The confidence game: Steps to build your self-esteem

12 Sep 18
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This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.

Confidence will help you reach your goals, but you can’t just switch on self-confidence , it needs to be built up over time. Here are some steps you can take to improve your confidence.

Step 1: Recognise and challenge negative thoughts

Do you believe your own thoughts, without question? Most of us do. After all, why would your own mind lie to you? The truth is thoughts are not facts. Sometimes your train of thought can get stuck in a negative loop that takes you nowhere. You need to stop that train and hop off.

Recognising and changing negative thoughts can help you improve your confidence. Practice speaking to yourself in encouraging ways. Talk to yourself in the same way you would talk to a friend to convince them to change if they were being negative about themselves. You should treat yourself just as kindly.

Do you often get bogged down in negative thinking? Ask yourself:

  • Can I think differently about my situation?
  • Do I hold myself to an unreasonable standard?
  • Am I only focusing on the negatives?

If so, work on challenging yourself to take a more optimistic outlook. There are resources online that can help, such as this TED talk.

Step 2: Practice positive self-care

Building your confidence will empower you in every aspect of your life. Here are some small changes you can make to help you feel more confident:

  • Make a list of accomplishments, no matter how small and reflect on each achievement. For example, if you spent the morning doing the gardening, spend some time admiring your work.
  • Add to your list of accomplishments regularly by setting small, achievable goals. For example, “Today I’ll read some information online about what options there are to get help. Tomorrow, I’ll read some stories about other people’s recovery on the forum.” Achieving small goals will help you prepare for the big ones, like reaching out for support from someone you trust, or a professional counsellor.
  • Practice self-care. You could take a few extra minutes to groom yourself before you go out. Dress a little smarter and walk a little taller. You deserve to have a good day.

Step 3: Reach out

You are on a challenging journey, but you don’t have to do it alone:

  • Surround yourself with caring people. If people around you are supportive, you are more likely to feel that you deserve to be supported. The people who love you want to help you. If there’s something they can do for you, tell them.
  • Seek support from professionals. It can be daunting to approach a professional gambling counsellor for the first time, but it is worth taking the chance. You can phone a free Gambling Help counsellor 24/7 on 1800 858 858.
  • Check out forums — they are a safe and supportive space to connect with others who understand what you’re going through.

If you’re ready to speak to a counsellor, call 1800 858 858 to speak to a Gambling Help counsellor. You’ll speak confidentially with a trained counsellor who can share techniques to help you take control of your gambling. Add making the call to your list of accomplishments!

From relapse to recovery: 6 steps to move on

28 Aug 18
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A relapse might be part of your journey when making a change to your gambling. Don’t lose courage: with time and practice, you can regain the confidence to control your gambling. 

“Gary” is a frequent caller to our helpline who recently experienced a relapse. When he decided to quit gambling, he thought it would be ok if he kept just one of his online accounts open, in case he needed money. He was trying hard not to gamble, but then he found himself caught up in the excitement about an upcoming race and he gave in. The next day, he realised the temptation of having the account was too much for him, so he closed it.

He immediately felt stronger. Gary recognised his triggers, so the temptation became manageable. 

Gary called the helpline and told a counsellor that he knew this relapse would not defeat him. This was not the end of his journey to stop gambling, it was just a diversion in his path. 

When callers like Gary get back on track, they feel stronger. With time, they think back on the relapse as if it were a bad dream. They leave the relapse in the past. You can too! 

After a relapse:

Stop for a moment

Realise: The relapse is an opportunity to learn about yourself and your triggers. Insight will make you stronger next time.

Identify your triggers

Think about your day: what provoked the urge to gamble? Sometimes, if we haven’t identified our triggers, the urge can seem irresistible.

It’s not: once you understand your triggers, you can guard yourself against them. 

Be prepared

Learn from this relapse. Once you have identified your triggers, you can challenge them when they tempt you. Over time, they will lose their power.

Remember

Be kind to yourself, and seek support. 

