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Best essential oils for motivation

May 3, 2020
essential oils for motivation

I don’t know about you, but some days my motivation is sky high and I feel I can take on the world, and on others, every little thing is a struggle. Whilst, I do think this is natural (we can’t maintain working at a fast pace 365 days a year); there are certain things I do to raise my energy on days when I feel a bit flat. I use essential oils for motivation; using them to kick start my day and upping my productivity levels.

How essential oils work

Essential oils work through our olfatic system, the part of our body responsible for our sense of smell. Our sense of smell evokes memories and feelings. It also triggers our emotions and can really impact our mood. There’s been lots of scientific research on the power of essential oils and how they can help with both our physical and mental wellbeing. This is what makes them such a great item to have in our self-care tool kit.

Creating good habits

A lot of our lives are built around routines and rituals. We start the day with a tea or coffee looking for that caffeine fix to get our brains into gear. We walk to the station, get into our car without really thinking too much and spend most of our day operating on auto-pilot. The current situation with COVID-19 means a lot of our routines and rituals have been thrown up in the air. We can’t operate on autopilot at the moment – and that’s exhausting. So please be gentle with yourself if you’re not firing on all cylinders right now. However, this is also giving us the opportunity to reset some of our old patterns and get into new habits because we’re being forced to think about what we’re doing.

Starting the day with an essential oil blend

I start my day thinking about the mood I’ve woken up in and how I want to either maintain it or improve it. If I’m feeling a bit down, I’ll think of an essential oil blend to help raise my spirits. If I’m feeling tired and sluggish (also occasionally hungover…) then I use oils to make me feel more alive. I set my intentions for the day: do I want to feel relaxed or do I want to be motivated? What do I want to achieve?

I either put my essential oils into a diffuser or I light a candle infused with oils. You can also make an essential oil blend into a little bottle mixed with a carrier oil (such as fractionated coconut oil, almond oil or even olive oil will work too) and add to your pulse points so you can carry it around with you.

Essential oils for motivation

There are lots of reasons why your motivation might need a boost: you might be tired, feeling down or just lower energy than usual. Let’s be honest, there are also some tasks that just aren’t that exciting: tax returns for one…

Best essential oils for motivation when you’re tired include:

  • peppermint
  • sweet orange
  • spearmint
  • rosemary
  • lemon

Personally, I like rosemary and peppermint together and find it really uplifting to start the day.

Best essential oils for focus and mental clarity are:

  • pine
  • eucalyptus
  • black pepper
  • lemongrass
  • sage
  • petitgrain

I love pine and eucalyptus first thing in the morning and it gives me such a boost. I really associate it with getting things done.

Lemongrass and black pepper are a great combination for people moving on from old situations and will help you focus on what’s coming ahead.

Best essential oils for lifting your spirits

Essential oils from citrus fruits are great for helping to lift your spirits. They’re the first oils I turn to when I’m just feeling a bit below par. I mix sweet orange and bergamot for a boosting blend. I also really love grapefruit.

How to blend essential oils

You don’t need to be an aromatherapist to blend essential oils. As a general rule of thumb, oils from the same family work together. Citrus oils pretty much work with anything. You also don’t need to always have a blend – sometimes it helps to make one scent too over powering – but focus on how you want to feel and choose an oil to support that intention.

wellbeing

Essential oils to help with stress

April 7, 2020
essential oils help with stress

We all go through stressful periods: relationships, work, home, all come with their ups and downs – and part of the human experience is to learn how to navigate the rough with the smooth. Right now though, the coronavirus situation means we’re all collectively experiencing stress, admittedly with varying degrees. For some this, is living through one of the most challenging periods of their lives, but for many of us, it’s recognising that we’re living with continual underlying feelings of discomfort and uncertainty.

Stress manifests itself in physical ailments or mental symptoms, or both. Since the onset of the coronavirus situation, I’ve experienced tremors, headaches and brain fog. I’ve had to really think about my stress levels and put measures in place to help ease them.

So what can we do to alleviate stress?

One of the best things we can do (in my non-medical opinion) is recognise life is really tough now. We’re all grappling with a very different way of living and worries for our loved ones. We don’t know when or how this is going to end. This is bringing up lots of emotions and our stress levels are higher as a consequence. We all have various coping mechanisms and some people will be able to deal with this better than others. However, if you can, try to think about self-care and how best to look after yourself.

