Record number of guns sold in 2020: Should We Be Concerned?

Amidst the abundance of coverage of the 2020 presidential election mixed with an evolving pandemic, here is a news story you may have missed: it’s 2020 and guns are more popular than ever in the US. According to data from Small Arms Analytics  to date, Americans have purchased nearly 17 million guns in 2020. This is more than any previous year on record. Handgun sales increased by 81% and long-gun sales increased by 51%. We saw a similar trend in 2016 when 16.6 million guns were sold. This was driven by increased rhetoric calling for strict gun control laws in the wake of several mass shootings. 

As psychiatrists and concerned citizens, this data is alarming. We know that the presence of a gun in the home alone increases the risk of suicide. Specifically, owning a handgun is associated with a dramatic increase in suicide risk. Men who owned handguns were eight times more likely to die by self-inflicted gunshot wound. Women who owned handguns were 35 times more likely to kill themselves with a gun. Access to guns in the home is such a concern for depressed patients that it’s a part of every psychiatric evaluation. Suicide is often an impulsive act, and many of those who survive a suicide attempt regret their actions. Guns permit people to be dangerously impulsive. Lethality of means determines whether a person will survive a suicide attempt. In the United States, where more civilians’ own firearms than any other country, our most lethal means are guns. Suicide attempt by firearm will most likely result in death: an irrevocable and permanent result of the combination of an impulsive decision and a gun.

So, what is this about? Is there an increased interest in hunting that some of us missed? The plain answer is no. Most guns purchased in the US are not intended for hunting; instead, people are purchasing guns for “protection.” The increase in gun sales comes at a point in history of great political and social unrest. Maybe it is unsurprising that people feel an urge to protect themselves and their families. Fear is at an all-time high.

You know what else is at an all-time high? Isolation, loneliness, anxiety and depression. The most well-adjusted people are struggling in 2020. Depressed moods can progress to clinical depression which may include suicidal thoughts as part of the diagnostic criteria. Now, we have a country full of depressed people buying guns. In the mental health field, we are scared. You should be too. The financial, political, and public health uncertainties of today’s world form a perfect substrate for depression, fear, and impulsivity. Adding a gun is not the way to fix it.

We know that gun access provides a substantial risk for suicide. It remains important that we educate our patients about the risk of gun ownership. This is especially important for patients who have a history of depression or other psychiatric disorders. All this could be a potentially dangerous combination of psychopathology, and access to lethal means. 

Why Labels Matter: A Personal Perspective

Introduction:

I’ve been writing a lot lately about the why words matter, and how the language we use can go on to influence our lives in many ways. In my clinical work with patients, I make an extra effort to explain the process of making a diagnosis. I also stress to my patients that diagnosis is a way of conceptualizing mental illness to help physicians design appropriate treatment plans. I want them to know that diagnosis is an imperfect process. When we label someone as “depressed or anxious,” we may not understand the lasting impact this can have on them. Many patients internalize and identify with being “depressed” sometimes to the detriment of their treatment. 

True Story:

I can share a personal perspective on the power of labels, because one particular label almost prevented me from becoming a physician. Imagine you are in fourth grade, and to that point you were already identified as “one of the least academically gifted” children in the class. At this point it was already clear there would be no gifted and talented classes for me. After another year of painful struggle academically, my parents requested I be tested by the child study team for a learning disability. At the time I did not know this was going to pretty much set the course for the rest of my academic career. Sure, enough, after what seemed like endless testing I was classified, given an individualized education plan (IEP), and placed in slower paced classes with fewer students. Now I had been officially labeled as having a learning disability. I had a real excuse to give up on any academic ambitions. 

Looking back on it, I’m not sure I even had a learning disability as much as the educational material and teaching was just so uninspiring. I continued through middle school, and high school and average student in below average classes, and I thought I was okay with that, after all I had a learning disability. I identified with this label which had a profound impact on my academics and ultimately set my medical career back five years. 

Famous Last Words:

The point of this is to help people who have been affected by labels. If you find yourself continually self-sabotaging, you may be allowing early labeling and the conditioning that comes with it to limit your potential. It’s important to accept your circumstances, and to try the treatments or interventions offered if you are not functioning well. However, we should not allow our life to be defined by these labels. Just because you have a learning disability or depression does not mean you cannot be successful. It took me many years to accept that I might actually be smart enough to go to medical school. I often think about how much further along I could have been if I did not identify with and internalize the idea of having a learning disability. Do not make the same mistake.