Make a plan to move on:

  1. It’s important to understand your emotions. Discuss what happened with someone you can trust. Together, you can make a plan to move on. 
  2. Develop a list of possible triggers, and strategies to help you challenge them. Next time you’re confronted by a trigger, it will be easier to resist if you are prepared. 
  3. Only carry small amounts of money. 
  4. Seek professional support. A professional can help you develop strategies that will empower you to withstand urges that might otherwise feel out of control. 
  5. Identify small milestones to help motivate you. You’re working hard: celebrate every milestone.
  6. Seek support from others on our forum. Many of our posters have also recovered from a relapse. You’re not alone: you can work on moving on together.

Reach out:

If you’re struggling with a relapse, chat with a counsellor. You can get started online or call the free Gambling Helpline to speak to a local service on 1800 858 858. You’ll speak confidentially with a trained counsellor who can share techniques to help you bounce back. 

Resistance – how to deal with temptation

16 Aug 18
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This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.

If you’ve been tempted to gamble again after quitting, you’re not alone. Some people can address their problems by stopping altogether, but for some the urge resurfaces and can be difficult to resist. Callers to our Helpline often feel tested and find excuses to tell themselves: this time, gambling will be okay.  

Does this sound familiar? Stand up to the thoughts that tempt you.

If you think:

Instead, tell yourself:

I could just have one shot — $20 would be no big deal.

I can put that $20 away and save for something I really want, like that trip to Thailand with the kids.

I haven’t gambled for 12 months. My life is different now and I’ve changed.

My life is better now and I have the strength to protect it.

I can stay in control around friends while they gamble.

My friends love me and want me to succeed in my decision to stop gambling. We should do something we can all enjoy.

I deserve to gamble.

I’ve worked hard and deserve to protect myself and the life I’ve built.

I can control my gambling now.

The best way to prove I’m in control is not gambling.

When you want to give in, take a breath and think it through. Remember, you have worked hard to get to this point. You can resist.

Take proactive steps to help yourself avoid temptation:

  • Avoid situations that trigger the urge to gamble.
  • Avoid having access to money by leaving debit cards at home.
  • Talk to a friend who understands how much you are committed to overcoming the desire to gamble. 
  • Go for a walk, watch a favourite television show or read a book to help you delay gambling. Many people find that if they can delay, the urge passes, and they find strength in their resistance.

Remember: you’re not alone in this journey. See how other people handle their urges on our forum.

You can also call the free Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858. You’ll speak confidentially with a trained counsellor who can share techniques to help you manage your gambling, quit gambling, or come back from a lapse.

Balance is the key – simple steps to rebalance your life

1 Jun 18
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This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.

A well balanced life is important for your well-being.

Developing awareness about the different parts of your life and where they are at is important to help create balance.  

Neglecting key parts of your life can lead to stress and anxiety. For example, when gambling becomes a problem it can take over other important areas of your life, which upsets your balance.

Taking time to look at how balanced your life is at the moment can help you identify areas that you need to work on.&

Use a pie chart to stand back and see the big picture. Pie charts are a simple way to identify areas that need your attention. They provide a visual picture of the way you are living your life. This information helps you consider the way it is now, and how you’d like it to look.

Try this simple activity:

  1. Take a piece of paper and draw a big circle, this will be your pie.
  2. Think about each area of your life and how much time you dedicate to it. Areas of your life might include:
    • gambling
    • work or study 
    • family commitments 
    • social life
    • sport or leisure activities 
    • rest or sleep
    • personal needs or grooming
    • gardening
    • house work.
  3. Cut up the pie and give each slice a label that reflects the area of your life. The size of the slice should reflect how much time you dedicate to that area.
  4. Reflect on how much of the pie gambling takes up.  Are there other parts of your life that you want to spend more time on?

An easy way to get the balance right is to stop for a moment and consider the activities you value, and re-create the pie chart to reflect how you would like it to look. For example, this is a pie chart Peter completed showing how he wants to regained balance in his life:

pie chart showing proportion of different activities in life

If you started to pay more attention to areas that are important to you, what would your ideal pie chart look like? Pick one area first, for example you may like to allocate time each week to a hobby you enjoy. It’s important to allocate some time out from a busy day to enjoy activities and unwind.

