When PCSing is the pits

Woman frustrated by moving boxes
Woman frustrated by moving boxes

When PCSing is the pits

by Diana Groom
Stripes Japan

May you just moved to a base that wasn’t even on your dream sheet. Perhaps your spouse started work and your children have started school, while you are left with a blank calendar and your only friend has four legs and constantly drools. You scroll Facebook to see your friends in glamorous locations as they traverse the world and you ask yourself, “Will this new place ever feel like home?”

The long and short of it is yes it will, but first, get off social media. That shiny side of the internet isn’t real life. It doesn’t show you the crying toddler that screamed down every step of the Belfry Tower in Brugges. You only see the smiling family photo at the bottom. How do I know? Because that was me and my two-year-old daughter. So, put the phone down, and follow these simple steps to start acclimating to your new home.

Get outside.

Even if it is only a five-minute walk with your very bored pooch, get outside. Whether your new base is freezing cold or disgustingly hot, the outside will do your soul good. If you are in a dreary location, consult your physician and consider taking vitamin D supplements.

When we were stationed at Ramstein AB, Germany, as soon as the rainy winter began, my friends and I would be sure to grab some of the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Vitamin D improved our moods greatly, and some friends even purchased UV lights, or “happy lights,” to help them get through the dreary German winters.

On the other hand, if you are somewhere blazing hot, take a walk in the morning when the temperatures are still cool enough to walk. Either way, get outside.

Join a club.

I know it sounds cliché to be the spouse that joins a club, but the truth is you will meet other spouses in similar situations who are looking for friends just like you are. Maybe you will meet your best friend or maybe it will just help you fill in your calendar. I promise it will get you off the sofa and out of your house.

When we PCSed to Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota, I joined the spouses club and ended up co-hosting the annual fundraiser. It was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun getting to know my co-host and the other members of the club who helped.

Get to the gym.

On-base fitness centers can be intimidating, but there is a bright side. You are new and no one knows you. No one will judge you or remember what you wore to the gym. Additionally, your body will bask in the endorphins of working out.

You don’t have to run miles or participate in the latest CrossFit WOD. You can simply head to the gym and cycle a bit on the stationary bike. Either way, your mood will improve with the endorphins, and it will provide an outlet for you. Maybe you will come to find that you are where you are supposed to be at this moment in your life. 


If you find yourself staring at a blank calendar every day, and job prospects aren’t on the table, try volunteering for your community. You will end up talking to someone other than your spouse…. or your dog, and you will feel better because you have done something good for someone else.

When we PCSed to RAF Fairford in England, it was a small remote base with no DODEA schools. We decided to send our children to the local British school and once they were settled in I jumped into volunteering at the school. It gave me face time with my children’s teachers and peers, and made my children extremely happy. So, pay it forward, and reap the side benefits as well.

Take a break

Use your settling-in time to pause, reflect and check some boxes. Read that book you have been dying to read, fill those photo albums you have been meaning to fill, and watch that cheesy movie. Enjoy this gift of time.

On the plane ride over the Atlantic as we PCSed from England, I happened upon the movie “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret,” and it really resonated with me because the family in the film had just moved as well. I may have shed a tear or two in that darkened airplane, but it felt good to release some of the emotions that a PCS gives you. So, pop in that film, enjoy a treat and remember that this, too, shall pass.

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