Are you up to your eyeballs in guidance and recommendations? Have you had days where if one more well-meaning person gives you one more suggestion you might scream? Or are you frustrated because no matter how much expert advice you read or receive, you’re still exhausted and overwhelmed?

This is because no matter how good the advice, if it doesn’t fit with who you are, it won’t work. Even the experts offering guidance have days when they struggle to handle what is on their plates. Nobody is immune to this. There are days when I have trouble deciding what comes first. It is often accompanied by not finding things where I thought I put them, physically or digitally. I wonder how am I supposed to help librarians with time management, if I can’t do it. It reminds me of an old saying, “Take my advice. I’m not using it.” 

When I get to that place, I take a breath and remind myself everything will get done; it always does. I go away from my desk, or, better yet, take a walk. Physically removing myself from my office, I can get my brain functioning again and see what needs doing first. I return to my computer with a plan, and all falls into place.

That’s me. Does it sound like you? If it doesn’t, it won’t work for you. No matter where we look, there is no magic pill of advice you can put into action.

LaRae Quy says in The Most Common Well-Being Advice That Doesn’t Work, self-help “is hard work that must be done by you.” She discusses four common recommendations that are most often offered, explaining why they don’t work, and what you can do about it.

  1. Develop Good Morning Habits – All too often, this is the suggestion of the rich and famous who profit from being prominent this way. You may not be a morning person. You already have a morning routine. Quy notes the last thing you need is to add one more thing to your busy morning. Unless… it works for you. If journaling puts you in a positive frame of mind, do it. If not, don’t. That should be your guideline for anything you add to your life. And accept the fact that life happens and some days you can’t get to the things that work. Don’t beat yourself up for the days when you can’t get to your new well-being habit.
  • Digital Detox – It doesn’t take a genius to realize we are tied to our devices, and they overwhelm us. Realistically, most of us cannot cut out these connections. The smart way to handle the digital tsunami according to Quy is to set boundaries. If the thought of a digital detox adds to your stress, consider taking control by stepping away for a short time. Instead of trying getting rid of devices for set periods of time, Quy suggests every 20 minutes look at something that’s 20 feet away. The change in eye-focus and blink rate is restorative.
  • Deep breaths –Quy calls this her “favorite piece of bad advice.” Unless you’ve got the time to do this for an extended period, it probably won’t provide a sense of well-being. When you are stressed, your emotional brain is in control, the flight/freeze, fright part. Your thinking brain needs time to catch up, which is why the recommendation to take the deep breaths. However, Quy says it won’t work unless you also acknowledge the underlying emotion that caused the panic. Take a moment to notice what you’re feeling (anger, embarrassment, worry, fear, etc) in whatever way works for you. Then your thinking brain can step in an work it’s magic.
  • Declutter Your Workspace – The belief is the clutter confuses your brain and keeps you from being organized. The reality is, it depends on you. Only you know if seeing a cluttered workspace distracts and upsets you or if it doesn’t bother you at all. If it makes you anxious, declutter. If it energizes you or doesn’t bother you, leave it alone.

The bottom line is, you need to take care of yourself, but the best way to do that is to learn what works for you. You can read advice columns—and, hopefully, this blog – but use if for ideas that resonate with who and how you are. And remember, some days nothing works. On those days – I recommend chocolate.

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