You can also write up a daily schedule, include the activities you want to do each day and when. Being organised can help reduce stress and improve your life balance.

If you would like to talk to a trained counsellor about your life balance call the NSW  Gambling Helpline for free and confidential advise on 1800 858 858.

It was easy after all – why did I wait to call?

24 May 18
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We often hear from people who access our service that they have waited a long time to call, but that once they have they feel a lot better about it. Here is the story of one of our callers and the difference getting in contact can have.

Steve’s story

We recently heard from Steve* who had been nervous about calling, but found it easy to speak to a counsellor once he had picked up the phone. He realised it was going to be ok and was glad he took the courage to call. 

Steve gambled on pokies since he was 18. Over the past six months his gambling had spiralled out of control. It took a few weeks for him to call as he was not sure how to get started or what to say.

One day he blew his whole pay cheque on the pokies, and he was struggling to make ends meet. He decided to pick up the phone and call the Gambling Helpline. Despite weeks of planning the conversation in his mind, he did not really know what to say but knew he needed to talk to someone.

Steve was relieved that someone was listening to his story, which helped him to feel at ease. 

But I feel uncomfortable

Feelings of discomfort are normal when exposing your vulnerabilities and sensitive information to an outsider. These feelings can make it hard to open up and access professional support.

As the conversation continued, Steve became more comfortable talking through his struggles with gambling. He mentioned that he won a lot of money the first time he gambled, and the memory influenced him to continue gambling.

As Steve discussed his pattern of gambling, he realised that boredom and stress trigger him to gamble. He said that playing the pokies is emotionally soothing, and the belief that could win was difficult to resist.

While he identified that he felt excitement before gambling, this feeling quickly disappeared afterwards and he always regretted it.

What happens next?

After Steve told his story, he said that it was time to implement some strategies to help him stop. We helped him to develop a plan around how to manage his urges and his money when he desires to gamble.

When exploring practical techniques, Steve said that simply telling himself not to gamble was not enough. Apart from gambling, he stated that he would often exercise after work and work on his car during his leisure time. However, gambling had replaced a lot of activities that he used to do. Steve admitted that he missed doing these activities. He made a plan to start some of these activities again.

As part of his financial goals, Steve planned to negotiate with his bank to reduce how much money he can withdraw daily. He found the money advice on the website very helpful in providing simple strategies to start taking control of his money.

He was also open to calling the Gambling Helpline again when urges to gamble come up, and to organise ongoing counselling to continue changing his gambling.

After the conversation with Gambling Helpline, Steve felt motivated and more confident in beginning to address his gambling problem and to improve relationships with his family.

Getting started

If you would like to make that first step like Steve we are here to help. Have a chat with one of our professional and confidential counsellors or call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858. You can get started anytime. 

*Name changed for confidentiality

Your relationship with gambling – when did it change for you?

17 Apr 18
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“At the start my relationship with gambling was good!” We hear this from lots of people who are trying to change their gambling behaviour, but when did this relationship change?

For some people gambling can be an enjoyable pastime, but for others gambling is no longer fun as they have lost control. It is not unusual to be unaware of when this change happened as they become immersed in it.

Often we can only see when the change happened when we look back with new insight, however there are some common themes we see from people who are changing.

Stories from people who have changed:

Samantha initially enjoyed gambling on the Pokies with her partner:

‘I started gambling at the pokies after having dinner at the club with my partner. We initially enjoyed putting our change in the pokies and having some fun together.

After a while gambling became a routine and we would just sit on our own and press the buttons and the excitement seemed to have gone except for the few wins now and then.

When we broke up, I would go there to gamble during the week on my own. It was somewhere to go rather than siting home alone.  I started spending more and more time and money there, and one day I realised that I had been there every night for a week – that is when I realised I had a problem.’

Alex initially enjoyed a punt at the TAB but after a while, he noticed his gambling was becoming a problem:

‘I used to really look forward to going to the TAB with my friends when we were at the pub. Work became more stressful and I started going by myself, sometimes at lunchtime.