Above all though, be kind to yourself and those around you.

How essential oils help with stress

We’re all aware of the power of music and how listening to a song on the radio can transport you back to a different time in your life. Blondie will always remind me of long car journeys to the south of France listening to it over and over again because my parents only had one cassette tape and it was the 70s.

Our ability to smell is linked to our limbic system, which triggers emotions and evokes memories. The sweet sticky scent of suncream will always remind me of holidays. Dew of the first days of spring. And cinnamon of Christmas time. This is why certain smells trigger emotions in us, which is where essential oils come in.

Essential oils help with stress because they influence our emotions and our mood. They can lift us up, energise us and equally help us to relax, all through the power of smell.

Stress can make you very tired, and where possible then I would suggest leaning into your body and resting. However, that’s not possible for everyone. I’m still working full time, I have a child and I need something to help me focus during the day. Essential oils can revive us, as well as calm us down.

Best way to use essential oils

To build up a collection of essential oils is expensive and most people right now will be experiencing some sort of financial hit so I’d suggest buying just one or two. You don’t need several. Just look for pure grade essential oils. Tisserand, Absolute Aromas are brands that can either be bought directly, from a health food shop online or another big retailer.

Use one or two in a diffuser if you have one, add a few drops to a bath, mix with a carrier oil (you can use olive oil) and massaging into your skin or add a few drops with water into a spray bottle and spritzing yourself and the air around you. Remember with essential oils that a little goes a long way.

Best essential oils to help with stress

Below are some suggestions of essential oils that are known to alleviate stress – some will help revive you and bring around feelings of joy. Others will help you sleep better at night when you might be struggling to switch off. I’ve also included oils that are good for day and night. Most oils are fairly versatile.

Keep well.

Essential oils to help lower your stress levels during the day

Scent from citrus fruits

Any ‘zesty’ essential oils such as bergamot, lemon, mandarin, orange and grapefruit are all great at lifting your mood and making you feel more positive about life. Citrus fruits tend to be a little bit cheaper so are a good buy. I prefer to use these first thing in the morning to set me up for the day.

Rosemary

Rosemary has a reviving effect, which is useful for people feeling overwhelmed by tiredness or stress and great to use during the day.

Patchouli

Patchouli is a natural anti-depressant and is useful for treating exhaustion, stress and anxiety.

Basil

Basil is good for clearing the air and refreshes the mind. It helps to calm anxiety and revives the body combatting exhaustion, anxiety and depression.

Essential oils to help you switch off at night

Lavender

Lavender is one of the most versatile of essential oils. It helps alleviate stress, reduce anxiety and help with sleep. Add a few drops to a spray bottle with water and spray on your pillow and bed sheets for a restful night’s sleep.

Ylang ylang

Ylang ylang helps ease feelings of anxiety and will help you feel calmer overall. It’s also the base for Chanel no 5.

Sandalwood

Sandalwood has a restorative effect on our emotions helping to dispel anxiety and lift depression. It’s a good sleep aid and can help reignite a passion for life. Sandalwood is endangered so check that any essential oils you use are from a sustainable source.

Clary sage

Clary sage is great for moods. It lifts feelings of depression, calms nerves and creates a sense of peace.

Vetiver

Vertiver is from a grass native to India and works on an emotional level helping people feeling distressed or panicky. It’s a natural sedative so helps promote relaxation and restful sleep.

Marjoram

Marjoram is a gentle sedative that is good for dealing with anxiety, reducing insomnia and helping with a restful sleep.

Good for day and night

Frankincense

Frankincense is really good for lifting spirits, increasing energy and focus. It’s ideal when feeling stressed, overwhelmed and overtired, which is me about 90% of the time…

Rose

Rose is the scent of love and creates a sense of relaxed wellbeing, taking the edge of stress-related conditions.

Geranium

Geranium is both calming and uplifting, making it a really good oil to help ease anxiety and is also said to reduce feelings of restlessness. It’s actually one of my favourite oils. I think it has a really gentle scent, which leaves you with a feeling of gentleness – much needed at the moment.

self-care

Why you need a self-care tool belt

September 9, 2019
why you need a self-care tool belt

I’ve been pretty stressed recently. I started a new job and have been trying to absorb lots of information in a short space of time. I feel completely out of my comfort zone – and whilst I definitely wanted to shake everything up a bit – it’s been challenging too.

