We’ve all heard the phrase, “Connect to your inner child.” These words intend to conjure up images intricately linked with nostalgia—of times long gone and deeply missed.
For some, childhood is a source where one can draw strength in the face of ever-increasing stress, whether that stress be from the 10-page paper due tomorrow that you, in your struggle to juggle multiple assignments, simply forgot.
Or it could be from that awkward social encounter at the DC with the boy you hit on last night and tried to bring home, forgetting, in your hazy drunkenness, that he was actually your roommate’s best friend’s unshaven “boy toy.”
Whatever the case may be, stress is an inescapable fact of life. It is something that we should all learn to deal with efficiently and effectively. I propose, like many medical experts the world over, that we all need moments in our lives where we simply stop, drop, and rekindle our repressed four-year-old self. Here are five simple ways to do just that.
1. Expand your creative possibilities and engage in classic child’s play, fort building. Rearrange your room, apartment, kitchen—whatever space you claim as yours.
Grab pillows, blankets, clothing, sofas and go to town experimenting with your inner architect.
It doesn’t matter if five minutes after completing said fort, it falls down with you inside. What matters—as with anything in life—is the journey (cue coming-of-age musical score). Building a fort creates a direct linkage between your current miserable, anxiety-filled self and your inner child.
2. Buy a pair of footie pajamas. Now I know I have been on the lookout for these bad boys since I outgrew my last pair in approximately 7th grade.
I am a outspoken advocate for these functional, comfy, stylish pieces of clothing for several reasons, the largest of them being that once you put on a pair—preferably in rainbow or leopard print—your whole day starts to look a little less formidable. Wear your footie pajamas to class, to the gym, wherever you feel most stressed. I guarantee they will make a difference.
3. Sit on the floor in your next class. As I am writing this piece, I happened to take my own advice and the wooden floor of the Mountain View Room is actually, dare I say, quite comfortable.
Many of us spend long hours—whether it be in class or at work—sitting at desks and on chairs that are not designed for proper posture. And by proper posture I mean slouching, stretching, and general freedom of movement.
Sitting on the floor not only gives your body a chance to mold itself back into these (un)healthy positions, it also works to ground you. Children know this, and you, once being a child, know this as well. Give it a try, I dare you.
4. Which leads me to my next piece of advice: revive dares and double-dog dares. Good old peer pressure is a classic retreat to childhood—whether that retreat is pleasant for people is another topic entirely. However, I am a firm believer that a well-placed dare is as good a motivator as any in the adult world—beside, perhaps, money but who’s got that nowadays anyways?
Dares can serve as both site of bonding between the darer and the daree as well as between the daree and the dare. As always, if the person refuses your dare, feel free to openly shun said person for as long as possible or until she or he caves.
Friendships have ended using this approach; however, it is important to remember your overarching goal—connecting to that inner child.
5. Lastly, laugh. This is probably the most important and most difficult one for many of us, mainly because we tend to get wrapped up in the seriousness of our lives.
Granted, sobriety is an important—although highly overrated—part of life; however, when it comes to the point where you go hours, days, weeks without cracking a smile, there might be something off about your lifestyle. If laughing comes hard to you, practice. Laughing is like a riding a bike—once you learn, you never forget. Make it a point to laugh at least three times a day—no, this is unrelated to dental hygiene, but you should practice that too—and for at least 30 seconds.
Eventually, the things in laugh that used to just bring a smile to your face will now have you bursting out in socially awkward ways.
No worries, though, because children don’t care what others think.
Hannah Walker can be contacted at