Laurie was sick again. Why was she running this low-grade fever? She was tired. She had no energy. Could it be mononucleosis? Laurie had heard that lots of teenagers felt this way from mononucleosis. Could that be the reason she was feeling ill?
After a series of blood tests revealed nothing definitive, the doctor mentioned the possibility of stress. Laurie was not able to identify anything that could be triggering it. And she knew that fevers are not caused by stress, or so she thought. Soon she started to feel better and forgot all about her symptoms and her fever until the next marking period when the symptoms reappeared. After four months of this recurring ailment, her parents and doctor began to note a predictable pattern It seemed that during this her senior year of high school, Laurie became ill every time a paper was due in her advanced English class.
Could this be? Could written assignments trigger these symptoms?
This deserved serious consideration, especially when her mom recounted the machinations she went through to complete the last assignment. Laurie was to write about Shakespeare, and after great difficulty deciding upon the right topic, she finally chose to write about the men who in Shakespeare's time played women and disguised themselves as men in the plot.
It was Laurie's pattern to choose the most difficult and obscure topic she could find or invent. To make matters even worse, Laurie lived in a university town and had access to the university library where she consulted highly advanced reference materials to support her thesis. Both these events-finding the topic and the resources-were rather challenging. Often she would procrastinate until the final moment came to sit down and write the paper. This repeated procedure was true for this paper as well.
With time almost running out and her stress levels increasing, Laurie felt fatigued and feverish. Laurie's grandmother had been an English teacher and an expert in classical literature. Her grandmother offered to help. Laurie accepted the invitation and arrived at her grandmother's house feeling so stressed by this time that a minor provocation initiated a screaming temper tantrum. As Laurie explained, "The screaming and crying, as I began to understand, was a way for me to relieve my stress. But my grandmother didn't know that and offered to drive me home." Her stress level lowered after the crying and screaming, Laurie felt greatly relieved. She calmed down and was able to talk through her ideas with her grandmother. Then she spent the rest of the night completing the paper. Completely drained the next day and still running a mild fever, she stayed home from school but managed to send the paper in.
Can stress cause such physiological symptoms? How did this pattern begin?
Why did writing a paper trigger such a stressful response?
What kinds of strategies could Laurie have used to circumvent this situation?
What is the relationship between perfectionism, procrastination, and stress?
This chapter will provide information and activities to help answer these and other questions we may have about stress.
1. Gain an understanding of the origins and effects of stress
2. Identify stressors in their lives
3. Recognize how stress is manifested in self and others
4. Manage stress by using stress busters
5. Become familiar with stress prevention strategies