Moving Abroad With Your Servicemember

Recognizing and Coping with Relocation Stress as an Adult

An overseas move is one of the most stressful situations servicemembers and their families can encounter. It takes time adjust to a brand-new culture and lifestyle. While these stressors cannot be completely alleviated, they can be managed.

Recognizing Relocation Stress

Adjusting to an overseas move can take a long time—anywhere from three to six months before the move and up to six months to a year afterward. Your first step in coping with the changes are realizing you will have distress and also understanding that your relocation is almost certainly the major source of the distress. Before and after your relocation, you may experience a myriad of different reactions, including depression, anxiety, irritability, altered sleeping patterns, appetite disturbances and lowered self-confidence.

Coping With Relocation Stress

The second step in managing the stress of your relocation is to deal with your anxiety head on in a proactive manner. Here is some advice for doing just that:

  • Talk about your feelings with your family—it is important. Everyone needs to feel supported.

  • Know as much as you can about your new surroundings. It can dispel any false expectations or stereotypes you may have of your new home and help you to feel more in control.

  • Don't become a workaholic. Keep a normal eight hour day if possible and take advantage of your leave and vacation time—you've earned it.

  • Avoid self-medication at all costs. Some of the countries where you may be stationed (especially European ones) have easy ways of obtaining certain medications without a prescription. Don't give in to numbing your discomfort—it will only make the transition more difficult in the long run.

  • Money can be one of the worst causes of stress and anxiety. Prepare for you permanent change of station (PCS) move by having your finances in order. Your income and living expenses may change dramatically when you move overseas. Do your research beforehand and make plans to deal with the changes. Furthermore, the average military family spends around $1,300 in nonreimbursable expenses to move. Save up between moves so that these expenses don't blow your budget.

  • Regular, vigorous exercise can be a great stress relief. Try to fit in physical activity at least three times a week.

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