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That Perfect PCS Playlist

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Written by Guest Writer

Heather Barnhill


Along with all the practical aspects of moving, it’s important for us to remember that self care is not a luxury but an essential part of protecting our mental health. Taking care of your own mental health is a requirement for total family health. Music is part of my self care. It’s effective, convenient, and portable – all traits conducive to military life. 

Just as prom, graduation, and weddings have their own theme songs, so, too, do the milestones in my life. The various emotions and experiences involved in PCSing count as some of those milestones, so I have compiled a PCS playlist to reflect them. I listen to these songs to remember the good times, power through the rough ones, or just to have a good, old-fashioned, cathartic cry. Sometimes just the opening chords of these songs have the power to transport me to other places. 

Whether you are getting ready to PCS, in the midst of it, sorting out life at your new duty station, or planning ahead for a move in the future, creating PCS playlists itself can be a fun activity and a welcome break from all the moving “to do” lists. Feel free to rock out to my list below or to use it as inspiration for curating your own!

"There is something healing in knowing you’re not alone in these emotions, that you’re not making up this pain or loss that goes along with leaving and changing." @iwillwaitvsp Click To Tweet
Young pleased female gardener in headphones resting in greenhouse. Gardening and mental health

A Playlist for Mental Wellness

We Got Annie” (1982) | Annie

As you may know, the PCS process begins with the much anticipated “Orders.” Waiting for these is tedious, but their arrival reminds me of the scene in the ‘80s musical Annie where the staff excitedly sing, “We got Annie!”

I have been known to sub in the word “Orders” for “Annie” and sing this at the top of my lungs.

Cheerful woman in headphones with smartphone listening to music dancing on beach

Happy Tunes

These songs are fun, silly songs that just make me and the kids smile. We play them loud and often. 

Movin’ Right Along” (Original Lyrics 1979) | The Muppets

Favorite lyrics?

Movin’ right along in search of good times and good news,
With good friends you can’t lose.
This could become a habit!
Opportunity knocks once; let's reach out and grab it. (yeah!)
Getting there is half the fun; come share it with me.
We’ll learn to share the load.

Life’s a Happy Song” (2011) | The Muppets

Can’t help but smile, right?! 

Mama Said” (1961) | The Shirelles

My bestie Carrie sings this one to me and reminds me every time: “They’ll be days like this.” 

Who Needs Sleep?” (1998) | Barenaked Ladies 

“Who needs sleep?” asks the Barenaked Ladies, “Who needs sleep? Well, you’re never gonna get it . . . there’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war.” 

Three Little Birds” (1980) | Bob Marley & The Wailers 

A helpful reminder that “every little thing is gonna be alright!” 

The Sound Of Sunshine” (2010) | Michael Franti & Spearhead 

“Here I am, | just waiting for this storm to pass me by. | And that’s the sound of sunshine coming down.” Remembering to find gratitude even through the hard things. 

sign with word in the wild that says LEAVING. Can be used in so many different situations.

Reflective Tunes

One Last Time” (2015) | Hamilton 

Our PCS Playlist also includes our goodbye songs. “One last time | Relax, have a drink with me | One last time | Let’s take a break tonight | And then we’ll teach them how to say goodbye | To say goodbye | You and I” 

Kane’ohe” (2008) | Nathan Aweau 

On days I feel sad to leave, I indulge myself with a favorite song and let myself feel a little blue remembering our hometown of Kaneohe, Hawaii. 

Hype Tunes

My “hype” tunes are the ones I usually use when I’m exercising or trying to do a reset with my frame of mind. I am generous with my feelings and in letting myself feel blue when I can, but there are those days when stuff just needs to get done. This particular list also includes shout-outs to our next destination to help create a positive connection.* 

*Hot Tip from the VSP Team: If you’re having trouble finding a tune to match the state you’re moving to within the U.S., check out these articles for inspiration. Don’t say we didn’t warn you that this “task” might distract you from less “creative” PCS-related work! 
I hate life being cruel. Depressed african woman in rage and fury pulling hair out of head yelling

Rage Tunes

And sometimes I’m just mad. There are days when the frustration and disappointment can’t be avoided or wished away. I let myself acknowledge the anger, find some tunes that match my energy, and try to find a physical task that will supply me with some endorphins that will help me release the stress. Sometimes, this takes the form of a stationary bike ride, a run at the track or on the treadmill, or some rage cleaning. (I have to admit my rage cleaning is some of my most productive housework, so I do try and tap into that when I can.) 

Note: This playlist is skipped over when playing music with my kids in the car but includes not-so-fluffy tunes from:

There is something healing in knowing you’re not alone in these emotions, that you’re not making up this pain or loss that goes along with leaving and changing. Just knowing that there are songwriters out there who can articulate my own heart-song right along with me helps so much. 

Military man kisses the hand of his woman

The Ultimate Military Spouse Anthem

Smoke Clears” (2017) | Andy Grammer

This song just hits on so many military spouse experiences: pacing the hotel room, boarding the flight, tears, feeling ten years older but always remembering that it’s “‘You and I, against the world,’ that’s what you told me | An emotional roller coaster, yeah | We ride the highs and lows | You’ll never be alone even when your world explodes | Cause after all the smoke clears, I will be right here.” 

It’s worth it to spend the time seeing what music does for your mental state. Recognizing how you respond can be like a mini therapy session. Have fun compiling your own PCS Playlist!

VSP wants to see your finished playlist!

Share it in the comments or on our social media pages here or here. You might just inspire other milspouses in need of a good tune for their journeys!

Heather Barnhill is a beautiful member of the VSP community. She is the true picture of a “resilient” military spouse, having first joined in on VSP workshops from her West Point cat closet while writing, figuring out how to salvage her laptop broken by fighting teenagers, installing her oldest in a state-side university, and most recently moving the rest of her family from New York to Hawaii. This Wonder Woman proudly and rightfully wears her milspouse cape and crown. Check out Heather’s previous blog post, “This is How We Do It: A Milspouse PCS Survival Guide” here.


Are you an active duty or veteran milspouse interested in being a guest writer for VSP? Get in touch with your details and topic interests on our contact page!

Tags :
Mental Wellness,Military Life,Military Moving,Military Spouse,Milspouse,Music,PCS
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Veterans Spouse Project (VSP) is the only nonprofit arts organization in the nation working to give voice to the experiences of military spouses through theatre and expressive arts. Learn more about how to share, connect, listen and create with us in your community. 

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