Decompression Sessions

Hey guys!

First blog for me so far this year. Coming into my Junior year has been really hectic, and pretty stressful. A lot of Mudders feel similarly, especially around the time of the career fair, when people have to think about interviews and job applications. It’s a lot to take! However, I’ve talked before about some of the different ways that I deal with stress. I’ve played intramural sports, like bubble soccer and inner-tube water polo. I do a cappella. I’ve tried to take some of the humanities courses at Mudd that I find especially interesting.

A spread of color pages and colored pencils on a table

Something else that I just started last week is a weekly decompression session, on Friday, with a group of other students who just need to relax. We meet up, talk about our weeks, and color. No pressure, minimal structure, but a shared and open space. It’s nice.

Professor Ewing talks to students over lunch and coloring pages

My decompressions session from a few weeks ago.

There are several different decompression sessions, led by different staff and faculty members for different days of the week, some of whom don’t even work at Mudd. The organizer for my particular decompressions session is Eric Ewing a professor as CGU, one of the Claremont Colleges’ graduate schools. He heard about the program going on the last few years and thought that it was a cool thing, which he wanted to be involved in.

A headshot of Professor Eric Ewing

Here’s a picture of Eric! He reminds me a bit of bearded Jake Gyllenhaal, and I stand by that.

There is ultimate a massive demand at Harvey Mudd for wellness resources, so naturally I was interested in how decompression sessions in particular came to be, so I talked to professor Colleen Lewis (my computer science adviser), who really started the program up, about how she started it and what the philosophy behind it was.

Professor Colleen Lewis holding a stuffed dog in her office

Here is Colleen holding a stuffed dog whose name I unfortunately do not know.

I asked Colleen to talk about how decompression sessions started, and she was able to go on a lot about it without any additional prompting:

“Jordan Varney. I think she graduated in 2015? She had the idea, and basically we hatched the plan together, some spring. We can check, but I think it was 2015, so maybe she graduated Spring 2015. So we just emailed out, and we just did one group, and I was the only leader of it. So we had one small group, and we had 10 people every week. It just a really fun group, and super supportive. So we did kind of highs and lows. It was really nice to have people across years, mentoring each other. It was just this random collection of people who then are all emotionally supporting each other, which I think is rad, and you don’t get that often. Then we expanded it to more facilitators, both faculty and staff. I think we had 5 or 6 leaders each semester, and this year we had 75 people sign up. We changed the name this semester too. [A student] told me, ‘Wellness groups… Not everybody wants to go to a wellness group, everybody wants to decompress’. And people tend to like it. My experience is that people like it once they come. You get to know a faculty or staff member better, you know? I remember one time [a student] said in a group, ‘You know, Colleen, you’ve mentioned how you’re really stressed, is there anyone you can ask for help from?’ And I was just like ‘What an idea!’ So you know, I think sometimes the advice and solutions we need is not revolutionary, but with the right time and the right place, these people who didn’t know me at the beginning of the semester then are invested in me, and invested in each other.”

In addition to building community and mentoring each other, at the end of the semester, each group has the opportunity to go out together for a meal. In my experience, meaningful interpersonal relationships are certainly well facilitated by food.

Well, that’s it for this blog guys! Until next time!