Medication Side Effects: “I feel nauseous”

Introduction:

Did you know that the researchers that conduct drug trials do not ask patients about specific side effects? Rather, they ask a generic question such as “are you having adverse reactions to the medication” the patient then has to self-report any specific side effects they are having. Sometimes physicians during medication management sessions will use a similar question when asking about side effects. Some physicians also make statements when prescribing the medication such as “don’t worry most people do not have side effects with this medication.” This is egregious, considering we know these medications have side effects as all medications do. What I want to do over the next several posts, is discuss the common side effects of SSRIs and what you can do about them. The biggest issue we face with psychiatric medications is adherence, and many times side effects play a role. 

I want to start with the most common side effects and work our way down. Nausea is one of the early side effects that is disturbing to patients and may result in discontinuation of the medication. Several things can be done to reduce the risk of nausea. 

Medication Starting Dose and Titration

One simple step could be to start the medication at the lowest possible dose and titrate slowly. Titrating the dose over one week has been shown to cut the risk of nausea in half. Another potential intervention is to split the dose and give the split dose with separate meals. If possible, use sustained/extended release preparations of the medication. For example, starting a patient on escitalopram 5 mg instead of 10 mg might help reduce the risk of nausea. Another simple change could be the timing of medication administration. Taking the medication after a meal may be helpful. Many patients find that food helps reduce the nausea and most of these medications can be taken with or without food. 

Ginger Is Good

If the above interventions fail to help you can consider ginger root. This dietary supplement can be purchased over the counter from your local health food store. Ginger root 550 mg one to two capsules up to three times per day if the slow titration and other intervention are ineffective. 

If All Else Fails

Finally, if the nausea does not respond to the above interventions then anti-nausea medications are appropriate. The two most commonly used at ondansetron and Mirtazapine which also blocks 5HT-3 receptors leading to reduced nausea. 

Medication Side Effects: Doctor my mouth is a little dry

Regular Dental Care and Oral Hygiene

Dry mouth is another common side effect from psychiatric medication. Patients on psychiatric medication often have poor dental care and poor dental outcomes. There is increased incidence of dental caries and oral ulcers in this population. This patient population is also three times more likely to lose all their teeth. Let that sink in for a moment. Now some of this is related to not following the recommended dental hygiene guidelines such as regular cleanings at least every 6-months. Thus, this is the first step in the process. Ensure the patient first has a dentist, and second be sure they are making regular 6-month appointments, and if they have issues with dental health, they should be going for cleanings as often as every 3 months. Oral hygiene is the foundation for the remainder of the interventions.

Gum, Candy, and Pilocarpine

Most patients are told to carry a bottle of water around and take frequent sips throughout the day. This does not work. It provides temporary relief, and does not address the underlying issue. You can educate the patient about drinking more water while eating which can help facilitate the swallowing process especially when dry mouth is an issue. Carrying a cup of ice can be helpful but is not convenient. What I prefer is the use of sugarless gum or candy which can be easily carried and chewed as needed. Studies have demonstrated that xylitol containing gum can reduce the levels of Mutans streptococci and lactobacilli in saliva and plaque. This has the potential to reduce the incidence of dental caries, and is an inexpensive option for most patients. I will also recommend as a second line using a mouth wash for dry mouth such as Biotene. If these interventions are not effective a medication to stimulate saliva production such as pilocarpine. In many cases pilocarpine eye drops which act locally is a better option than a medication that acts systemically. 

Final Words

Dry mouth is a common side effect patent’s experience but may not always bring to the clinician’s attention. There are interventions to treat this side effect that range from simple interventions like xylitol containing gum to pharmacological interventions such as pilocarpine eye drops. Most patients will experience relief with the above treatments. This highlights the importance of asking about specific side effects so they can be treated early and prevent long term Complications such as tooth loss. 

