. Seeing the world, experiencing new cultures, expanding your horizons. PCS moves are often among the highlights of living a military lifestyle. But then there’s the uprooting of your life, bidding farewell to friends, and managing the logistics of a relocation. PCS moves can also be an incredibly overwhelming requirement of a military lifestyle. Here are a few tips to help manage change and moving stress in the face of a permanent change of station. 

Acknowledge Your Feelings as Normal

Why is moving so emotional? Because change is emotional! No matter how well prepared you are for a PCS move, feeling emotional at the thought of making a change is 100% normal. The first step to effectively dealing with moving stress is acknowledging (and perhaps accepting) it as part of the process.

Give Yourself Time

The good news is that moving stress will pass. It always does. Be patient with yourself as you work through it and the myriad of emotions that accompany a military PCS move. Among the positive emotions surrounding this change, the anticipation of moving to a new location can often bring about feelings of anxiety and grief. 


Anxiety shows up before PCSing because change, while exciting, is naturally scary. Regardless of how often you PCS or how accustomed to a military lifestyle you become, taking steps into something unfamiliar is likely to elicit nerves on some level. Don’t resist it. Taking a little bit of time to feel nervous in the beginning will go a long way to making the rest of the moving process a bit easier.


Closing a chapter, any chapter, can be painful. Which is why many military families also experience a bit of grief when forced to say goodbye to a place, a support network, a job, or anything else they’ve connected to in their current location. It’s important to move through this grief, and to do so, you’ve got to give yourself some time. The beauty of it is that the sooner you do this, the easier it will be to get on with all of the tasks which will help minimize overall moving stress.  

Find the Positives

Even if you’re a pro at coping with moving, a reminder never hurt anyone! Moving provides new opportunities for growth and expanding your horizons. New experiences, new work, new friends, and a new home. It can help to spend some time pondering the positives of this change amid the moving stress. What great things will you experience? What awesome people will you meet? What changes will you be free to make? 

Practice Self-Care

This may be one of the most important parts of dealing with an upcoming PCS. Mental healthcare can fall by the wayside as the move date approaches, so setting the intention to focus on caring for yourself throughout the process is powerful. Ideally, you’ll have established a self-care routine prior to receiving your PCS orders. But even if self-care hasn’t been a priority until now, you can still find ways to make it happen in the midst of changing duty stations.

Self-care can be as simple as journaling before getting a good night’s sleep. Or taking a quick walk each morning. Or employing the services of a counsellor. Or getting a weekly massage. Maybe it’s all of the above. Whatever self-care routine seems right to you, stick to it as you prepare for a military move. 

Remember the Why

This might sound cheesy, but don’t forget – you’ve committed to this lifestyle for a reason. Either you believe in the cause, or you believe in your partner who believes in the cause, or (most likely) both. As with any difficult challenge or goal, keeping your eye on the big picture can go a long way to ease the emotional stress of moving

Expect Some Resentment

Whether you’re the service member or a family member who’s along for the ride, it’s not uncommon to feel a twinge (or a boatload) of resentment for the need to make this move. We can’t stress it enough: this is okay!

Just like the other challenging emotions mentioned above, you must acknowledge any sense of resentment. It might be more difficult to admit to this particular feeling because you know that your individual PCS is a small piece of a very important, very large puzzle. 

However, that doesn’t disqualify your emotions. Ignoring resentment can have detrimental effects and lead to additional feelings of isolation and guilt, which further complicates a military move instead of making it easier. 

Attend Orientation

Every branch of the military has an orientation for newcomers that aids in adjusting after a move. Usually, this includes details about local resources, important locations, support services, and general information. Not only are these orientations a great way to get your bearings when you arrive at a new duty station, but they provide the opportunity to connect with others in similar situations and potentially make new friends. 

Use Your Resources

The military community is full of resources to help with PCS moves. Take advantage of them!

  • PCSGrades.com is a website dedicated to supporting the needs of military families as they prepare to PCS.
  • The PCSGrades Blog is a fantastic resource on its own. It’s full of information to help you through the process from PCS 101, to getting settled after your move, to dealing with general military stress.
  • Military OneSource is another fantastic resource for military families. While not focused on PCS moves, specifically, there is an entire section of their website dedicated to this topic.
  • The Military Family Readiness System is a system of programs and services offered by the Department of Defense to promote family wellbeing, including during times of PCS.
  • Regardless of whether you’re at your new or old duty station, you’re sure to find support opportunities on base. Don’t hesitate to leverage in-person resources.
  • Follow our Military Blog for additional articles and resources about managing PCS moving stress.

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