The Fatigue Prescription by Linda Hawes Clever, M.D., is subtitled Four steps to renewing your energy, health, and life. The book is divided into two parts: the diagnosis and the “renewing remedy,” which the author also calls “the prescription.” Dr. Clever describes fatigue and identifies its causes. She then lays out what she calls “a tested, successful approach to guide you.” She provides a “renew-o-meter” which is also available on her organization’s website www.renewnow.org which you can use to analyze your level of “juggling”–keeping too many balls in the air, which can lead to fatigue. The book is written from Dr. Clever’s perspective as a physician, and although it isn’t described as being written explicitly for women, many of the examples and recommendations would probably appeal more to women than men.
Dr. Clever writes in an easy-to-read style. Her plan for dealing with fatigue has four steps: awareness, reflection, conversation, and what she calls “plan-and-act.” Dr. Clever presents many truisms, such as the importance of making time for yourself, but she expresses them well. As she says, “You are important…It is not selfish to take care of yourself. It is self-preservation so you can do what you want to do or must do.”
Throughout the book, many lists and charts are provided for readers to check off items which they find either energizing or fatiguing, and blank space is provided for readers to include their own insights. Many of the lists are disorganized, confusing, or simply mundane. For example, on a list titled “Some good ways to maintain a full energy bucket,” which gives suggestions about ways to increase energy or decrease fatigue, Dr. Clever lists mundane items such as “get up, get washed and dressed” along with “connect with family and friends,” “take care of pets” and “sleep.” She indicates that it will give you more energy if you do laundry every week, pay bills, and pay taxes. In the section on awareness, we’re encouraged to ask ourselves “Am I rarin’ to go or runnin’ on empty?” and “Am I grateful or grouchy?” This is a good example of the arbitrary nature of the questions — while feeling energetic and being exhausted are opposites, gratitude and ill temper aren’t.
One of the sillier recommendations under the category of “ways to take care of yourself” is “Marry the right person and be nice to him or her.” That recommendation, which worked for Dr. Clever but doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, is included on a list with “read for pleasure” and “get help with cleaning the house.”
One of Dr. Clever’s key ideas is the importance of determining one’s values and then choosing priorities based on them. This chapter reminded me of Martin Seligman’s theories about determining signature strengths, then increasing happiness by operating out of them. While Dr. Seligman is conducting research to verify his theories, Dr. Clever’s less well-defined ideas about values are stated as having worked for her and others.
Since Dr. Clever is a physician, some of the best advice in the book is medical. She discusses the importance of regular health screenings, keeping immunizations current, and avoiding “natural” supplements. Even here, though, her recommendations can be difficult to follow. For example, she recommends that when you’re selecting a doctor, you should choose one who “attends professional meetings, reads professional journals, is board certified, and perhaps on a medical school faculty.” She does not explain how the average person can determine if his or her physician meets all those qualifications.
One of the least useful charts in the book is designed to assess a person’s current fitness level. We’re supposed to answer the question “How does my weight now compare to my size in high school?” To do that, you can select any or all of the following: “My weight is within 5-10 pounds,” “My size has increased 2-4 levels,” “I’ve gained 10-20 pounds per decade,” “I’m not overweight, I’m under-tall” and “I strain to keep up with the crowd or am the last one to make it up the stairs because I am out of breath.” It’s confusing to equate weight with size and, as with most of the assessment tools in the book, no analysis is provided to help one interpret the answers.
The greatest drawback of the book, aside from the many less-than-useful charts, is that Dr. Clever has no background in psychology. She presents ideas without an understanding of their scientific underpinnings. She doesn’t say anything that’s necessarily wrong, but the book would be much better if her knowledge of psychology matched her knowledge of medicine. The unscientific surveys are only a part of the problem. As a single working mother of three children, I have firsthand knowledge of fatigue. During my most fatigued days, the platitudes and ill-organized plan provided by this book would not have helped me.
The Fatigue Prescription: Four Steps to Renewing Your Energy, Health and Life.
By Linda Hawes Clever, M.D.
Softcover, 186 pages