Shame and Stigma Caused by Male Infertility

Infertility is a Real Problem Many Couples Face

I had an interesting conversation the other day on the topic of male infertility. What’s most interesting, is we rarely discuss male causes of infertility in American Society. When infertility discussions occur, they are often focused on the female in the relationship. Recently there has been a focus on male causes of infertility. According to the centers for disease control (CDC) about 6 percent of married women age 15 to 44 are unable to get pregnant after 1 year of trying. About 12 percent of women aged 15 to 44 have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying to term. The CDC estimates that in a significant percent of infertile couples, male infertility is the cause. It’s clear from the CDC data, that not only is infertility common but there are both male and female factors at play. 

Stigma and Shame

As a psychiatrist, I’m no stranger to stigma and shame. It’s common and pervasive in the mental health community, although it’s improving slowly. It takes a lot for most men to make the decision to see a doctor and be tested in the first place. While gender roles are evolving in society many men balk at the idea that they may be the cause of the couple’s infertility. Most men will provide answers like “I’m doing great, I do not need to be tested” when the issue comes up. Now, imagine you are healthy young male in the prime of your life, and you are unable to conceive with your spouse after 1 year. You decide to get tested for male infertility and discover that you have a low sperm count. This can result in questions of masculinity, and profound shame for many men. This is especially relevant for males who see themselves as “alpha males” in other areas of life. The question becomes how can we have these conversations in a meaningful way while reducing stigma and shame in the process?

Understanding as a way Forward

Traditionally there has been more options for females seeking support while undergoing an infertility work up. Men simply did not talk about these issues in part because a structure and setting did not exist. This issue must be approached from an empathetic and nonjudgmental stance. A good place to begin any discussion on male infertility is with education about the topic. Once patients learn about how common these issues are, and the potential causes they can start seeing the problem like any other medical issue. Providing education during the evaluation as well as online resources that the patient can explore is a good start. I also like to explore how much the patient values having a biological child. We can explore the pros and cons of going through infertility treatments and decide how far the patient is wiling to go. It’s important to be clear about what the patient is willing or unwilling to do in this process. We want to emphasize throughout the discussion that receiving treatment does not make them any less of a man. Helping men to process their emotions and better understand their reaction to this information is essential.

Hopefully, more awareness about this issue will lead to increased access to therapists and other support networks for male patients dealing with infertility. 

Reducing Anxiety and Altering Patterns of Avoidance

Thinking Style in Anxious Patients 

  • There is a heightened level of attention to potential threats in the environment 
  • Example: A women with fear of airplanes has to fly across the country for work, she believes the plane is likely to crash despite the low risk of this actually occurring.

Predominant thinking patterns in Anxiety 

  1. Fears of harm and danger 
  2. Increased attention towards potential threats 
  3. Overestimation of the risk of situations 
  4. Automatic thoughts associated with danger, risk, uncontrollability, incapacity
  5. Underestimates of ability to cope with fearful situation 
  6. Misinterpretation of bodily stimuli 

Avoidance

  • The emotional and physical response to the feared object or situation is so severe that the person will do anything to avoid it. 
  • Because the avoidance behavior is rewarded with emotional relief, the behavior is more likely to occur when the person is faced with similar circumstances. 
  • Example: A person with anxiety is invited to a party and decides to make up an excuse not to go and the anxiety is relieved. Each time the person is faced with a similar situation they are likely to act the same way. 

CBT Model for Anxiety

  1. Unrealistic fear of objects or situations 
  2. A pattern of avoidance reinforces the belief that I cannot deal with the feared object or situation 
  3. The pattern of avoidance must be broken to overcome the anxiety. 

Behavioral Treatments

  • There are two general methods of behavior treatment for anxiety 
  • Reciprocal inhibition: A process of reducing emotional arousal by helping the person experience a positive or healthy emotion in place of the unhealthy one. (deep breathing, relaxation techniques) 
  • Exposure: expose yourself to the stressful situation, fear will occur but cannot be sustained indefinitely and the person will begin to adapt to the situation. 

Assessment of symptoms, triggers, and coping strategies

  1. What is the event that triggers the anxiety? 
  2. What are the underlying automatic thoughts, cognitive errors, and schema involved in the overreaction to the feared stimulus?
  3. What is the emotional and psychological response? 
  4. Habitual behaviors such as avoidance?

