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11 Direct Ways To Reduce Stress

11 Direct Ways To Reduce Stress

In today’s hyper-competitive and busy world, where global urbanization and technology have become an integral part of our lives, we all lead incredibly stressful lives. Stress has become an unavoidable part of our daily routine and it keeps on building up for a variety of reasons, including never-ending bills, unemployment or unsatisfying jobs, finances, relationship issues, and a whole other set of problems we face daily.

It has become harder to buffer ourselves from the world, so we need to dial it back a notch and treat ourselves with some peace and quiet from time to time. In order for us to achieve that, we need to reorganize our lives, set priorities and not allow the days to merge into one another, filled merely with work and obligations.

When stress becomes overwhelming, it can impact our mood and our productivity, but most importantly, it can affect our physical and mental health. Not only can it weaken our immune system and cause anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and muscle pain, but it can also lead to major illnesses such as depression and heart disease.

The good news is that it is manageable and can be reduced, or even relieved completely. There are steps you can take to reduce stress and alleviate even just a bit of the discomfort.

1. Enter the enchanting world of books

Feeling stressed out? Pick up your favorite book and leave reality and worries behind. Curling up with a good book can boost your mind and well-being. It is the most effective way to relax and overcome stress. Reading may also help you sleep better. Getting lost in a book before bedtime can calm your mind and prepare your body for a good night’s sleep.

Books can also help ease depression. So, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by your job or your everyday house chores, take that book, sit back in your most comfortable chair, and enter the world of magic. Read about the ancient Roman Empire, the myths and legends of the Greek gods, the stories about faraway lands and kingdoms of fantasy worlds, the classics that shaped the face of world literature – anything that lifts your spirits and makes you forget all about the source of your stress.

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2. Travel

The pace of the modern life is making it extremely difficult for us to switch off, so a little time away from home can serve as a therapy session and help unwind the mind. Travel somewhere you’ve never been before. Meet new cultures, explore new lands, and go see some ancient sights for the first time. Try new food, meet new people, and get out of your comfort zone.

However, if you have a favorite place you’ve been to, enjoyed a lot and would like to visit again, travel there. Why not? Familiarity with the place can bring tranquility and help you relax even more. After you’ve recharged your batteries on a vacation, you won’t be stressed out and everyday life will be much more fun than usual.

3. Go camping

Woman camping in forest

    If you’re not in a position to travel somewhere far, don’t worry. Find yourself a place near your home, where you can set up a camp and tune your senses to nature. Embrace the wilderness, light a camp fire, set up a barbecue, and enjoy all the colors of the natural world. Tune out of all the technological distractions and leave the digital world behind – it will still be there when you return home. The reception probably won’t be good anyway, so by turning everything off you rid yourself of the only thing you would be stressing over during camping.

    Unplugging from the tech world can be extremely pleasant, if you’re willing to try it. One of the best parts of being outdoors is the sound of nature. The chirping of the birds, the sound of the stream flowing, or the rustling of the leaves on the ground can all help you relax and connect with nature. Leaving a campsite for a brief walk in the woods, or by the nearest river or a lake, can also help you become one with nature and find your inner peace.

    4. Walk it off

    You can also effectively relieve yourself of stress by simply taking a walk through your neighborhood. When you’re filled with negative emotions, walking can be one of the best cures you can get. It can have a positive effect on your mood and mental health, and it can be a very powerful stress reducer. Taking your daily walks can lead to a much healthier life, since it reduces stress, helps with depression, and improves your mood. Take a leisurely stroll through the streets or go to the park.

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    As you walk, remember to look up. There’s a whole new world up there that you never seem to notice while rushing to go to work or talking to someone. Take a moment to admire a new building or a balcony somewhere high up that reminds you of a castle from your favorite movie. Visit a museum or a gallery and fall in love with a piece of art. Enjoy your time alone and seize every moment of it. You will feel better than ever.

    5. Play that funky music

    It comes as no surprise that music can reduce stress, right? There’s no doubt that listening to your favorite music can instantly put you in a great mood. This is because music has an impact both on the part of the brain controlling emotions and the part controlling blood pressure. Therefore, when your brain recognizes slow rhythms, your blood pressure slows down. It is believed that classical music is the most effective one when it comes to reducing stress levels, but you can achieve the same goal by simply listening to whatever appeals to you and soothes you the most.

    Put on some good music while reading and enjoy a whole new experience. Turn up the volume while doing your chores and make it all more fun and interesting. If you like listening to music while taking your daily walks, create a playlist on your phone, put headphones on, press play, and escape to the outside world.

    6. Indulge in physical activity

    Training at the gym

      Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym and lifting a set of weights. Simply stretching your muscles in the morning or taking a walk can offer you immediate relief from stress. Walking to the nearest restaurant during a break at work can also do the trick. Physical activity is the best way to instantly get your body to release endorphins and positively affect your mood. Jogging outdoors can make you much happier than working out inside of a gym or your home, since nature and fresh air have a greater effect on your emotions. Adopting a few good habits will help you dramatically change your body over time, and it’s never too late to start.

      Listening to music during your workout can improve your mood and motivate you to exercise even harder. Once you get in the habit of being physically active, start incorporating more challenging exercises into your daily routine. You can always go for a run or a bicycle ride, or take aerobic classes or go swimming. The choice is yours – either way, it’s the healthiest thing you’ll ever do.

