After a tough year, it can feel like you’re in a race to catch up on fun — and these days, it’s especially easy to fall into the ‘comparison game’ trap when you see all of your friends posting photos of their tropical getaways and lively gatherings on social media. While we all experience these feelings from time to time, there are ways we can shift our focus to help us feel more content with our own lives. Here, experts share tips for managing FOMO, or, the Fear Of Missing Out.
When it feels like everyone is having more fun than you, just bring awareness to your reaction. “It can be painful to admit we’re envious of, say, a friend’s vacation, but the antidote to this feeling is compassion,” says expert Kate H. Rademacher. “If you truly put yourself in her shoes, you realize that she’s just as stressed as the rest of us, even if you can’t see it on the surface. Knowing that can help you focus on your life instead of your friend’s.”
Think about what you want to experience rather than what you think you’re missing out on, urges expert Phyllis Ginsberg. “Rather than say to yourself, ‘I wish I could do that,’ when looking at your friend’s road trip pictures, say, ‘I’m going to find out where that amazing view is so I can plan my own trip.’”
Tapping curiosity instead of envy helps end old negative thought patterns of exclusion and start new habits of anticipation. “When you’re focused on what you want instead of on what others are enjoying, you become free to enjoy new experiences.”
Enjoy More ‘MO’
It’s natural to want to make up for lost time by cramming in activities, but when it comes to managing FOMO, a little MO can be a good thing, says expert Cynthia Baum-Baicker, Ph.D. “Slow down and let yourself ‘miss out’ a bit on so-called big things so you can enjoy smaller moments,” she says. “If you’re by the ocean, take time to smell the sea air. Or, if you’re sitting on your stoop, watch the people walk by. We all have unprocessed trauma from the pandemic, and these sensory experiences help us gently heal.”
Relax and Let Go of Obligation
Not everything is a ‘should,’ or a ‘have to,’ and if it feels like an obligation, give yourself permission to let it go, encourages Ginsberg. Ask yourself, If I didn’t do X, what’s the most loving thing I could do for myself? “I know a woman who sings every day because it shifts her whole energy, while another loves being in the water. It sounds simple, but let yourself do what makes you happy.”
Savor Spiritual Rest
“If we believe we’re little machines, then rest only serves to recharge our battery,” says Rademacher. “But if we think of rest as a way to reconnect with a higher power, it becomes an invitation to genuine calm. I cover the computer with a cloth during my Sabbath — we all want to know what we should do to relax, but it’s just as vital to focus on what we won’t do.”
Discover Joy Every Day
“We didn’t have a lot of control this year, but we always have control over the joys we can look for every day, from being in nature to opening a window and feeling the breeze,” says Ginsberg. “These are the moments that fill the space left by FOMO and make us happy.”
Our Expert Panel
Kate H. Rademacher works in international public health and authored Reclaiming Rest: The Promise of Sabbath, Solitude, and Stillness in a Restless World.
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A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.