Tales of a Wellness Peer : The Woes, The Rewards, and The Fun Times

Hello friends! I’m Sol, a senior intern for the Office of Admissions this summer (although I guess since I graduated in May I’m now an alumni and not a senior but close enough)! I’ma be writing a few blogs this summer, wish me luck!

A picture of me outside.

Sol Cruz, HMC 2020

During my time at Mudd (oh geez does anyone else feel old yet), one of the things I involved myself with the longest– other than working for the admissions office — was being a Wellness Peer. This was an on campus job where we organized events and activities to help educate our peers about different forms of wellness and how to (hopefully) improve their health. Essentially we got to think of fun ways to help promote students learning about different health topics.

Some of the things we did included weekly pop-ups on Thursdays (although according to another senior admissions intern, Kailee, it should’ve been on Wednesdays so that it could be called Wellness Wednesday, and she will never let it go), wellness parties, and programming focused around specific areas of wellness (financial, mental, physical, environmental, etc.). I was almost always working the wellness pop-ups where we would focus on something different every week. My favorite pop-up activity was when we would  encourage students to write letters to their friends, family, or anyone really to tell them that they were appreciated. Some other fan favorites included sleep masks and sleep facts, fresh fruit and smoothie recipes, and flour stress balls with stress relieving tips. Although these activities weren’t always for everyone, it was nice to be able to give people the space to take just a small break from doing things all the time to just do something relaxing or fun for a bit. 

Left Image: An photo of a flour covered black table with permanent markers near the top, cards labeled "Office of Health and Wellness Loyalty Card", and a yellow stress ball on the left of those cards, and an orange stress ball on the right of the cards. Right: A photo of a small burlap sack with a little lavender flower drawn on it, sitting on a table in front of a large container of dried lavender.

Left: The stress balls from a wellness pop-up about stress management!
Right: A small bag of lavender from one of the wellness pop-ups we did on sleep!

One of my favorite things to help out with though, were the wellness parties.  We usually try to have at least one every year, but on good years we have one every semester. These parties are always themed and centered around a specific topic in wellness, for example in recent years some of the topics have been alcohol and healthy relationships. Our alcohol focused party was Casino themed and our healthy relationships party was princess themed. I remember the most  about the princess party and I honestly thought it was a lot of fun organizing and helping run it! We got to focus on the relationships we’re shown in media (mostly princess movies…for obvious reasons) and explain how they’re healthy or unhealthy. We made a lot of games out of this idea and even had snacks and mocktails. 

A photo of a group of students dressed nicely with myself near the center left and Dean Michelle on the right, all standing in front of a yellow and white balloon arch.

The group of wellness peers (plus Dean Michelle on the right) who were working the Healthy Relationships Wellness Party!

Just like any job, being a wellness peer has it’s pros and cons. It wasn’t always as perfect as I would have liked. Some of the cons included the job being emotionally draining and repetitive.

While it wasn’t a job requirement to be a perfect image of wellness (which I definitely am not) or to even pretend to be, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel like I needed to be. Even on days where I felt bad, if I was signed up to work I felt like I needed to keep up an image of happiness to not bring others down. Something that I figured out a little late in the game was that signing up for the full two hours of the wellness pop-up every week drained me a lot more than I would have liked, but it was something I enjoyed doing in the moment so I didn’t want to give it up. Instead, I ended up compromising with myself and only doing the first hour so that I could still participate, but also give myself time to enjoy my lunch and spend some time with friends.

Also the repetitiveness of the job was a bit hard on me. Since I had been doing the job for so long I just kept reusing ideas for pop-ups and other activities instead of coming up with new ones, because if ain’t broke don’t fix it right? Wrong, it definitely felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again instead of bringing new and exciting ideas into the job. Even with these issues, I think it’s still obvious that I loved my job.

Overall I would say the pros of being a wellness peer outweighed the cons. Some of the pros included getting to work with amazing students who wanted to work to support our fellow peers, as small as it may have been I did get to help others, an easy excuse to pester my friends into taking care of themselves,  and lastly it was actually fun.

Through this job, I had the opportunity to meet other amazing students who really cared about helping their friends and peers improve their health. Every week they would suggest events and activities to try to bring light and information to serious health issues that were happening on campus. They inspired me to not only take my job seriously, but take my own health seriously as well. I’m definitely the type of person to put others over myself, and while I still do that, I think I’ve gotten a little better at prioritizing my own mental and physical health. 

A photo of a group of three wellness peers (with me on the right), at the wellness pop-up in front of the Hoch. Everyone is holding a fruit skewer and either sitting or standing in front of a table full of fruit.)

My fellow awesome wellness peers and I at the Fresh Fruit pop-up!

Even though I did occasionally get complaints from some students that the Wellness Peers weren’t doing enough (and I totally understand this sentiment), we also had students who would come to the pop-ups every week and genuinely appreciated the small things we were doing to try to help. One of the reasons I didn’t want to give up participating in the pop-ups was because I had multiple occasions where different students would come up and share with us that the pop-ups were the highlight of their week and that they’d gotten used to seeing me there. They were looking forward to the small activities and the excuse to just take a small break. Hearing this, especially when I myself was feeling down, made the job feel a lot more worth it. 

I like being a sort of “mom” friend (although if you ask some of my friends they might say I’m a “bad mom” friend, but that’s close enough to mom friend for me). As such, I tend to be someone who tries to convince my friends to do small things to take care of themselves. Sometimes it’s things like going to sleep just half an hour earlier, making sure they’re eating their meals, or convincing them to take a small break from work just to destress. Most people get annoyed when I suggest things like this, even though they understand that I’m coming from a place of concern, so I use being a wellness peer as an excuse to try to help. It helps make it funnier when I say something along the lines of “legally, as a wellness peer I don’t quite think that’s healthy”.

Overall I’d say the job is genuinely a lot of fun. Despite how tiring the job could get I would say that getting to hang out and plan events with students to try to help other students was really rewarding. I enjoyed my time helping others and getting to know my co-workers better. If that sort of thing sounds interesting to you, I’d highly recommend joining!

A photo of a group of 8 students inside a white and yellow gazebo with the Office of Health and Wellness along with the Harvey Mudd logo.

All of the amazing wellness peers posing in the wellness egg (yes we called our gazebo the wellness egg).