Prof. McMahand

English Composition



Below are two prompts for Essay Two.  Choose one; follow the instructions and prepare your essay accordingly.


Prompt 1: Under Pressure:  Psychology, Stress, and Self-Analysis



Begin with the journal.  Keep it for two weeks during which time you document events and/or circumstances that create stress in your life, the level of stress you feel, and how you react to and/or cope with that stress.  You should have at least 14 entries and five handwritten pages of journal documents.  Your journal should contain a simple psychological designation of your stress and response, outlining your stress types (eustress, distress), the cause or source, and your capacity for coping.  In your journal, suggest how you might improve your coping skills in the future.  Finally, you should chart or graph your  stress symptoms (hostility, nail-biting, social withdrawal, fast driving, smoking, impatience, procrastination, and so on) and what exactly you do to manage or relieve your stress—music, video games, exercise, etc. 

Next, you will gather your information—guiding concepts from “A Brief History of Stress,” “How to Stay Cool Under Pressure,” and most importantly, your journal. 


Your essay must accomplish the following tasks: include a title, be properly formatted, introduce yourself (as a student and/or worker), explain your stress types, discuss your coping tools, and use one or two quotations from one of these brief articles on stress, adding explanations. 


Keep the paper focused with a strong thesis that captures what your experience has taught you about yourself, stress, and your coping skills.  Your thesis may emphasize how or why you think your coping skills proved successful or ineffective or somewhere in between. Otherwise, your thesis may address how your experience/experiment has revealed some truth about yourself—some strength or some failing—that enables or endangers your capacity as a student and/or worker.  A thesis might read: After two weeks of self-analysis, I realized that I increased my stress about completing school assignments by procrastinating, playing video games mostly, but this behavior only temporarily decreased my anxiety and overall made me more stressful.   


Your essay must also chronicle your experience with stress over the allotted two weeks—how you experience the stress, designate its type, what triggers it, and what works best in terms of stress relief.  Even though you are required to include these points of discussion, you may also expand on other issues and ideas.  Some people may find, for example, that their stress relief may be insufficient or may become a source of stress in itself.      






Prompt 2: Breaking Bad: Charting and Analyzing Self-Restraint



Begin with the journal.  Keep a two-week record that scrupulously details your  attempt to change a personal behavior you would like to stop, lessen, or modify: eating excessive amounts of chocolate, “Facebooking,” “Pinteresting,” gossiping, smoking, Tweeting, cursing, under-sleeping, complaining, drinking alcohol, eating meat, smoking, playing video games, or whatever you choose.  The journal must make serious and painstaking notes of your experience, detailing the psychological strategies you use (such as positive and negative reinforcements) and the success/failure of your attempts.  You should have at least 15 entries and five handwritten pages of journal documents.  Finally, you should pencil out a chart or graph of the level of your success at changing your habit.  Estimate how often you performed your habit before the experiment, and carefully record how much that habit declines in the two weeks. 



This habit or predilection must be important to you, a significance that you stress in the essay.  Articulate the habit you are breaking as well as your struggle to modify or end it.  Tell how easy or how difficult the experiment is and what and who all enabled your success or failure.  


Your thesis may derive from any one of these points above as long you align the idea to your experience and discussion.  (Your thesis must be argumentative, not fact-based.  So don’t write anything along the lines of “I tried to stop texting while driving and discovered that I had a difficult time resisting the temptation.”)  Instead, offer a thesis that explains what stress type or psychic effect your habit addresses, how positive and negative reinforcement affects your habit-breaking efforts, or what your habit has taught you about yourself as well as those people who contribute to your success/failure in breaking or modifying the habit.


Format your essay and include a title, and be sure to quote once or twice from “Think Differently to Break Bad Habits,” explaining your quotations and their relevance to your discussion.  Apply the terms and concepts positive and negative reinforcement and discuss the psychological stresses that arise from your exercise in restriction and denial.  Why did you try to break or alter the habit of your choice?  Do you foresee any long-term rewards?  Are any short-term rewards already apparent?

General Requirements

Whatever prompt you choose for this essay composition, be sure that the final draft contains the following components.  Failure to do so may result in a lower grade.

Three pages,

Times New Roman, 12 font,

MLA formatted, with Works Cited page,

Final Draft,

Rough Draft, marked as such (in pen, if you prefer)


Journal Entries,

Place inside flat, paper folder with pockets