How to Let Go of Holiday Season 'FOMO' When You're Ill

FOMO, otherwise known as the “fear of missing out” may be a newer acronym, but is an age-old concept. Unsure if you’ve ever really felt the icy sting from being victimized by FOMO? How about this: Have you ever said yes to an event that you didn’t think would be fun, just because all your friends were going? Have you ever gone and watched a movie because everyone else was talking about it? Watched a YouTube video simply because it went viral?

The example that solidified my own FOMO was the amount of time I spent checking social media. I could spend hours on Facebook scrolling through my feed, agonizing over how perfect and fun my friends’ lives seemed. I saw perfectly crafted Instagram feeds with gorgeous photos that were aesthetically pleasing. I saw tweets upon tweets detailing adventures abroad, engagements, marriages, university degrees and more – all while I sat and longed to be doing something different.

It’s not that my life wasn’t enough or that I didn’t have endless amounts of things to be grateful for. That’s precisely not it. It’s the feeling that enough is never enough. There’s always something more, something different you’re missing out on.

The holiday season only increases the FOMO I already seem to feel. You see pictures of wintery vacations, family gatherings, seasonal cheer. The FOMO, when dealing with chronic pain and mental illnesses alike, can skyrocket.

Seeing pictures of people enjoying skiing or snowboarding when your chronic pain and injuries are only worsened by the cold? FOMO.

Seeing pictures of holiday treats when you have an eating disorder and the thought of eating without intense fear and anxiety seems impossible? FOMO.

Being asked to go ice skating with a group of friends at the winter rink set up in your town and feeling pressured to attend? FOMO.

Seeing calendar invites to a big company holiday party and feeling anxious just imagining the crowd but still considering attending? FOMO.

It’s hard to let go of fear. It’s often not as simple as just choosing not to feel it. Unfortunately, emotions don’t work like that. But I have accumulated a few coping skills to turn to when the inevitable FOMO strikes:

1. Remember that social media is constructed.

No one’s life is what it looks to be on social media. Those Facebook posts, Instagram pictures, tweets, etc. are just a part of that person’s life. Think of social media channels as someone’s highlight reel. People are going to pick and choose the best and most post-ready moments of their lives to share – not the grubby, down-and-dirty toilet-scrubbing pictures.

2. Remove yourself from social media.

It’s not the easiest step to take for a lot of people. Social media definitely has its benefits, but when in a cycle of FOMO, even just deleting your apps from your phone and leaving your accounts active for you to use if you choose can be beneficial. Don’t want to delete? Turn off notifications. Reflect on what social media is for you and the pros and cons of having it in your daily life and proceed from there.

3. Accept you’re always missing something.

No matter what, you will always be missing out on something in life. You can’t be doing the coolest or most interesting thing 100 percent of the time because you’re a human being and have limits. Once you accept this truth as inevitable, try to move on.

4. Cultivate gratitude.

It may seem silly to some people to simply focus on the things you’re grateful for, but gratitude is key in helping ease FOMO. Write down a list of the things you’re grateful for in your life. This could be people in your life, things you can do, circumstances – the list is endless. The key is to focus on the good in your life instead of dwelling on what you don’t have or can’t do.

5.  Do something you enjoy.

When in doubt, if you’re struggling with FOMO, turn to an activity or pastime that is easily accessible and that you enjoy. Don’t let what you’re missing out on stop you from doing what you love. Don’t let fear run your life.

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