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      7. Meditate

      For thousands of years people have used meditation for different reasons. Nowadays, it is primarily used as a stress reliever, and an effective one at that. When you start meditating, the process immediately decreases blood pressure and the production of stress hormones, particularly if you combine it with calm music and relaxing essential oils, leaving you with far less stress and anxiety than you started with. The more you meditate, the less stressed you are.

      Meditation isn’t necessarily sitting in a particular way and adopting a special pose. You can actually do it anywhere quiet and any time you want. Yoga and meditation can improve the quality of your life by allowing you to simply pull the plug on the world around you and let your whole body relax. Try it at home or somewhere out in the open, and you will be absolutely amazed at how quickly you will be relieved of all the stress and negative energy inside you.

      8. Find a hobby

      Hobbies are also a great way to reduce stress. You can take anything you like and feel passionate about and make it your hobby. What could be more fun? Choose anything you’re interested in and start doing it in your free time. Your hobby could be reading books, or even writing one. Why not? If you’re a creative person, maybe you’ll end up writing for a living and become one of those rare lucky ones who do what they love and get paid for it.

      If you like painting, you can bring some canvas to life. If photography is your beloved, you can try and capture all the unforgettable moments with your family and friends and make some everlasting memories. You get the point. You can do pretty much anything that makes you happy and in the moment you start doing that, you will instantaneously feel better.

      9. Get a pet

      If you’ve ever owned a pet, you are already familiar with all the benefits pets come with. Not only is playing with them fun, but it can also improve your emotional, mental, and physical health. Apart from the fact that cuddling with a pet reduces overall stress levels, it can actually lower the risk of a heart attack and decrease blood pressure. Pets provide companionship, so say goodbye to the feeling of loneliness and embrace the joy and happiness they bring.

      Dogs in particular can best reduce stress and anxiety and become your most loyal friends since they are attuned to human’s emotions and can understand your feelings and emotional state. However, if you’re not a dog person, pretty much any pet you can have will elevate your levels of serotonin and dopamine and thus calm you both physically and emotionally. Caring for a pet will lift your spirits and fill you with joy, and you will receive all of the unconditional love you can get.

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      10. Connect with people

      Friends sitting together

        Another way to successfully beat stress is meeting with friends. Friends and loved ones are important to any healthy lifestyle. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and just can’t seem to shake it off, call your best friend or a member of your family and talk to them. The conversation with a close person will immediately make you feel better.

        Meet them for a drink or a walk through the park, go to the movies together or hit the dance floor. The list is endless. Friends are the best therapy there is and you will enjoy every moment with them no matter where you are. So pick up a phone, call your friend and see how everything is put to perspective once you hear a reassuring voice on the other end of the line.

        11. Laugh it off

        Nothing brings you back on track like a good old laughter. It is the most powerful antidote to stress and it brings joy into your life. Laughter can boost your energy, strengthen your immune system, and, since it lowers stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins, it can fill you with happiness. Laughing brings people together and drives away all stress-related problems as if they never existed.

        It is absolutely the best medicine there is, and it will keep you both physically and emotionally healthy. Another important thing is that it’s contagious and leads to a longer life. So, don’t forget to smile today and the whole world will smile with you!

        We all manage stress differently and although it may seem sometimes as if the whole world is on your shoulders and the walls are closing in around you because of the immense feeling of anxiety, you need to simply take a deep breath and use some of the aforementioned tips to successfully shake off that feeling. Take control over stress and take care of yourself. Take charge of every stressful situation and deal with it with a smile on your face. Don’t forget to nurture yourself. Make time for fun and relaxation and head on the road to your stress-free mind palace. If you’re reading this, you’re already halfway there.

        More by this author

        Vladimir Zivanovic

        CMO at MyCity-Web

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        Last Updated on March 30, 2020

        Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

        Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

        Feeling tired all the time?

        Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

        I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

        Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

        If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

        In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

        What Happens When You’re Too Tired

        If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

        Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

        • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
        • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
        • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
        • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
        • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
        • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
        • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

        Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

        Unfortunately, yes!

        Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

        Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

        Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

        Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

        Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

        Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

        1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
        2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
        3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

        The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

        It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

        Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

        Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

        If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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        Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

        Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

        But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

        Symptoms of fatigue include:

        • Difficulty concentrating
        • Low stamina
        • Difficulty sleeping
        • Anxiety
        • Low motivation

        These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

        Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

        How Much Sleep Is Enough?

        The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

        Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

        So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

        The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

        Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

        Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

        If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

        And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

        It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

        4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

        Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

        1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
        2. Exercising regularly
        3. Using stressbusters
        4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

        So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

        After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

        In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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        I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

        Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

        • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
        • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
        • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
        • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

        The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

        And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

        But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

        L — Living Healthy

        Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

        So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

        In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

        As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

        Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

        1. Unplug

        Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

        So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

        2. Unwind

        Do something to relax.

        Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

        3. Get Comfortable

        Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

        Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

        Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

        Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

        If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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        Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

        This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

        E — Exercise

        Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

        That’s what happened in my case.

        But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

        As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

        My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

        That made sense to me.

        So, I decided to swim.

        I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

        Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

        Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

        So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

        If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

        A — Attitude

        Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

        When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

        Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

        Breathing.

        But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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        Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

        1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
        2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
        3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
        4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
        5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
        6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

        This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

        When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

        Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

        N — Nutrition

        Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

        If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

        Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

        For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

        Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

        Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

        1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
        2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
        3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
        4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
        5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
        6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
        7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
        8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
        9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

        Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

        That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

        Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

        The Bottom Line

        If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

        If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

        If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

        • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
        • Regular Exercise You Love
        • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
        • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

        Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

        More Tips to Help You Rest Better

        Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
        [2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
        [3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
        [4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
        [5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
        [6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
        [7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
        [8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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