After a while I was going most days, and spending more than I could afford – after a while, it became about winning the money back, rather than having a wind down or a laugh.’

Both Samantha and Alex experienced a change in their relationship with gambling, taking it from a pastime to a routine part of their lives and eventually becoming a habit.

This experience is not unusual as we often hear from people that have become absorbed in their gambling.

Many people get to a stage where they are chasing the winning feeling or trying to make up their losses. They haven’t noticed that they have lost the enjoyment and it has become a problem.

If you think your relationship with gambling is changing it may to be time to take a break!

Some signs to look for:

  • Is gambling taking priority over other things in your life?
  • Do you spend more time gambling than you mean to?
  • Are people commenting on how much you are gambling?
  • Are you missing other things to gamble instead?
  • Have you seen an impact on your finances?
  • Do you not buy things you need so that you can gamble instead?

If you say yes to any of these questions it might be time to evaluate where you are at and have a chat with someone.

It can be difficult finding out you have may have a problem with gambling and it’s natural that at first you may feel disappointed or even upset.  

But by reading this BLOG you have taken a positive step towards changing your gambling behaviour. The good news is that lots of people have quit gambling and have a better life.

Developing a change plan

Having a plan in place can make it easier to get yourself started.

Step 1 - List all the positives of quitting your gambling so you can remind yourself if you need a boost.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • More money in your bank
  • More time for your self and with your family
  • Feelings of relief as you take charge of your life
  • Improved health and wellbeing as you are not sitting for long periods gambling

Step 2 - Think about strategies you can try to change your gambling.

  • Make plans for times when you would go gambling.
  • Limit your money; only take enough cash with you to get you through the day.
  • Tell someone you trust about the change you are making, who can help support you.
  • Find strategies that help you with stress or boredom so that you don’t find yourself gambling.
  • Create a diary for the week ahead so that you have a plan and can log where you are at.

Step 3 - find some different activities you enjoy, that can you give you purpose.  

For example:

  • Try a new sport or craft activity.
  • Catching up with friends.
  • Walking on the beach or along a river.
  • Cooking nice meals.
  • Tackling the house work it can give you a great sense of satisfaction.

Why not allocate some enjoyable activities in your diary so you have a plan of action.

For other ideas check these change strategies.  

Support is important

Support is very important when starting to make a change, why not reach out to someone you trust or a professional trained to help people trying to change their gambling.

Remember lapses are normal and can happen at any time when you are trying to stop gambling. Its normal to have a few setbacks as you make the commitment to change your behaviour. Use these setbacks as learning to help make you stronger for the next time you are feeling vulnerable to gamble.

If you would like to speak to a gambling counsellor about this, or if you have any questions about accessing free, face to face counselling have a chat with one of our counsellors.

Reconnecting is an important step towards change - 8 strategies to help get you started

27 Mar 18
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We often hear from people accessing our services, that as gambling affected their life more and more, their relationships suffered.

Reconnecting with people in your life is important - research shows individuals with supportive and rewarding relationships have better mental health. Therefore, as you work towards changing your gambling it is also important to reconnect and rebuild the relationships you may have neglected.

A strong relationship means you are connected with someone and can share your emotions, triumphs, setbacks and dreams. Strong connections in your life can help you feel more fulfilled and happy, making it easier to stay strong while changing your gambling.

So why delay? Reach out and reconnect with someone today.

Here are some strategies to help you get started:

  1. Reach out casually and say hello to the person you want to reconnect with.
  2. If you are concerned about seeing them in person call or email someone to begin the conversation
  3. Once you commit to getting together act immediately and make plans.
  4. Be specific about what days you can meet and settle on the details.
  5. Meet for a walk, coffee or do something that you both enjoy.
  6. Follow through on plans, you may feel nervous but this is normal.
  7. Be honest and reliable. For example, if you’re running late make an effort to call them and let them know.
  8. If someone invites you out, go!

If you don’t get the response you hope for

Sometimes people don’t get the response they hope for. While this isn’t by any means a certainty, if it happens, take it as a learning opportunity. It may take some time to reconnect with some people, that’s ok just gradually try to repair your bond.

