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How Tango Forever Changed My Life Both Professionally and Personally

How Tango Forever Changed My Life Both Professionally and Personally

Tango: this beautifully addictive way to connect total strangers, transforming them into artists who paint a story with their emotions on a canvas called the dance floor. This is more than just a simple society dance. It can easily turn into a way of life. It can literally bring you to life, while also bringing joy into the mundane. What better way to disconnect from the Typical You? What better way of Letting Go? What easier way of being True to Yourself? Simply put it, tango is life.

I challenge you to read this article and I challenge you to try out tango at least for a month. Challenge Accepted? 

Tango at a Glance, or Should I Say Mirada?

Mirada comes from the Spanish term of “look” or “gaze”.  In tango, it implies making eye-contact with a potential dance partner in the same room and kindly inviting her (if you are a man) or accepting him (if you are a woman). Then, the two unite and start telling a story through their body movements and facial expressions. Traditional “mirada” is also referred to as “cabeceo”. This is the old-school way of asking a woman to dance. It is still widely used in milongas, tango parties where people dress nice, take off their masks and just enjoy the music and the company of others, while dancing. But let’s take it all, step by step, ocho by ocho.

My first encounter with tango was a couple of months ago. Dragos Roua, who is also a top contributor here on LifeHack wouldn’t stop talking about tango and how he became a tango teacher. He introduced me to the magic of tango in a time in which I had lost my sense of direction in life. I think we all go through that. I was 24 back then. I could have been 30, 40 or 50 – it still had the same effect – the tango. I felt transformed with each lesson. I felt joy and bliss in the beginning of the class and great sadness when the class ended.

My First Tango Lessons. My First Milonga. My First Life Lesson

As opposed to other schools, these classes were developing fast: in two months I learned what others teach in one year. If there is excitement and time, why not fasten the process? I didn’t regret a thing: it opened up a whole new experience.

First Tango Lessons

By the end of first month, I could already do a couple of Tango Nuevo moves (open embrace, ganchos and flirty moves), which is more acrobatic than Argentine Tango (the closed embrace dance). My tango partner back then was as new as me in this. He was also my life partner. We had classes two days per week, two hours per class. Four hours of tango per week is merely enough to keep you connected with the idea of tango. It wasn’t enough to make you fall in love with tango or to determine you to want more than what you already had. And we only did four hours per week because that’s what my partner could do. I was dependent on his time and willingness to tango. And I wanted more. I always wanted more than what I currently had. Story of my life. 

The first lesson tango has taught me was that you can’t have all you want from the beginning: it’s a step-by-step process, it improves as time passes by. As long as you really want to and as long as you practice. I did all I could that time. And so…

My First Milonga

I started in September 2013. I attended my first Milonga, traditionally an event or place where the tango is danced, by the end of October. It was a beautiful autumn night, warm and delightful, like a typical Bucharest October night. I dressed up nicely in a black dress, did my make-up and went out. My life and tango partner did not want to attend the Milonga. I didn’t want to give up, so I went on my own. I had a close friend attend the party with me, but he didn’t know how to dance tango.

The milonga took place in an old building in Bucharest, probably from the early 1900s. Everyone was dressed up like in an exceptional ’60s movies. The air was mesmerizing. Guys wearing tuxedos and manly bows, women wearing stylish dresses, vulnerably waiting to be invited by a good looking stranger. An orchestra played the best tango music I’ve ever heard. Piano tunes would interfere, softly, from time to time and make a switch from tango to waltz.

I was a beginner, but I could feel the tango all around me. I danced with two people that night, both beginners just like me. I felt alive. I felt like I had  sense of direction. And then it came:

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My First Life Lesson

Tango transforms you on all levels: personally, mentally, emotionally, professionally. My first life lesson came in shortly after I finished the beginner courses: I started to fall in love with tango and out of love with the person who supposedly was the “love of my life”. When we first started dancing tango, I thought,”it will make our relationship more solid.” I did not expect to drift me away from him. Tango showed me how incompatible we were.

That is why Tango isn’t for anyone: you must be prepared to embrace the reality this dance reveals, even if it doesn’t fit “your reality”. 

As he decided not to continue with the intermediate class. I decided to go for it. I found myself surrounded by friends, by music, by the magic of tango, by people who shared similar perspectives and a deep passion for this dance. They became a vivid part of my present.

I wasn’t shattered to pieces by the tango’s reality like I thought I would be. I had tango and friends to support me.

tango is life

    (lovely image from Storenvy.com)

    An Introspection Into 10 Months of Tango

    Tango is not just about personal development, but also about professional development and a lifting of self-set boundaries and limitations. For women, it is a chance to get in touch with your inner femininity; for men, a chance to learn how to connect with women and build moments together.

