Taking a Walk Towards Mental Health


“I’m going to take a walk”

Six simple words that pack a whole lot of punch. Sometimes spoken to my spouse, other times to my kids (replace “I’m” with “we’re”). Sometimes the words are whispered to myself. I don’t log miles or make a workout of it. Although I’m sure there are some benefits to my physical health, walking is first and foremost a vital component to my emotional and mental well-being. I rarely regret the decision to walk to the grocery store, instead of driving. I love to walk to the Saturday market, and stop at the small cafe in town, perhaps running into friends along the way. On a clear day, the nearby greenway has beautiful views of the Dolomite mountains. Walking lifts my spirits when I am feeling down or lonely. It gives me a chance to cool down if my husband and I are working through a disagreement. Even when the weather is poor, it is sometimes what I need to help work out nervous energy during a particularly stressful time. I am certain that the daily walks to my daughter’s Italian preschool helped keep postpartum depression at bay after I had my second baby. Being forced to get up, get dressed, and get out of the house was exactly what I needed. During those sleep-deprived and lonely months, I felt overwhelmed and unmotivated in my own home, but once I was outside, walking around town, the crying usually subsided (for both me and the baby!) and I found energy for errands, and more importantly – joy in my beautiful surroundings. Seeing everyone out and about in the bustling Italian city helped me remember that everything was going to be ok. 

I know, I know….not everyone lives in an Italian city. But this isn’t the only place where daily walks have become a lifeline for me. On-post housing at Ft. Campbell was the backdrop of one such season. In my early days of motherhood, I could usually be pushing a clunky secondhand stroller on the loop around my neighborhood nearly every day – sometimes more than once. Even more than a decade later, I can’t think about those walks without being flooded with vivid memories of all the things I felt before, during and after my husband’s combat deployment. I worked through every fear and emotion along that path. Gradually, my daughter grew from a tiny infant to a chatty toddler as I worried about my husband, dreamed about his homecoming, mourned Father’s Days missed, and tried to figure out how a marriage is supposed to work in this military lifestyle. Not all of my problems found solutions during an afternoon walk, but the act of putting one foot in front of the other was grounding. Just like I could only take one step at a time to get from point A to point B, we would work through the difficult times and all of the questions one day at a time.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, I picked up my walking habit once again. This time there were two kids on scooters in addition to the stroller, as we strolled around our suburban Virginia neighborhood. Once again, we faced uncertainty one day at a time. We didn’t have many answers, but we found comfort in watching the seasons change along a route that even my three year old soon had memorized. Once again, I watched my children change with the seasons. I took in deep breaths of fresh air and looked on in awe as each one of them bloomed right along with the flowers – despite the confusion and turmoil that marked that entire year. 

Throughout the various seasons of motherhood, walking has continued to be a lifeline for me. When I step outside, I remember that the world is a lot bigger than my problems. Sometimes I think about the people that have lived in these neighborhoods before – whether that is the many military families that have moved in and out of military housing (what have they seen and endured during war times?), or the generations of people that have lived in my Italian hometown (and all that they have faced during wars that played out on their own soil). Perspective always helps me to find the strength to get through a difficult time. As I pass near the homes of friends and neighbors, I remember that I am not alone. Walking also helps me to take a break from my phone. It can turn into wonderful conversations with my kids, or a chance to really hear my own thoughts when I’m alone. I haven’t pushed a stroller for a couple years now, but often the act of walking takes me straight back to those postpartum walks – three different life seasons, each with its own set of questions and anxieties. I get emotional when I think about each of those versions of myself. I did it. We did it. My baby and I – we made it through those uncertain times. With the support of loved ones and friends, we just kept taking one step at a time. One day at a time. One season at a time. When the hard times come, I know we will continue to do the same.

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Julie Barnes
Julie is the mother of three kids, ages 10, 6, and 3. Although she knew little about military service when her marriage began, she promised to follow her husband wherever the Army would send him. To her continuous surprise and delight, the Army has brought her family to Italy for a second time. A former piano teacher and worship leader, Julie has recently shifted her creative energy to writing. She has contributed to Legacy Magazine and She Is Kindred – A Storytelling Collective. Julie believes that telling our stories can help us understand each other’s unique journey and perspective, ultimately bringing us closer to one another. In her free time, Julie enjoys reading, cooking, sight-seeing, and learning Italian. Julie shares snapshots of her family’s life overseas on Instagram at @juliecodabarnes.


  1. Walking, something so simple yet so vital and wonderful. I often walk thru a civil war battlefield near my home and think, “once this place was full of smoke, the booms of artillery, and the cries of injury…but today it is peaceful and beautiful.” Perspective is gained.
    As a Believer, I love knowing humans were created to live in a garden, and walking in nature returns us to our balance in a way nothing else can. It helped so much during Covid and our first retirement. Keep going! Love the article Julie!


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