Fatigue is so common among Americans that it almost feels normal. A new report from the Harvard Medical School says that although the underlying cause of persistent fatigue can be hard to identify, that doesn’t mean the fatigue is imaginary.

According to "Boosting Your Energy", fatigue often signals that something is wrong, physically or emotionally. Still, most people — even those being treated for fatigue-producing illnesses — can take steps to boost their energy. The following strategies can help:

Control stress. Relaxation therapies like meditation, self-hypnosis, yoga, and tai chi are effective stress-reduction techniques.

Lighten your load. Prioritize your list of “must-do” activities, and pare down less important tasks.

Exercise. Exercise almost guarantees that you’ll sleep more soundly. It also causes your body to release hormones that can make you feel energized.

Eat for energy. Small meals or snacks every few hours can reduce your perception of fatigue by ensuring a steady supply of nutrients to the brain.

Don't smoke. Nicotine speeds the heart rate, raises blood pressure, and stimulates brain-wave activity associated with wakefulness, making it harder to fall asleep. And once you do fall asleep, its addictive power can kick in and awaken you with cravings.

Enjoy the outdoors. Gardening, hiking, or walks along the beach can help restore body and soul. There aren’t any scientific studies documenting that communing with nature can actually fight fatigue, but some scientists are exploring this theory.

The 40-page "Boosting Your Energy" report offers the latest information about fatigue and explains that while feeling tired may be a part of life, you don't need to take it lying down. It covers:
• the various causes of fatigue
• when symptoms should prompt a visit to the doctor
• how to reverse some aspects of age-related fatigue
• strategies to help you regain the physical and mental energy you need to enjoy life to its fullest.

The report is available for $16 from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School. Order it online at www.health.harvard.edu/BE or by calling 877-649-9457.