Cognitive Errors

  • Cognitive errors have been found to occur more often in people with depression and anxiety.
  • There are 6 main categories of cognitive errors 
  • Selective abstraction: A conclusion is drawn after looking at only a small amount of information. Other contradictory information is screened out to confirm the persons biased view of the situation.
  • Arbitrary inference: A conclusion is reached in the face of contradictory evidence or lack of evidence
  • Overgeneralization: a conclusion is made about one or more isolated incidents and then extended illogically to cover broad areas of functioning.
  • Magnification or minimization: The significance of an attribute event or sensation is exaggerated or minimized.
  • Personalization: external events are related to oneself when there is little or no evidence for doing so.
  • Absolutistic thinking: judgments about oneself, others or personal experiences are placed into one of two categories: All good or All bad

Techniques:

  1. Relaxation training: reducing muscle tension induces a state of relaxation and often results in reduced anxiety
  • Rate the level of anxiety and muscle tension on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being no tension and 100 being max tension 
  • Try making a fist and squeezing to a level of 100, then release it to a level of 0. Try doing so with the other hand. Notice that we have voluntary control over how much tension we feel. 
  • Starting with the legs tense and release each muscle group working your way up to the head. (I prefer to do this laying down) 
  • Try to keep positive mental images in your mind while doing this. Example: picture your tension and worries melting away like ice when left out in the sun. 
  • Try doing this daily for 1 week and record how you feel before and after a session.

2. Thought stopping: Stop negative thoughts and replace them with positive adaptive thoughts. 

  • Recognize: that a dysfunctional thought pattern is active 
  • Give self-instructions to interrupt the thought pattern:  Shift attention away from the anxiety provoking thought. (STOP! Or Don’t go there!) 
  • Consider guided images: try to imagine doing something enjoyable, playing a game, watching a sport, going on vacation. This can be combined with muscle relaxation  

3. Distraction: Develop several positive scenes that you can go to when anxious. Examples include walking in a nice park, going to your favorite restaurant, and spending time with friends/family 

4. Decatastrophizing: examine the evidenceto see that the likelihood of adverse outcomes is much less than we estimate

  • Estimate the likelihood: of the event occurring. Rate it on a scale of 0 to 100% 
  • Evaluate the evidence: for and against the event occurring 
  • Review the evidence list: now re-estimate the risk of the event occurring after going through the evidence 
  • Create an action plan: brainstorm strategies to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic occurring. Write down actions that you could take to prevent the feared outcome. 
  • Develop a plan for coping: if the event should occur. 
  • Reassess: compare the original rating to the new rating 
  • Debrief: What was good about working through a catastrophic event in this manner?

5. Deep Breathing

  • Aim for 30-60 breaths, 1-2 cycles
  • Start in the sitting position, hands on la or knees 
  • Take 10 breathes in through the nose and out through the mouth 
  • Take 10 breaths in through the nose and out through the nose 
  • Take 10 breaths in through the nose and hold for 5-10 seconds, then release out through the mouth 

6. Exposure: systematically or all at once (flooding) exposing yourself to the feared object or situation. This is the most important part of CBT for anxiety. Systematic desensitization: graded exposure, starting with less anxiety provoking situations 

  • Be specific: details matter, “stop being afraid to go to parties” is not specific “go to my neighbor’s house party for 20 minutes and talk to one person” 
  • Rate each step on a scale of 0 to 100 depending on how much anxiety you expect to occur 
  • Develop at least 8-12 scenarios that go from lowest to highest anxiety 
  • Work with the therapist to select to order of steps for graded exposure therapy 
  • Two types: imaginal and real-world exposure, depending on the case both may be used (good for OCD and PTSD)  

Medication Side Effects: Doctor I’m Gaining Weight!

One of the biggest challenges we face in the field of psychiatry is medication adherence. A large portion of the people fail to get better either because they do not start the medication, or do not take it as prescribed. One of the most common reason cited by patients for stopping medication is weight gain. In this article I will detail the approach I take to weight management for patients on psychiatric medications. 