    Personal Development in Other Dances and in Tango

    Does this sound like a cliché? Most certainly not. Tango is personal development in its purest form. Before tango, I did ballet for many years. I wanted to achieve professional level. Eventually I gave up to reasons independent of me.

    The common link between tango and ballet or other dances is that it teaches you to accept yourself. The differences? Well, in other dances, when you’re in the Moment, you’re mostly alone. The partner has to let go of you at a certain point. It happens in ballet, in salsa, in ice skating etc.

    But with tango, it’s different. It won’t change you in a way in which you can’t recognize the person staring at you through the mirror. It will transform you. Tango is like a friend who you love from the bottom of your heart, but you can’t find the words to express it. You just accept it as it is, because having it in your life makes you a better person.

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    With tango, the person you see in the glass is still you, only more beautiful, more sensitive, more human, more emotional. You suddenly realize that you didn’t change, you just improved significantly. With tango, you learn to (sometimes, literally) close an eye and forget about the past or the future: only the Moment matters.

    No one will applaud you because everyone is busy enjoying their own Moment. You share the happiness with another human being, be it a total stranger or a friend. The dance floor is this magical place where time stops. It’s not an empty stage: everyone is painting their story of love and vulnerability, of shared ancestral emotions. Your heart doesn’t bleed. Your heart smiles. 

    Tango teaches you to feel the present with every muscle in your body. It teaches you that you can be graceful, you can accept other people in your personal space, you can let go and be in the moment. And the best thing? You’re not alone in that moment. You share the moment with someone else. 

    When the moment is gone, you are not lost: you are found by the next partner, by the next 3-minute love story. And there’s always someone to take you by the hand, to thank you for being part of their moment, too and take you back to your seat.

    Best thing in tango? Free genuine hugs. 

    Professional Development in Tango

    I believe that tango can teach us important lessons in professional development, too. Here is what I learned after 10 months:

    1. Competitive much? – When you “work” with someone and share the Moment, you learn to be less competitive with the other party. There is no reason to be competitive with the person who is a complementary presence in your life. It could be a mere tango partner, or it could easily be a business partner. There’s no point in being competitive with others, really. You just have to compete with yourself. Remember: You are your closest friend and Your worst enemy!

    Tango has taught me how to save time, money and energy. And even friendships. 

    2. It takes two to tango – yes, the idea that you need support and cannot do it all alone is another important lesson learned. At some point, even if you start on your own, you need a teammate, you need a second opinion. Even if you’re a one-man-show, you still need friends and family by your side.

    Tango has taught me to be nicer to my family and to value my friends: those people who love me unconditionally, even when they don’t know how to show it. Tango has taught me to feel the warmth of others! 

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    3. It’s not all about business – Human interaction is needed. You can’t do business without social. Social is important especially out of your professional circles. Why? Because after all, your business is done with regular people, so you don’t have to surround yourself with influencers. Regular people who do not share the same professional background as you can do you justice, too. You’ll learn how to interact with any type of people.

    Tango has taught me how to let people in and how to better communicate with others. 

    4. Diversity is good – meaning just like it helps become a better dancer if you dance with different people, it also helps become a better businessman (or woman, for that matter) if you diversify your professional life. If you have one business and it is going great, try adding a different product, service or even starting a second business in another niche/industry.

    Tango also taught me that diversity will not let you fall into boredom.

    5. Step out of your comfort zone – This is the most important lesson of them all. Yes, tango teaches you to do that. I believe there’s no such thing as two followers following the same or two leaders leading the same. There are as much tango styles out there as there are dancers. And each time you dance with a new partner, you step out of your comfort zone. Each time you try a new move or a new embrace, you step out of your comfort zone.

    As an entrepreneur, you have to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. This is what evolution is all about. We all have the seeds of evolution planted in us, why kill the plant before even giving it a chance to grow? Reinvention and transformation happen on a continuum which is filled with challenges. There’s no comfort zone on the road between point A and point B, there is always something unpredictable out there, even if you make the journey 100 times, over and over again.

    What Happens When You Take a Break From Tango?

    This is a tough one. It’s never easy taking a break from the things you love, but it does happen to all of us. I took three breaks over the course of 10 months: 3 weeks after beginner courses ended until advanced courses started; 3 months break during spring and 3 weeks now, during summer holidays.

    It’s a feeling of loneliness not easy to describe. Don’t imagine I tango 40 hrs per week. Now I currently dance around 10 hours per week, in practicas (tango practice places, more casual format than milonga) and one milonga/week. I have a dancing routine I practice at home or in the park of around 60 minutes/day, combining tango steps (the ones I can do on my own), ballet and gymnastics. The minute you take a break from a dance routine, it will immediately show on your body and emotional state.

