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"Stress Attack? What a great name for a mixed drink!"

--Russ Upton

First off, this isn't the same thing as a panic attack; where a panic attack implies a loss of control, a stress attack usually results in an amazing amount of self-control. This is what happens when you wake up Monday morning and you know--you just know, all the way to the core of your being--that you have absolutely no time to waste anywhere in the next seven days. It's not that you don't have enough; if the list of things to do clearly outweighed the amount of time, a healthy, helpless apathy would set in. It helps to be able to see the other side, to be able to identify something you can do for fun when you're out of the weeds, like, "Sunday, I'm going to watch The Simpsons, get shit-faced, and skip all my Monday classes."

This should be familiar to anyone in a theatre program, especially anyone who does tech--you're probably nodding along and saying, "yeah, it's Hell Week." A Hell Week is a good place to start, because it culminates in a show; other good ingredients for a Friday include Senior Projects, a briefing for the General, and suchlike. Add a few upper-level exams, important meetings, or random mid-level due dates that can't be pushed back, and it simmers. Add an important social function that requires a large block of time, cool nerves, and absolutely can't be missed(wedding, job interview, an old relative's birthday out of town...) and your stress attack will start to boil.

During a good, long stress attack, I ordinarily experience any number of the following:
  • irregular pulse -- too fast or too slow
  • hours of intense focus interrupted by short bursts of manic energy
  • increased sex drive
  • amazingly tight reflexes and coordination
  • apathy towards pet peeves--general "cool" attitude
  • decreased need for sleep (4 hours max) and nutrition
  • a dim awareness, once or twice a day, that my entire body aches, and is slowly growing to resent all this "frontal brain function" bullshit
  • absolute inability to recall events from long-term memory, or add anything new to long-term memory
Your mileage may vary, of course, but I recommend staying hydrated and warmly clothed (they don't have to be clean clothes, but keep your body temperature up). Caffeine is optional, but it will dehydrate you and burn you out faster... your pick. Hackers familiar with deep hack mode may have other guidelines for dealing with eyestrain and wrist cramps. No matter what, make sure that one or two friends know what you're going through. If they have any brains, they'll tell the rest of your friends and you'll have a good support network for your stress attack. And remember:

"Real stress is waking up screaming, and realizing that you weren't asleep."
--scrawled on a desk at JHU during exam week