This is an article review of “Stress Management Through Written Emotional Disclosure Improves Academic Performance Among College Students With Physical Symptoms” by Mark A. Lumley and Kimberly M. Provenzano. It was published by the Journal of Educational Psychology in 2003. The article examines the effects of using writing to overcome stress-related physical symptoms. Extreme stress often leads to somatic symptoms in individuals. These somatic symptoms may also compromise the individual’s life. An individual suffering from pain or headaches is less likely to be successful in his or her endeavors. The study also inspects if there is a positive effect on Grade Point Average (GPA) for students who utilize this stress-management tool. All students, but especially nursing students, should strive to improve their overall academic performance. Nursing students need to learn material that affects the life of their patients, increasing the necessity for good academic performance.

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Students often suffer from stress which can negatively impact their emotional and physical health. In turn, this negative impact results in adverse outcomes for the academic performance of students. The authors discuss the causes of stress in college students. They also state “consequences of a stressful experience hinge on how the event and attendant emotions are processed” (Lumley & Provenzano, 2003, p. 641). Adverse consequences occur when an individual attempts to suppress emotions. The authors examine the ability of writing about negative events as a means to mitigate the harmful effects of the events.

In order to evaluate the ability of writing to help handle stress, the authors asked students to either write about traumatic events in their lives or about a neutral topic. The students writing about the neutral topic served as a control. The experiment lasted for four days. The authors also examined the somatic symptoms of stress in their subjects. These included headaches, pain, soreness and difficulty breathing. Participants rated their moods immediately before writing and immediately after writing. This would allow the researchers to determine the immediate effects of the writing assignments. They also examined the GPAs of the students in the semester of the experiment, as well as the GPAs in the following semester.

Overall, the researchers discovered that students who had an improvement in moods through writing would also have an improvement in GPA over the next semester. This indicates that writing about stressful events has a protective effect on the overall stress level of an individual. Journaling has often been recommended as a means to reduce stress in individuals. By processing negative emotions, the individual will likely learn better ways to deal with these negative feelings (WebMD, 2009). Other studies have indicated that stress does have a negative impact on academic performance. A study of first year medical students indicated that stress negatively impacted academic performance. Coping mechanisms, such as humor, improved academic performance among those experiencing stress (Stewart, Lam, Betson, Wong, & Wong, 1999, p. 243). Obviously, medical students correlate to nursing students due to the large amount of material to learn, as well as the stress of dealing with critical situations.

Overall, this study indicates that writing offers a protective mechanism against stress for college students. As a nursing student, the level of stress may be higher than the average college student. Nursing students encounter critically ill individuals, which could result in higher levels of stress. Therefore, daily journaling may be a useful tool for individuals to reduce the level of stress. As a nursing student, I would benefit from spending a few minutes daily writing about my experiences and the stress that results from them. This will help reduce my overall level of stress and allow me to better process the negative emotions associated with my chosen occupation. Eventually, this will increase my academic performance. By performing better academically, my stress level related to school will also likely decrease. I suggest that all students utilize this simple and cost-effective means of reducing stress. Furthermore, even after graduation, this tool may be of great assistance to an individual.

  • Lumley, MA., & Provenzano, KM. (2003) Stress management through written emotional discourse improves academic performance among college students with physical symptoms. J Educ Psychol, 95(3), 641-649.
  • Stewart, SM., Lam, TH, Betson, CL., Wong, CM., & Wong, AM. (1999, April) A prospective analysis of stress and academic performance in the first two years of medical school. Med Educ., 33(4), 243-250.
  • WebMD (2009, October) Stress management. Retrieved May 31, 2013, from: