Life of a military family is often unpredictable. We are used to having the government tell us
what to do. We are used to making plans and having to change them because of something that is out
of our control. We are used to knowing just a small piece of the big picture and very used to that
information changing at a moments notice. Video calling is one of the main ways to stay connected to
those we love and miss. Strangely enough all the above now describes what pretty much every person
living through this pandemic is experiencing.
In the military, a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) means that the soldier has been reassigned
to a new military base. Consequently then, for the soldier’s family, this always requires a process of
uprooting and replanting. Therefore, this unavoidable change, like a potted plant which is taken out of
the soil it had been thriving and growing in, often results in a period of shock as you are now being
replanted in a new soil, a brand-new environment. Eventually, as the shock wears off the acceptance
phase begins and you start to embrace the newness of the environment around you. Accepting and
embracing the change is paramount in regaining your sense of security. After you have fully accepted
the change then you can finally start the important process of adapting one day at a time.
Adapting essentially allows your roots to grow successfully into the new environment so you can
thrive there. There are three effective steps that are helpful in successfully adapting during unavoidable
change: Reduce, Refocus, and Redirect. The first step is to “Reduce” which means “make the big small”.
When you view something from a broad perspective often it seems very big which inevitably causes us
to feel overwhelmed. So, to avoid feeling overcome and inundated with anxiety don’t allow yourself to
dwell on the stuff that’s too big. This can be accomplished by a process of stop-thinking which means
literally to force yourself to stop thinking about the things that are overwhelming. The “unknowns” are
a great source of anxiety for most of us, so stop obsessing about them. The current situation we are in
with the Coronavirus is a great example of how we can feel swamped by the “unknowns”. To preserve a
sense of peace in a time like this, shut down destructive thinking and refuse to commit any energy or
mental space to things that you cannot control or change. Like the wife who just said good-bye to her
husband for a yearlong deployment, the best way to make the big small is to take it one day at a time.
Otherwise, fear and anxiety will dominate you as your thoughts are victimized by the enormity of the big
Logically then, the next step is to “Refocus” by “zooming in”. Instead of focusing on that big
picture, zoom in for better clarity. It is important for us to focus on the what we have directly in front of
us right now. Again, while a broad perspective opens us up to becoming overwhelmed, refocusing on
what we have and what we can control brings us a sense of calm as our self-efficacy is restored. For
example, I may not be able to control or change how the Coronavirus is affecting my life, but I am able
to control how to go about my day. Focus on the “my’s” which signifies ownership. As a mom, nothing
is stopping me from caring for my family, my pets, getting my chores done, and managing my home.
Once you have reduced the big to the small and refocused on what you have and can control,
now you can move on to the next step which is to “Redirect”. Essentially, this means to “prioritize” how
you utilize your time and energy. Now, equipped with proper perspective, you can actively direct your
time and energy on the things that matter rather than waste it on fear and anxiety. Which is better,
feeling exhausted at the end of the day because you accomplished playing with your kids, walking the
dog, doing the laundry, cleaning, and making dinner or agonizing while reading articles or blogs, or
listening to programs broadcasting news and forecasting what might happen? Do yourself a favor and
save yourself both time and energy by making the big small, zooming in, and prioritizing. As a result, the
overwhelming fear of the unknown and the resulting anxiety will be replaced by the appreciation of the
hidden blessings and the gift of time we have been given instead.
Jennifer Williamson, Kalispell Group Fitness Director
Gina Phillips, Bozeman Group Fitness Director