Communication / Health & Wellness / Lifestyle

Fear of Missing Out: The Curious Rise of FOMO During COVID-19

While I was walking with my daughter the other day, she mentioned that she was experiencing FOMO. A few of her closest friends from college were together for the weekend, but she was “stuck” in Atlanta with her family. For a moment, I thought she was being overly dramatic, but I quickly realized that she was indeed somber about missing out on the fun.

FOMO, the acronym for fear of missing out, is a descriptor for how a person feels when they believe they are missing out on an event or opportunity. It implies that one is upset, frustrated, envious, or sad about not participating in — or being excluded from — an occasion or situation.

During these months of isolation and social distancing, this phenomenon has dramatically increased. The preponderance of FOMO may seem counterintuitive, given that most people are staying home. Events have been postponed or cancelled, so one wonders… what is there to miss? 

Research indicates that the increase in FOMO reflects the widespread angst many people feel about missing out on some of their favorite events, including sports, camps, concerts, movies, graduation ceremonies, parties, restaurant outings, shopping, and, most noteworthy, time shared with friends and relatives.

In-person socialization is acutely important to how one feels about their inner core being, their self-worth, and lack of social interaction can lead to volatility in a person’s mental, emotional, and physical condition. Ongoing symptoms such as sadness, loneliness, anxiety, and depression can cause deleterious physiological issues, including increased cortisol levels, elevated blood pressure, lowered immunity, sleep disruption, poor eating habits, and an increase in unhealthy behavior such as excessive alcohol and/or drug consumption. 

Social Media and FOMO

The use of social media has exponentially increased during COVID, contributing to the rise in FOMO. Although social networking platforms provide a convenient conduit to connect with others, many people use it as a barometer for self-evaluation. Why don’t I have what they have? Why can’t I be where they are? The people they follow serve as their gauge for determining their social status or perceived popularity, which can be a dangerous and unrealistic measuring stick. 

Zoom, Facetime, and other sources of real-time, virtual conferencing have been effective in connecting people; however, speaking through a phone or computer does not satisfy the basic human desire for face-to-face interaction. There is powerful energy shared when people convene in person that cannot be replicated through virtual communication. 

The Unsettling Nature of Life During COVID 

The surge in FOMO is also symptomatic of a deeper fear, one that many have experienced during these months of uncertainty. As one of my clients stated, 

“I feel as if life is passing me by. I live in this strange gray area from day-to-day, and then suddenly, an entire month has elapsed.” Isolation and distancing has led to an unscripted lifestyle, unlike any other. 

The FOMO phenomenon is real for millions of people  —as I’ve learned in the last few weeks — but you can choose to temper your emotions by engaging in activities that ignite and excite you.  

Steps to Diminish FOMO

Here are a few key steps to alleviate FOMO and care for your mental, emotional, and physical health. 

Take Breaks From Social Media

Too much of anything is overload to your mind and body. Excessive time spent on social media depletes energy and hijacks cognitive functions. Limit your time on social media. Take breaks from your devices and completely disconnect. Discipline yourself to limited periods of time, rather than constantly checking and rechecking your devices. You will find that you are far more productive and calmer. 

Lean on Supportive Family/Friends

Make it a habit to communicate regularly with supportive family members and close friends. During times of high anxiety, it is comforting to interface with those who share similar values and interests. Surround yourself — whether physically or virtually — with people who are uplifting and inspiring, and who have your best interest at heart.  

Focus on Energizing Activities 

Choose activities or projects that bring you joy. Engaging in activities you are passionate about will change your energy from negative to positive and will improve your attitude. Focus on a hobby or project you enjoy, whether it is painting, pottery, gardening, dancing, exercise, yoga, meditation, photography, or baking cupcakes for your neighbors. Stay active and productive.

Be Aware of Your Thoughts

Be mindful of your thoughts and emotions, especially when you are sliding into a 

self-deprecating mode. Catch yourself before you fall into a pattern of negativity. An important point I share with my clients is to recognize that thoughts are only ideas floating in one’s head. They aren’t necessarily truth nor fact. With an awareness of your thoughts, you have the capacity to change them. 

Be Mindful of Negative Triggers 

A trigger is a stimulus that evokes a particular thought or emotion from your past. 

A trigger can derail the best of intentions. It can come in the form of a specific word, song, location, person, season, or any cue in the environment that induces a specific feeling within you. Millions of people have become habitually attached to what others say or do on social media. Be aware of triggers that increase your FOMO, and do not permit them to cause you undue distress.

Journal to Release Heavy Thoughts/Emotions

One of the most effective and powerful ways to observe and learn about yourself is to write about your thoughts. When you suffer from FOMO, there are deeper issues that may need to be unearthed. Writing about your thoughts and emotions will help you identify recurring issues that cause you discomfort. During these unsettling months, journaling is a superb vehicle to release thoughts and emotions that burden you. 

Take responsibility for your own thoughts and emotions. 

Fear does not change reality, but anxiety makes it far worse. Try not to allow your thoughts to wander into negativity. Consciously manage them. The feeling of “missing out” causes undue distress. Adopt practices that are soothing and calming. Consider thought stopping, a practice of consciously halting negative thoughts.  Develop an inspirational mantra or meaningful word that you can turn to for comfort. Learn to accept reality and know that you will get through any challenge.  

Be compassionate with yourself. 

Treat yourself with warmth and compassion. Remind yourself that you are worthy of dignity, grace, and love. Focus on gratitude, rather than envy. Remind yourself that even when you miss an event or opportunity, you have all that you need right where you are. The grass is not greener. Embrace your life as you move through this unusual period of time, and stay healthy, strong, hopeful, and optimistic. 

 

About: Anne Ockene Boudreau is an inspirational author, coach, and executive who is devoted to helping others develop healthy self-worth. In her new book, “A Human Mosaic: Heal, Renew & Develop Self-Worth,” she reveals how self-worth is a critical element for sustainable personal change. Learn more at www.LanguageOfSelfWorth.com.

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