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Reconnecting with Your Inner Child (No, Really)

If you’re in college right now, you probably feel a lot of pressure to ‘grow up.’ Leaving adolescence behind can be very difficult to visualize because, when you’re a teenager, all you really have are experiences in school, in extracurriculars and maybe a part-time job. Life changes a lot in college, and I’m not going to deny that I do spend a lot more of my time drudging through my readings and trying not to fall asleep at my job than I did in high school. It’s gotten even more difficult this year, as the senior stressors of applying to jobs and trying to get into graduate programs has been weighing pretty heavily on my mind. 

In the last few months, I’ve found it harder than ever to take care of myself, but I’ve realized that the only way that I can keep my motivation up is to return to the absolute basics of self-care —  for me, that has looked like treating myself and my mind like a child. I’ve found myself drawn to the things and activities I loved in childhood that got me through similarly rough times, and I’ve found real joy and peace in treating myself and my mind with all of the gentleness that I would lavish on a child. So if you’re anywhere near the same mindset that I am occupying, here are a few things to return to from childhood that I would recommend to help you get through it:

Watch a Cartoon

I know, I know — cartoons are supposed to be just for kids. But guys, I have a secret to tell you: there have been a lot of new cartoons released in the last few years that have been absolutely, gut-wrenchingly, unbelievably amazing, and if I hadn’t had the lack of pride to watch them, I would have never gotten the chance to be taken along for the ride. Cartoons like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, The Owl House, and Amphibia are some of the most engaging, out-of-this-world fun cartoon shows that I’ve watched in a long time —  and unlike the cartoons from my childhood, they’re all female-led and have diverse casts. Taking a little time to sit down and watch something made for kids has really helped me disengage from the stressors of my senior year. Also, since the episodes are only about 20 minutes long, one episode is the perfect amount of time for a study break!

Go To Recess

There’s a reason that we make kids go outside and run around every day! It’s good for them and their productivity, and being out in the sunshine gives them a chance to stretch their legs and engage with their peers. So why should we stop going to recess just because we’re all grown up?

Recently, I’ve been forcing myself to go outside for a few minutes every day, and it’s made me feel so much better about, well, everything. I don’t look at my phone, and I don’t think about the work I have in front of me — I just sit in the sun or take a little walk, and by the time I get back, I feel recharged and ready to start my tasks again. Recess provides a great way to reset your brain, and after a year inside, we all need more vitamin D in our lives — so let yourself have a few minutes to just freewheel outside, and I’m sure your inner child will thank you.

Have an After-School Snack

I have something to admit to y’all — I do not usually eat snacks. I’ve always been more of a three-square-meals type, and I’m really picky about what I qualify as a ‘good’ snack, so usually I just stay away from the crackers and gummy section at the grocery store. But recently, around 3 or 4 pm, I’ve found myself drawn to having a little snack just like I used to after school, and now I think it’s probably the best part of my day. If you’re feeling challenged or low on energy, I would recommend that you take a tiny break in the afternoon and give yourself a chance to feel like a kid again with your favorite snack from childhood. For me, that means I find a pack of peanut butter Ritz Bits (which are FAR superior to the cheddar ones, I’m sorry to say) and have a few little crackers every day, and it really serves as a pick-me-up and reminder to be gentle with myself and my food — because just like childhood me, I deserve to have a little special food that makes me feel good at the end of a long day.

Collect Toys

Okay, so this one might be specific to me: When I was a kid, I was obsessed with plushies, and to this day, I still have a small army of them piled on my dorm room bed. I know you may think that dorm rooms are ‘supposed’ to be Pinterest-y and look like tiny perfect apartments. But it’s a lot more fun to be surrounded by the things you love rather than a bunch of color-coordinated Bed Bath and Beyond merchandise that matches every other dorm room in the country. My advice is to look back into your past and think about what kind of toys you were drawn to as a kid, and then adapt that love into something that can give you comfort and make you smile as an adult. 

Did you love action figures? Then make a tiny little diorama at your desk of all of your favorites, or collect a few new ones if you can. Did you desperately want to be a princess and played dress-up all the time? Then pick out your favorite ‘special’ clothes and have an at-home fashion show. (Or invest in a crown from Amazon — they’re less than $20 and are way too much fun.) Were you plushie-obsessed like me? Then give your favorites a place of pride, and make your bed so you can see them all lined up every morning. In whatever way feels best to you, make space for your inner sense of wonder and joy to co-exist with your working, busy life — because you deserved it when you were a child, and you still deserve it now.

So, those are all my tips for treating yourself well. I truly believe that giving yourself the kind of gentle treatment you would give to a child — insisting on taking breaks, being excited about little things and regularly giving nourishment — is one of the best ways to practice self-care. It’s personalizable to you, which means there isn’t any pressure to conform, and it isn’t attached to some corporate understanding of self-care that we associate with chocolate and Netflix and a rose-filled bubble bath. If you really want to feel loved, then the first step is to slowly and gently show up for yourself and the child you were before college — because that person is still there inside you and is still in need of love and care.

Madeline Duvall

Pepperdine '21

Hey all! My name is Madeline Duvall, and I'm an English major and Art minor from Pepperdine University! I'm originally from Longview, Texas. I love to write, draw for my school's newspaper, listen to movie soundtracks and pretend I’m the main character, read, and watch animated movies! My art instagram is @latefordoodles and my real instagram is @lateforcakes.
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