If you find they aren’t receptive over time, you may want to concentrate on reconciling with someone else instead, and perhaps they will contact to in the future.

It can also be a good time to start new relationships while you are on this journey. Where your friendships have been heavily linked to gambling it may be the right time to try and forge new relationships. Starting a new hobby can be particularly helpful for finding like-minded people.

When you finally meet

  1. If you believe you have something to apologise for, do so as soon as you can for example. "Hey, Michael, I'm really sorry about not being in touch for so long.”
  2. One of the best ways to show you respect someone is listening intently when they speak to you. When talking to the person be fully present and show the other person how important they are to you.  
  3. Recall positive memories.
  4. If you feel comfortable share with them what you are working to achieve, people with strong bonds who have supportive people in their lives can find it easier to stay on track.
  5. Give them the opportunity to share what is happening with their lives. Conversations can’t just be one way and while your journey can feel very central to everything at the moment relationships thrive when people support each other.

Accepting support when needed, and being willing and able to provide support in return, helps develop caring relationships that enable people to flourish. So make time for people in your life, especially the ones that you love.

Be reassured that it’s normal when you begin to reconnect with people in your life that not everything can be resolved right there and then. Relationships can be strengthened when you are seen to be taking positive action such as seeking support but this can take time.

Need a hand getting started? Have a chat with one of our professional and confidential counsellors, you can get started anytime.

Ways for family and friends to support gamblers

6 Feb 18
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This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.

One of the most important things you can do when you’re close to someone who is struggling with gambling is empower the person you care about to reach out for help.

However, what many people forget is that in order for someone to be able to ask for help, they need to first realise they have a problem. It is very difficult for anybody to realise this if the people around them either enable their problem or constantly point out their problems to them.

Out of love, guilt or fear of confrontation, many family and friends actually enable their loved one to continue gambling. For example, they might pay their bills or lend them money until the next payday. These actions prevent the gambler from being able to truly experience the negative consequences of their gambling, which in turn prevents them seeking help.

However, the goal is not to let loved ones hit rock bottom feeling unsupported. It is important to let them know that you care about them and communicate your reasons for acting the way that you are. If you continue to take responsibility for their problems you will prevent them from being able to take responsibility for their actions.

By taking a slight step back from the gambler and allowing them to discover the consequences of their gambling on their own, you will actually enable them to understand the need for help. It is only at this point the gambler will feel invested in addressing their problems and develop the motivation required to make a change.

Some strategies to help support gamblers to seek help include:

  • Seeking professional support to help you develop a realistic plan to help your significant other.
  • Remaining calm when speaking about gambling and its consequences. Emotional confrontation can lead to resistance and make it difficult for the gambler to think logically.
  • Consider how you will handle requests for money.
  • Continue to provide emotional support, particularly in relation to ongoing help-seeking behaviour.
  • Acknowledge your impulse to cover up or help the gambler. While these strategies may seem helpful in the short term, in the long term they will prolong the gambling.
  • Ask the gambler if there are any specific reasons why they do not want to seek help. Just by talking about help-seeking, you may help them overcome the shame or stigma associated with seeking help.

It is also important to respect the person’s decision not to seek help. Remind them you are there to support them when they are ready and seek your own professional support.

For free and confidential support from a specialist counsellor register online to start chatting or call 1800 858 858. Our counsellors will be able to provide you with the details of free counselling and financial counselling services in a location near you.

The hidden resource is a key

16 Jan 18
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Not sure if you have the resources available to you to change your gambling? The good news is that all of us have a hidden resource within us that often holds the keys to successful and lasting change. Using our knowledge of what worked in the past, to inform our future behaviour, can be the key to success. By looking back at past successes and finding what helped them get there you can find strategies that work for you to solve your problems.

Here are some hidden resources our callers have shared.

Social support – seeking support from someone you trust 

Nancy* explained how she successfully completed a half marathon – despite struggling with time management and commitment to exercise, she reached this important goal. When we talked about how she did this, a key factor in her success was that a good friend was training with her. She remembered a few mornings each week they ran together. They celebrated their progress together and kept each other on track. 