Initial Visit: 

Weight management is a discussion that should happen between the patient and clinician at the first meeting. It’s important to use primary prevention (preventing the onset of weight gain) if possible. We always obtain some objective measures such as height, weight, and calculate the BMI on the initial visit and subsequent visits. Additional tests that may be ordered include HBA1C, fasting blood glucose, and lipid profile. This is where I will take the opportunity to discuss the importance of diet and exercise. For people with little diet or exercise experience I will keep the information very basic. The discussion will center around eliminating processed foods, calorie containing beverages, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, and making good choices when shopping at the food store. I have several handouts with food choices on them that help guide the patient when making food choices at the grocery store. I also recommend patient’s keep a food diary or track their food intake on a mobile app such as my fitness pal. This will help us to understand more about the patient’s eating habits and identify potential areas for improvement. I will build on diet interventions and monitor progress with the food diary or app at each visit. I do not recommend a specific diet, as it’s far more important for the patient to pick something they can be consistent with, and there are multiple ways to achieve weight management goals. At this time the closest diet we have that I’m comfortable recommending is the Mediterranean diet. There is some good evidence that the Mediterranean diet can have an antidepressant effect which is an added bonus.

Exercise

Exercise is the next area to address. I like to ask some screening questions about what type of physical activity the patient engages in, and how much experience they have with fitness/athletics. I will then ask them to track their exercise over the subsequent weeks prior to returning for follow up visit. On the initial visit I will recommend they begin a basic walking program of at least 30 minutes per day preferably seven days per week. This is a simple thing to incorporate on a daily basis, and does not require any special equipment or gym membership. We can improve on this routine and incorporate resistance training on a case by case basis. 

Medication Choice

The next step in the process is to make a medication choice that limits the potential for weight gain. Most psychiatric medications cause weight gain. This is an unavoidable fact. Avoiding the use of medications with the highest propensity of weight gain including Clozapine, Olanzapine, and Mirtazapine is good planning on the physician’s part. It’s important to note that it’s not always possible to avoid these medications. Medications such as Aripiprazole which are considered to be weight neutral, from clinical experience are not weight neutral at all. It’s important for the clinician to make good choices if weight gain is a potential issue that will interfere with treatment.

Medication For Weight Management

My last line of defense against weight gain which often comes too late is medication management. I like to start with Metformin extended release 500 mg daily after the largest meal. This is to test the patient’s tolerance for the medication. The goal is to titrate to 2000 mg/day in divided doses. A B12 level should be checked once per year as Metformin has been known to reduce levels. There is evidence in the literature from a Meta-analysis of all RCTs supporting the use of Metformin for antipsychotic induced weight gain. The important thing to remember is to start the medication at the earliest signs of weight gain, or even before the onset of weight gain in high risk patients. The patients most likely to benefit are those who are younger, more recently started on antipsychotics, overweight but nor obese, and those that had rapid weight gain. 

The second medication I will talk about is Topiramate There is evidence from RCTs to support the use of Topiramate for antipsychotic induced weight gain. There is greater weight loss with Topiramate over placebo, with a mean decrease of 2.8 kg. The effective dose for the medication is 100 to 200 mg/day depending on the patient’s tolerance. Getting to an effective dose can often take some time with this medication.

Final Points

Weight management discussions begin day one when medications are going to be used. Prevention is the first line option with lifestyle modification including diet and exercise. Medication choice also plays a big role. When initiating medication being mindful of the propensity for weight gain, and using medications that are weight neutral if possible, can help. If these measures fail, there are a few options backed by research evidence which can be used but I believe lifestyle modification is the best option. 

Help, I think I’m a Narcissist

Introduction

It seems like everywhere I look there’s a video or article with titles such as “how to tell if you’re a narcissist” or “is your significant other a narcissist.” This got me thinking about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), and why everyone thinks they or someone they know has this disorder. 

Brief Review of NPD Criteria from DSM-5 (5 out of 9 required) 

-Grandiose sense of self-importance 

-Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited power, success, beauty etc. 

-Believes they are special and unique 

-Requires excessive admiration 

-Has a sense of entitlement (unreasonable expectations) 

– Interpersonally exploitative 

-Lacks empathy 

-Often envious of others or believes others are envious of them 

-Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes 

Distinction Between a Disorder, and being a Jerk 

There is an important distinction between having NPD and having narcissistic traits. In diagnosing NPD there is a long list in DSM-5 of which the person must have 5 out 9 criteria to qualify for the diagnosis. These criteria will be present in all circumstances and relationships. Most importantly it must cause impairment in function and a subjective sense of distress. If the person meets these criteria, and it’s working for them in their life, they would not be diagnosed with NPD. You need to have the functional impairment, that is what makes it a disorder. Although these people may not have a disorder, it still does not make them a pleasure to be around. There can still be relationship difficulties both professionally and on a personal level.

