FOMO. It sounds funny and it’s often joked about, but the fear of missing out is actually a pretty big problem in our world today. For the uninitiated, FOMO is an acronym that stands for Fear Of Missing Out, and it’s a big deal for many people. We are more connected than ever, with our phones as our constant companions, keeping us up to date with up to the minute updates on our friends and family. With all that information about what other people are doing, it is easy to fall into feelings of guilt and anxiety when we aren’t doing those things ourselves. Now, more than ever before, feelings of guilt and anxiousness can easily creep in when we are just trying to relax because we are so tuned in to what everyone else is doing at all times of the day and night.

A Culture of Busy

Even taking social media out of the picture, merely having a busy schedule contributes to feelings of overwhelm, exhaustion, and of course anxiety. The pace of life is so rushed and we hurry from event to event, appointment to appointment, filling up our calendars. For some, stopping to just breathe can be almost painful. It’s hard to take time for yourself, and even the coveted “me-time” is scheduled, then poked and prodded by notifications and status updates from others who are still out there hurrying about. Even children are not immune to this over-scheduling, and in fact, parents are burdened with the anxiety of wanting to make sure that their kids have good socialization and opportunities to pursue all sorts of activities that, by themselves, are certainly wholesome and positive. When taken altogether though, treating children’s social calendars like we treat our own, filling it with numerous activities, surely leads to anxiety and feeling like they can’t slow down. Maybe parents now were once children of parents who did the same themselves, and so the cycle continues. People rush around, seeking the next Fun Adventure and never stop to relax because they are afraid that if they stop they will miss out on an important experience.

Your Friends Are Having More Fun Than You

It’s easy to see how social media has exacerbated this issue.  It’s easier to not feel bad about missing out on experiences when you aren’t aware of the opportunities. But when scrolling through social media brings you face to face with images of your friends enjoying themselves doing all these fun things, how do you resist wanting to be there too? Not to mention when you see groups of your friends who have gone out and done something together without you. We are all adults here but let’s be honest, when you see that on your feed it’s easy to feel like the kid who got picked last in PE class again. It’s not a good feeling. For some, the feeling is so bad that it’s unbearable and they find themselves with packed calendars and no time to rest. A hectic pace of life leads to anxiety and nervousness, but then sitting at home feeling like you are missing out on good things also leads to anxiety and nervousness. It’s a catch-22 that is all too common for this generation.

The Cool Friend

The fear of letting down our friends is also significant and an active part of FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. If our fear of missing out leads us to keep a busy schedule, it can make it harder to say no when we need to. It becomes part of our identity that we are this fun loving person who is always up for an adventure. Our friends see us as this person and feel like they can depend on us being there whenever they put together an outing. God forbid two different friends want to do two different things at the same time. People who struggle with Fear of Missing Out will often find themselves wishing they could be in two places at once. When this has gone on for some time, it becomes easier to see how your fear of missing out is causing you to be anxious and stressed out, but then the desire to not let down your friends just makes it harder than ever to slow down and get the rest you need.

Prioritizing Your Health

Anxiety is not good for you. High blood pressure, sluggish digestion, insomnia, and a myriad of other anxiety-induced health issues is enough to cause you anxiety about feeling anxious! If there is one good thing that has come out of the social media revolution it is the recent trend towards being health conscious and not feeling shame about putting ourselves first in at least some aspects of our life. For many of us, this will mean that we have to actually unplug for a while. One thing you might try is to plan to spend an evening or a weekend alone relaxing, then follow through with that plan. To stay away from the temptation to go out, disconnect from the internet and find something else to occupy your mind. A book maybe, or a movie you wanted to watch but never got around to. Don’t look at it as a punishment or something hard, take a medicinal approach and frame it as a preventative measure to protect yourself from anxiety and it’s related health issues. It won’t help if you spend the whole time wondering what else you could be doing with your time. So don’t look at facebook!

Learning to Say No

The unplugged evening or weekend is a solid temporary fix, but in the long run, it will be important to actively practice saying no. It takes a certain amount of maturity to accept that you can’t experience everything, and be at peace with that. Learn to guard your time, and choose just the things that will truly feed your soul to add to your calendar. In the end, this will mean a greater satisfaction with your life and a less anxious day to day life.

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