Is your social media feed more packed these days with photos of dinner dates, get-togethers and trips to the beach? It seems like everyone is out from isolation living their best lives again, yet here you are on your couch in your home not quite ready for it all.
These days, we’re still navigating COVID-19, variants, vaccinations and minimizing the spread, but many people have welcomed back some ‘normalcy’ in their lives—everyone, it seems, but you. Back to normal was all you dreamed about for months (or a year!). You don’t want to miss out on get-togethers with friends or eating inside at your favorite restaurants again, but you feel uncertain, even downright anxious.
You have FOMO, fear of missing out, but in this case, it’s missing out on normal life. FOMO isn’t something new, but it does look a bit different these days.
Why FOMO got worse during the pandemic
“FOMO comes mainly from comparing ourselves with others; what others have and what we don’t,” said Jerimya Fox, a licensed professional counselor and a doctor of behavioral health at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital. “Pre-COVID, you may have experienced FOMO when someone got promoted and you didn’t. Today, people are experiencing FOMO as they see others going out and living a somewhat normal life, while they’re not ready to attend events or be with others. FOMO is self-driven, but it can increase anxiety, worries and uncertainty."
So many unknowns … so much more to worry about
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one-third of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety and depression in June 2020—nearly double the rate prior to the pandemic. And a poll taken by the American Psychological Association shows the impact on Americans continues, as nearly half of all respondents said they felt “uneasy” about resuming in-person activities regardless of their vaccination status.
“As we examine more people going back to ‘normal’ society, the anxiety is unknown—so uncertainty continues,” Dr. Fox said. “This level of confusion because of so many unknowns can enhance levels of anxiety if unaddressed. The more you think about the future and the uncertainties and unpredictability, the more anxious you’re going to be.”
Tips to overcome FOMO and social isolation
As you continue to navigate the ever-changing world, Dr. Fox shares a few things you can do to support yourself through it and minimize your FOMO.
Focus on gratitude
While FOMO is all about what others have, take a step back and focus on all that you have. Research shows an attitude of gratitude doesn’t just make you happier, it also lowers stress levels and improves well-being.
“Instead of focusing on all that the pandemic has taken away or what others are doing and you’re missing out on, acknowledge some things that have been beneficial and positive in your life,” Dr. Fox said. “During the pandemic, you’ve been given more time with family, and maybe you’ve eliminated mundane tasks like commuting to an office. There’s so much to be grateful for.”
Feeling a little stuck in the positivity department? Check out “Promoting Positivity with Gratitude” for helpful tips on how to get started.
Go at your own pace
You may not be ready for dinner with friends at your favorite restaurant, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Invite them to your house or backyard and order in instead. Then, eventually, when you’re comfortable, you can try meeting friends outdoors at the restaurant.
“Make decisions that feel right for you,” Dr. Fox said. “Slowly pushing yourself back into normal life can be beneficial for your mental, physical and emotional well-being.”
Practice being in the moment
A great way to help calm anxiety is to ground yourself in the present moment. Some ways you can do this are through meditation, deep breathing or simply walk down the street and take a moment to notice the details around you. This will allow you to bring your thoughts to the present moment and focus on the here and now. Not comfortable with the whole meditation thing? No problem. There are plenty of great apps out there (Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer) that can help you calm your mind and bring you into a more mindful, present state.
Limit news and social media
Even though FOMO is common, social media usage can make it surge. And, watching, reading or listening to the news constantly all day every day isn’t helpful either. Be careful not to become a victim of information overload.
Limit the time you spend on your social media and consuming news. And recognize when your usage impacts your health. “If you notice your heart racing and you’re getting anxious, put down your phone, turn off the TV and take a walk,” Dr. Fox said.
It’s okay to not feel okay all the time … especially right now. As we work back toward a social life, even the most extroverted people may find their energy zapped after a social engagement.
“It takes more energy than it used to, so if you’re feeling burnt out, it’s okay to take a breather or break from being social,” Dr. Fox said. “It’s not all or nothing. Take small steps. If you need a mental break, stay home—recenter and refocus before you get back out there again.”
If you’re in a FOMO funk, talk to your doctor
Millions are experiencing post-pandemic anxiety, depression, apprehension and fear, but there are ways you can manage them. If the steps you’re taking aren’t working, it may be time to talk to your doctor or a licensed behavioral health specialist. They can help you identify what is triggering your symptoms and help you create an action plan to tackle them.