Common Types of Narcissism 

The classic grandiose narcissist, this is the kind of person who cannot stop bragging about what they have, and what they have done. They tend to enjoy showing off symbols of status such as new cars or even attractive partners. They do things based on what will get them the most admiration and recognition from others rather than personal values. These types are encountered on a regular basis, you may know people like this in your personal life. 

There is a classic example of the highly successful professional who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals even if it’s at the expense of others. So naturally one place you may encounter these individuals is in the workplace. These types will exploit other people, cheat, work the system, whatever they can do to get ahead. They are usually successful and superficially charming. This pattern is less commonly encountered in daily life.

Oregon First to Legalize Psilocybin for Mental Health Treatment

On Tuesday Oregon became the first state to legalize the psychedelic prodrug found in magic mushrooms. Measure 109 will give legal access to psilocybin for mental health treatment in supervised settings. 

Having followed the research on psilocybin at Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research, I am aware of the growing body of research on this topic. Most of the results presented seem to indicate significant benefit with limited side effects. The research I reviewed involves the use of psilocybin for the treatment of substance use disorder. However, I am aware of positive results in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and to enhance the effects of psychotherapy. I am a believer that we need to look at all potential options for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. We know that our current medications only solve some of the problem’s patients are facing. Chronic disorders like substance use and depression remain major clinical challenges. 

As a psychiatrist I’m conflicted about the decision to start offering this treatment even in supervised settings. Like Cannabis, we are only in the beginning stages of studying these drugs as medication. As a physician you remain a scientist first, and as a scientist you want to give the research time to develop. In the United States cannabis remains federally illegal (schedule I). This means funding for research is difficult to obtain. The same is true for psilocybin. We need increased ability to study these drugs as medications and determine the true risks and benefits. There are many anecdotal accounts of the benefits of both these drugs, but I do not believe this is enough to potentially risk your health on. 

I believe research will elicit positive benefits for both cannabis and psilocybin. However, I urge caution when considering these options as potential treatment for mental health disorders. 

Election Anxiety Solutions

Anxiety is a part of life; we all experience it. The amount of anxiety a person experiences is to some degree related to how important a particular outcome is to that person. It seems like everything these days is high stakes and anxiety provoking. There is a global pandemic that continues to create chaos around the world, economic uncertainty, gender and racial inequality, and now a presidential election.

People are more anxious than ever about this presidential election. According to a recent article by the American Psychological Association 68% of U.S. adults say the 2020 U.S. presidential election is a significant source of stress. This is compared to the 2016 election where 52% of U.S. adults found the election stressful. It might just be a symptom of the times, but it remains a significant concern. If you are having election anxiety here are some simple ways to reduce stress and anxiety during this election cycle. 

  1. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Set a regular sleep time and wake time. Make sure the room you sleep in is as conducive to sleep as possible (e.g. dark room with no ambient light). Limit the bed to sleep and sex only, do not play games on your phone or read in bed. If you can’t sleep get out of the bed and do a mildly strenuous activity. A good example is a crossword puzzle, then come back to bed when you feel tired. If you are not sleeping well it can cause problems in other areas of life such as mood and cognitive function. 
  2. Get outside or stay inside whichever you prefer, but make sure to move. Exercise is a great way to cope with stress and anxiety. There are countless free guided exercise routines on sites like YouTube that require little or no equipment to perform. If you do not like that option, take a walk in your favorite park, take a bike ride, or go for a hike on your favorite trail. 
  3. Limit your consumption of news throughout the day. Set aside one or two times per day to check the news and see what is going on with the election. Resist the urge to continually check in and get play by play updates. This simple, but difficult to follow advice will save you a lot of stress and anxiety. 
  4. Avoid talking to people in your life about the election who are unable to keep their emotions under control while discussing the topic. You should have a good idea of who these people are in your life. This will save you a lot of stress and anxiety by simply choosing to talk about other topics with those individuals.
  5. The last thing I recommend for people who want an activity they can perform to reduce stress is a thought journal . This can be as simple as a piece of paper that you record the thoughts on. There are printable versions of this online. I will provide a link to one such example here. This is a common technique used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) all the time.

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