    Dancing, and specifically tango has to be done regularly. I think the same applies with business and with life in general: to be successful in the things you do, you need to have a certain ethics and principles you maintain on a regular basis. No exceptions. Plus, practice and a regular schedule makes it for growth.

    Setting Goals and Reshaping Your Life

    These two are among the most valuable life lessons a dance has ever taught me. Setting goals has never been my thing and I’ve noticed people usually have trouble with breaking their personal and professional path into achievable milestones.

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    Tango taught me how to reshape my life and add value to it, how to keep what matters and let go of all the unnecessary luggage (that we tend to bring in every new relationship we start – personal or professional). I started to set goals for myself in the reality provided by tango: that of human interaction. Here is what happened:

    1. I realized I cannot live alone, I enjoy saying good morning or good night to someone. Living in a flat all by myself was not beneficial. Instead of getting out more and socializing more, I started isolating myself in all aspects. My business suffered just as much as my social life. It started to become painful to dance tango and interact with people instead of being happy and enjoying the moment. Following the lessons provided by tango, I moved into the center of the city in a shared apartment. With a flatmate. 

    2. I realized I wasn’t in touch too much with my feminine side. I would only activate it from time to time during tango. This happened due to my business mode, in which I was alone. It was hard to separate the business side from the vulnerable side in tango. At some point, I couldn’t even properly dance and this turned into great frustration. Then I understood I needed a break to sort my life in order: get business associates, form a team, not do everything by myself. The idea of “taking two to tango” became a clear business solution to my struggles. 

    3. I realized I was too drawn to perfection. I remember a blogger – friend of mine – told me once that “Perfect is the enemy of getting stuff done”. Just like in Tango, you just need to let yourself go and enjoy the moment: you don’t dance to make it perfect, you dance to feel free and express your true self. I stopped trying to shape my life into being perfect and set my goals to be as imperfect as possible.

     

    Tango changed my life in personal and professional ways, probably more than any other type of dance or art. It challenged and keeps challenging me to become a better person, to open up, to not be afraid and to do things in my own pace. It has taught me how everything is adaptable and re-validated the idea that things done with passion on a regular basis can create wonderful moments and can open enjoyable journeys. All you need to do is stay true to yourself and conquer all challenges with an open heart.

    What are my challenges, you ask?

    1. Learn Argentine Tango the right way (in closed embrace – a more intimate connection between partners), now that I have what it takes to dance Tango Nuevo
    2. Find myself a stable tango partner and travel the world to tango together, teaching people what tango is all about (My 5year plan) 

    What are yours? 

     

    P.S. If you’re ever in Bucharest, Romania and want to try out tango, get in touch with me and I’ll connect you with the right people.

    Featured photo credit: Tango via s3.hipertextual.com

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    Published on November 14, 2018

    Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

    Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

    With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

    For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

    In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

    Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

    Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

    It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

    For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

    Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

    Symptoms of Fatigue

    Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

    • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
    • mental blocks
    • lack of motivation
    • headache
    • dizziness
    • muscle weakness
    • slowed reflexes and responses
    • impaired decision-making and judgement
    • moodiness, such as irritability
    • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
    • reduced immune system function
    • blurry vision
    • short-term memory problems
    • poor concentration
    • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

    Causes of Fatigue

    The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

    • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
    • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
    • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
    • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

    Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

    Medical Causes of Fatigue

    If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

    Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

    Anemia

    Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

    Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

    There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

    Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

    Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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    This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

    Diabetes

    Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

    Sleep Apnea

    Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

    Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

    Thyroid disease

    An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

    Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

    • Lack of sleep
    • Too much sleep 
    • Alcohol and drugs 
    • Sleep disturbances 
    • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
    • Poor diet 

    Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

    • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
    • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
    • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
    • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

    Psychological Causes of Fatigue

    Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

    • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
    • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
    • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

    How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

    Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

    1. Tell The Truth

    Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

    To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

    Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

    The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

    One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

    • How you feel
    • What time of day it is
    • What may have contributed to your fatigue
    • How your mind and body reacts

    This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

    2. Reduce Your Commitments

    When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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    If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

    When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

    Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

    3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

    If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

    Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

    If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

    Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

    Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

    4. Express More Gratitude

    Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

    It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

    Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

    5. Focus On Yourself

    Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

    There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

    But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

    We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

    6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

    Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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    Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

    The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

    Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

    7. Take a Power Nap

    When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

    Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

    This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

    8. Take More Exercise

    The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

    Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

    The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

    You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

    9. Get More Quality Sleep

    To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

    Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

    My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

    10. Improve Your Diet

    Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

    Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

    On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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    To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

    Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

    Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

    11. Manage Your Stress Levels

    Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

    When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

    Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

    My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

    12. Get Hydrated

    Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

    Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

    If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

    The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

    The Bottom Line

    These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

    If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

    Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
    [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
    [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
    [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
    [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
    [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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