1. MilSpouse Lizann poses for the camera on a beach with the ocean in the background.

10 Ways to Handle Transitions in Military Life

Change is a regular occurrence for military families. Whether you are preparing for deployment, a PCS move or a last-minute military pivot, you’ve probably learned there is always a new stressful event just around the corner.

But stressful changes don’t have to drag you down. They may take all your focus and energy for a little while, but you can’t put the rest of your life on hold every time the military changes something. Some spouses seem to laugh at stressful transitions, shrug them off and always stay flexible. What is their secret?

Successful military spouses develop coping strategies to help them handle major transitions. These 10 techniques will prepare you for the next major stressor in your military life.

Physical Coping Strategies

  • Get organized. You can limit stressful scenarios by getting your paperwork and your house in order. Gather all essential documents in one place so you can find everything in an emergency. Don’t wait for PCS orders to start cleaning out closets and the garage. The less old clothes and furniture you have, the quicker you can respond to those orders!
  • Streamline your responsibilities. When you are facing a stressful situation, focus on your strengths and say no to draining activities. When the military makes your service member’s schedule unpredictable, just do the essential tasks. Keep a routine and schedule that helps you operate on autopilot, so you have fewer decisions to make.
  • Get outside. So many studies have demonstrated the benefits of spending time outside. It continues to be one of the best things you can do for your mind and body during a stressful transition. Soak up some Vitamin D from the sun. Go for a walk to get your heart pumping. Just changing your scenery from a stressful indoor environment to a more relaxing open natural space can help renew and refresh you.
  • Build your support network. Prepare for a stressful time like a deployment or PCS move by asking for help wherever you can. Ask friends or neighbors to help with specific tasks. Hire out occasional help with car maintenance, yard work, housecleaning, child care or whatever takes the most stress off your plate.

2. A service member in uniform holds hands with a little girl. He wears a pack.

Emotional Coping Strategies

  • Schedule your self-care. Everyone needs moments of self-care to renew their strength and help them relax. It doesn’t have to be an expensive massage or an all-day shopping trip. Instead, have short daily and weekly routines that keep you refreshed and grounded when life gets stressful. Some suggestions are journaling, taking walks, long baths, puzzles or coloring books, listening to music or talking to a friend. Set a reminder on your phone or add your personal time to your calendar. When you prioritize your own health, you can face the difficult challenges in front of you.
  • Connect with a friend. No one should feel that they must tackle stressful situations alone! Challenges can pile up on our shoulders with an invisible weight that is too much for one person to bear. When you vent to a trusted friend or open up to a family member, you can temporarily share the weight of your burdens. It helps if they are empathetic to the challenges of military life.
  • Talk to a professional. You don’t have to wait for a “serious problem” to approach a professional counselor. People in a variety of situations can find help in therapy sessions. Whether you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, struggling with your kids or have hit a bump in your marriage, the professional counselors at Military One Source can talk you through difficult situations and empower you to find solutions. Convenient virtual sessions will help you de-stress in the comfort of home.

Mental Coping Strategies

  • View change as an adventure. Because military life is full of changes, successful military spouses learn to treat change as a positive. Some people embrace a PCS move because it means an adventure in a new location. Others find the silver lining in deployments by trying out new hobbies or using the opportunity to travel. Instead of fighting each change that comes your way, try to welcome it as an exciting adventure.
  • Reward yourself. When you know you will face a difficult challenge like a PCS move or a deployment, break your task into smaller pieces, and plan small ways to treat yourself as you accomplish each task. Whether you indulge in a favorite dessert or a big family vacation, having something to look forward to makes the task easier to handle.
  • Focus on one season at a time. Remember this stressful time won’t last forever. Transitions are hard, but they are temporary. During this season, you may feel alone, unsettled or unfulfilled, but you won’t always feel this way. A season is coming when you will experience friendship, relaxation and self-worth. Hang in there, for those days will be worth it!
Lizann Lightfoot
Written By Lizann Lightfoot
Marine Corps Spouse

Lizann is the Seasoned Spouse – a Marine Corps wife, mom of four and published author. She loves writing, exploring new duty stations and chocolate!

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