I’m also adjusting to a new working pattern and reinforcing how I can no longer be chief cook, grocery shopper, washer woman has meant some rather fraught conversations have taken place at home.  

[Side note… how did we get to 2019 and the domestic load is still a thing…?]

Now, none of these things are insurmountable. I’m assuming at some point I will get up to speed at work and things will become easier. Likewise, we all need to get used to the fact I’m around less at home. 

However, whilst everything’s bedding down, I need to make sure I’m looking after myself too – particularly as I can feel stress oozing out of every pore. 

I need self-care.  

What is self-care?

Self-care is the art of looking after yourself properly so you can manage everything else in life.

It’s about understanding that we need to put ourselves first sometimes in order to be able to do things for others. 

It has its detractors who mock self-care as just being about face masks, candles and bubble baths as though it’s some sort of commodified product that only idiots fall for. Personally, I think anything that brings you joy and peace is worth it; I bladdy love a good candle. 

However, I do agree self-care is about much more than ‘me time’. It’s about recognising where you need help, being able to be open and vulnerable enough to ask for support. It’s about putting boundaries in place so you reinforce your needs, as well as learning how to let go of situations and people who no longer serve you.

And that’s literally the tip of the iceberg. 

Why is self-care so hard to do?

There’s an irony in the fact we need self-care more than ever when we’re busy and stressed but we don’t have the time or energy for it. 

It falls down to the bottom of a list and in my case, another stick to beat myself with. I feel disappointed that I’m not looking after myself properly.

So how can we prioritise self-care and make sure we get what we need?

Creating a self-care tool belt

One of the best ways to ensure you can look after yourself better when life is stressful is to create a self-care tool belt. It involves planning ahead so when you’re busy and overwhelmed, you can think about what you have in your armoury without needing to expend too much brainpower.

Now in terms of self-care, all our needs are different because we all have our own challenges and priorities in life. For example, a busy stay at home mum is going to have very different needs from someone who travels a lot for work, even though both of them probably feel their time isn’t their own. This is why it’s important to reflect on what will support you.

Try to think about actions you can take to try and ease the pressure on yourself. They may be things you can do yourself – or ways you feel you can ask for help. That way you can dip into your self-care tool belt as and when you need it.

Simple self-care suggestions

  • Ask for support. It can be really hard to ask for help, particularly in a work capacity because you don’t want to look like you can’t cope. However, it’s worth raising the issue so that people are aware. I think overall employers have got better at recognising they need to at least be seen to support employees and some are absolutely brilliant at it.
  • Drop what doesn’t serve you. I remember years ago not going to a party because I wasn’t in a great headspace and I thought it’d make me feel rubbish. I’m still glad to this day I made that decision. I’m not suggesting you ditch all social occasions in favour of box sets because getting out can make us feel better. But if you really don’t want to do something, don’t do it.
  • Remember done is better than perfect. There are occasions when there’s just not the time to pour over something and analyse it. Try to be happy with the fact its done.
  • Get some fresh air. I try to make sure I go outside every lunchtime, even if it’s just a 5 minute walk around the block. It helps clear your mind and reset.
  • Take a break from social media. It’s not relaxing and most of the time, it’s not especially productive. Switch it off.
  • Think about what you’re eating. Our bodies crave sweet foods when we’re stressed because it thinks it’ll need the energy (flight or fight mode). However, don’t beat yourself up either if you’re getting a takeaway, especially if it’s going to save you time. It’s about balance and sometimes needs must.
  • Do carve out time for yourself. Run a bath, light a candle, watch Great British Bake Off. Do something just for you – you deserve it.

wellbeing

What is resilience (and why do you need it)?

July 28, 2019
What is resilience (and why do you need it)?

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to be able to cope with or navigate your way through difficulties and crisis.

It essentially means you’re able to either bounce after a crisis or adapt to new circumstances.

Resilient people are able to understand what their body and mental state need and put in processes or modify their behaviour accordingly.

Why is resilience so important?