She also found it helpful to have social support in her journey when changing her gambling – she regularly visited the forum, staying connected with others who had similar goals to her, kept her motivated.  She also asked her friend to help keep her on track when she felt vulnerable. 

Self-monitoring – taking time to look at what is going on

Tom* explained how he had lost a large amount of weight. He stuck to his weight loss plan despite being stressed. In the past stress would cause him to overeat.  When we discussed what had helped him, he remembered each day entering his exercise and calorie intake into an app, and weighing himself each week. This became routine, and he became used to paying attention to what he was eating, and saw changes.

He realised the benefits of self-monitoring and applied this to changing his gambling – he monitored his expenditure and urges and tracked his progress. 

He soon realised that he was spending more than planned after he tracked his money. As he reduced his spending and saw the benefits, he felt encouraged to continue. He also monitored when he was experiencing an urge to gamble. This was helpful in raising his awareness of triggers, putting in place strategies to avoid the temptation to gamble.  

Professional help – connecting with a trained professional counsellor 

Ling* found speaking to a professional and getting advice and support was useful in difficult times. Having this space where she could talk freely and confidentially made it possible to work through painful and challenging issues. 

Over time she looked forward to her weekly sessions with her regular counsellor, as she found them helpful for developing strategies, and speaking with someone who understood her. Sometimes she still chatted with a counsellor online, it was helpful to have a quick chat when she needed support in-between sessions and found this kept on track in difficult moments.

How about you?

What kinds of things have you found helpful in changing your life? Tapping into these hidden resources can be helpful to make changes to your gambling. If you have something you would like to share why not join the forum and chat with others today?

If you would like to chat about what has helped in the past or would like to chat about getting some additional support, start a session here or call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858. 

Starting the new year - a good time to make a change

30 Dec 17
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Going into a new year can be a good time to make a change in your life. If you are working on changing your gambling, it can also be a good time to reinforce this with a New Year's resolutions, whatever stage of change you are at you can set yourself a goal that will help you start the new year off well. 

What is a New Year's Resolution?

A New Year's resolution is a promise made by a person to themselves for the year, usually to address something they want to improve.

Since you are here, it’s likely you want to change your gambling; it makes sense to think about making a New Year’s Resolution that helps you work on making this change.

Finding your resolution

To get started, write a list of some things you could do to improve your life and reduce the impact gambling is having. Once you have done this, choose one of these goals as your resolution.

Be careful about the goal you choose, it's tempting to set yourself a big goal, but think about what is achievable for you at the moment, it’s important to make your goal realistic. Once you have reached one goal, you can set yourself another and slowly tick them off, don't forget to celebrate your achievements along the way

Need ideas?

Here are a few ideas for resolutions you could make:

  • When I feel tempted to gamble I will call my counsellor or gamblers help.
  • I will change my gambling routine to break the cycle. On days where I would have gambled I will plan activities like going for a walk or catch up for a coffee with friends.
  • I will improve my physical health by eating healthy, exercising or sleeping better.
  • I will try new things – i.e. joining a cooking class or trying yoga.
  • I will avoid high-risk situations I know will make it hard to meet my goal – i.e. avoid carrying excess money, not going to gaming venues, having a plan on payday, or not gambling alone when bored or upset.

What next?

Now you have chosen your goal, make a plan for how you will achieve it. Having a plan and finding things that will help you achieve it can make the journey much easier.

To help you stay on track tell a person or a few people you trust about your New Year’s Resolution as their support can help.

Choose someone who understands where you are at and will support you, this small change that can have a huge impact on reaching your goals for the New Year.

Look after yourself

Also be kind to yourself, people who have changed their gambling may have had slips or lapses along the way, it’s a normal part of recovery. As you become more confident and find what works for you these slips will happen less often.

Remember you don’t have to do it alone! Our counsellors are here to help you anytime and we can also refer you to local services that can help you change your gambling.

Need help deciding what your resolution will be and how you will achieve it? You can confidentially chat with one of our counsellors now.

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