It’s a fact of life that we’ll all experience setbacks and challenges in life.

Whilst it’s true, some people will have more difficulties due to their circumstances of birth; it’s impossible to go through life without some form of hardship.

The loss of loved ones, relationship struggles, ill health and financial issues are all common themes we’ll probably all experience at some point.

Being resilient doesn’t make us impervious to stress or hurt. It just means we’re more able to cope, in spite of challenges that may be thrown our way.

It’s a sign of emotional strength.

Can you become more resilient?

The good news is resilience is something you can build.

Ironically, the more difficulties you have, the more you can develop your abilities to be resilient. You start to understand your emotional needs and put coping strategies in place.

I come from baby boomer parents and one trait I sometimes see in that generation is their emotional intelligence isn’t hugely strong. They were born in post-war years to people who had lived through horrific events and as a result a lot went unsaid.

If I had an emotional problem, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. No one would have tried to help me or come to my rescue. They just didn’t understand.

I sometimes felt a bit envious of people whose parents would drop everything to give them emotional support and take care of them.

But now I look back, I realise that it made me very self-sufficient. On the flip side though, I struggle to ask for help when I need it and find it hard to show vulnerability.

I also feel my experience is quite common in people of my age and I see similar traits in my peers.

I think it’s only in recent years we’re starting to develop the language to talk about our emotions and understand our feelings.

Although the term ‘self-care’ is sometimes mocked, essentially it is the act of understanding our needs and putting that support in place. Even when it does mean opening up and asking for help.

7 ways to build resilience

So how can you build resilience to help you through difficult times?

  1. Remember that a crisis is not forever even though it may feel like it at the time. Life ebbs and flows and we have hard times as well as good.
  2. Change is part of life. There are 2 types of change: change that happens to us; and change we create for ourselves. Change that happens to us is harder to navigate because it can make us feel that we’re not in control of our own lives. Accept there are sometimes events and issues completely out of our control and consider what you are able to change yourself.
  3. Look for opportunities for self-development. Difficult times help us grow and can make us more empathetic. It’s worth reflecting on challenging situations once you have some distance and thinking about what we learnt or how the experience may have changed us.
  4. Understand that this is part of human experience – not just about you. I had my fair share of shitty times growing up and it knocked my self-esteem and made me feel powerless. I now realise I wasn’t singled out by the universe for some special negative attention; it’s just one part of my history and not my whole life.
  5. Try to keep things in perspective where you can and remember everything is relative. However, I do also think it’s important to feel your feelings and just because one person sailed through a similar situation doesn’t mean you should to. Our ability to cope with challenges is dependent on how we’re feeling at that moment and what else is going on in life. It is worth though trying to remind yourself that this won’t be forever.
  6. Be positive (where you can). Again, I’m not suggesting there’s always something to feel positive about – sometimes there really isn’t. Try to remember things will get better.
  7. Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle. Yes, I know it’s an inspirational quote cliche – however, hear me out… Let’s be honest, so many of our problems can generally be put down to the actions and behaviours of other people. Try not to let them grind you down and remember you, my friend deserve better than this.
self-care

Self-care practices and how to implement them

March 26, 2019
self-care practices and how to implement them

What is self-care?

Self-care is the practice of ensuring we are looking after ourselves physically and emotionally. This helps us navigate through life easier.

Whilst the self-care phrase has been mocked for just being about candles and baths (both of which I love); it is fundamentally important to make sure we are giving ourselves what we need.

Stresses about our families, finances, work all play on our minds. Eating badly, sleeping badly, becoming dehydrated and not exercising enough affect our physical health.

So how can we put self-care practices in place?

Our lives fluctuate and so it’s important to think about what we need to help with the situations we are experiencing at that moment in time. We are all individuals and our experiences are different so it’s important our self-care practices reflect what we need. In a previous post, I put together a self-care audit template so you can work through areas to focus on.

It’s important to then think about what self-care practices we can put in place to help and how we can do this realistically. What self-care isn’t, is a stick to beat ourselves up with. For that reason, I would choose only a few practices to put in place at any one time.

What are good self-care practices?

Nutrition: I find the advice about nutrition overwhelming and busy lives can make it hard to eat well. I try to start the day with a smoothie (2/3rds green veg and/or beetroot and 1/3rd fruit) so I know I’m getting some vitamins. I buy frozen fruit to save time in the morning. I also find taking my lunch to work helps. It’s very hard to eat the perfect diet and our bodies all metabolise food differently. I would choose one thing to start with such as cutting down on takeaways and then take it from there.

Dealing with stress: stress is an inevitable part of life. However, it’s important to understand the physical and mental impact it has on us. Try to rest and yes, take a bath or light a candle. Think about a mindfulness practice and download an App such as Headspace or Andrew Johnson to help. Look at ways you can minimise what is causing you stress – although admittedly, sometimes it’s out of our control and we need to just be kind to ourselves.

Good sleep hygiene: sleep is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing. Going to bed at a regular time; switching off phones at least an hour before bed; avoiding alcohol and making your bedroom a sleeping sanctuary should all help.

Give yourself permission to focus on you: there is a saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ and it’s so true. Sometimes we are so busy focusing on other people, we forget to take care of ourselves but being depleted means we can’t give either. Do something for yourself even if it’s just taking a short walk or sitting down with a coffee.

mind

Are you suffering from imposter syndrome?

March 17, 2019
are you suffering from impostor syndrome?

A few years ago I got promoted at work. Despite being more than qualified, I spent the first year waiting to be pulled into a meeting room and told, ‘we’ve made a terrible mistake’. I lived in a state of panic and regardless of any positive feedback, I still couldn’t relax and enjoy my new role.

My experience is not uncommon. I’ve heard of chief executives googling how to run a company and high profile celebrities talking about feeling like a fraud. It’s so well known, it has its own terminology: imposter syndrome. This is where you believe you’re not good enough despite evidence to the contrary.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where feelings of self-doubt and low confidence levels are so intense they make you feel like a fraud. Researchers say it’s more common in high achieving women. However, statistics show 70% of millenials have experienced imposter syndrome at some point.

Whilst I think it’s a far nicer character trait to be under confident and overachieving, as opposed to overconfident and underachieving, the reality is that imposter syndrome can stop us from realising our true ambitions without us really realising it.

So what can you do to overcome it?

  • Awareness of an issue is generally the first step to overcoming it. Take notice of your feelings, thought processes and whether you feel a fraud for no real reason.
  • Try tracking your achievements so you can look back and see how far you’ve come. Some people keep a compliments folder or write lists.
  • Recognise lots of other people feel this way and you are not alone. It’s a sign that you care.
  • Open up to friends about how you’re feeling. Their perception is likely to be different to yours and it might be useful to get an impartial view.
  • Focus on adding value in the short term and remember you won’t feel this way forever.

wellbeing

How to survive the festive season

December 16, 2018

Warm open fires, children singing happily and families spending time together blissfully are the images of Christmas we see on TV. It’s a time where couples feel closer together, people repent over the mistakes they’ve made and everyone is in harmony. Right? Wrong. The truth is Christmas can highlight areas of life that aren’t so great. We are expected to have magical moments, which often don’t exist especially for those of us who have lived through divorce, death or feel like the oldest singleton in town.

So how can we survive the festive season ensuring that we make it through without arguments and telling ourselves next year we’re spending it in Goa?

6 ways to survive the festive season

  1. Christmas can be a time of financial stress. I think it’s quite a human response to sometimes feel short-changed if someone hasn’t spent as much on you or embarrassed when the reverse happens. However, spend what you can afford and recognise other people are doing the same. We generally all have what we need and anything else is just a bonus.
  2. Recognise your boundaries. I spent nearly every Christmas in my 30s lying in a single bed and reverting to the feelings I had as a teenager. I had one particularly bad year and realised that I also had choices around how I spent my time too. I didn’t need to put up with someone else’s negative behaviour for the sake of keeping the peace.
  3. Don’t drink too much. Tempers can start to flare after too much alcohol and thinking about how much you’re drinking can help stop any arguments from starting. Keeping off the drink also helps you sleep better. It means you’re not snappy, much more willing to help out and generally easier to be around.
  4. You are not a teenager anymore. There is something about setting foot into my mum’s house that makes me 16 again. I didn’t have a particularly stable childhood and those feelings of insecurity and inadequacy come flooding back. It’s easy to feel resentful and to want to raise issues that happened decades ago. However, I’m not 16 anymore, nothing is going to change and in the words of Frozen, ‘Let it Go’.
  5. Create your own traditions. I have my own family now and Christmas has taken on a different meaning. I want my son to grow up making memories of Christmas that are meaningful and special.
  6. Remember Christmas is only one day. We place so much importance on it and really it’s literally one day out of 365.
mind

Feeling overwhelmed? Here are 8 ways to help

March 11, 2018

It feels ironic that this week has involved International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day given that I’ve felt like I’m failing in pretty much every area of my life. I’ve made silly mistakes at work through rushing to get things done and I’ve felt guilty for not being fully engaged with my child because my mind is elsewhere. I haven’t had time to do half the things I wanted to and have been feeling overwhelmed.

In my case, feeling overwhelmed triggers headaches and an inability to focus properly. I start to feel anxious and can’t concentrate. My mind then struggles to switch off, leading to a lack of sleep, which affects my ability to rationalise things the following day.

I then end up in a cycle of being overwhelmed and it usually takes a while to get out of this mindset. And let’s face it, no one enjoys being in a state of panic…

Impact of being overwhelmed on the body

It’s pretty much impossible to design a life which is fully stress-free.

However, it is important to understand the impact feeling overwhelmed has on the body. Stress affects our emotions and can make us feel angry, upset amongst others. It releases the stress hormone, cortisol which longer term can lead to health issues such as high cholesterol, heart disease, low immune systems and many, many others.

Whilst being overwhelmed is usually only in the short term, it does have a longer term effect. This is why it’s important to deal with it and put some self-care practices in place.

How can you stop the overwhelm?

There will always be moments where you feel more overwhelmed than others. Stress is a fact of life and difficult situations can help us grow.

However, it helps to have some self-care strategies to hand for when overwhelm hits.

Here are some ideas.

8 ways to help when you’re feeling overwhelmed

1. Respond rather than react

Your emotions cause you to react but try instead to respond. This is something I’m learning to put in place (admittedly I did shed a few tears in the work toilets last week). It doesn’t mean you should suffer in silence, just instead take the emotion out, assess the situation and consider the best response.

2. Look at what specifically triggered your feelings of overwhelm?

Where have these feelings come from? I know conflicting deadlines and projects going awry contribute to me becoming overwhelmed. I’m not very good at ‘failure’. I then overthink things, which affects my sleep and tiredness affects my ability to act objectively.

3. Prioritise

The Guardian journalist Oliver Burkeman describes the sense of overwhelm as, “the mismatch between all the things you’d like to do, or feel you ought to do, and the far smaller capacity of things you’re actually capable of doing”.

Look at what needs to be done urgently, what can be done in a few days and what really can wait. The likelihood is not everything needs to be done straight away.

4. Be kind to yourself

Feeling like I’m not on top of things leads to a pattern of negative thinking. I find it hard not to start telling myself what a failure I am. Actually, caring about doing something well is a really positive thing. Remember, you are doing your best and practice self-compassion.

5. Done is better than perfect

Sometimes you just have to accept there aren’t enough hours in the day for perfection. You just need to get it done and move on.

6. Ask for support

Don’t suffer in silence. There is nothing wrong in asking for help or speaking out. My sister in law took my son for a walk yesterday. In that hour, I finished two pieces of work and feel like I’m going to start the week on a more positive note.

7. Practice self-care

I don’t know about you, but as soon as I get busy, healthy eating (by which I mean good nutrition) goes out of the window. I’m eating packet food and craving anything high in salt and fat. That’s quite a normal response. Stress increases our appetite and so we immediately crave food which will give us a quick burst of energy. Longer term though, it’s not really doing us any favours.

Try to take time out just for you. Run a bath, read a book, watch TV – anything to give yourself a break. Better decisions are made with a clear head.

Here are some simple self-care ideas for when life gets busy.

8. And breathe

I can feel a bit teary when things get too much. If you do feel really overwhelmed, focus on your breath and take a few minutes just breathing in and out.

It helps, I promise.

Further reading

Unsure if you’re feeling anxious? Try this short test. Please note, your results won’t give you a medical diagnosis but might give you some insight.

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