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Fear of missing out (fomo)

While working with the freshman cohort of one of the leading universities of Singapore, I noticed that FOMO was the unifying factor for this diverse group of young people from across countries, cultures and backgrounds. While FOMO seems to be affecting millennials at epidemic proportions, it is not limited to them. Fear-Of-Missing-Out is the constant nagging, anxiety-provoking and sometimes paralysing notion that one is losing out on something more valuable happening elsewhere.
FOMO sufferers feel that others are having better, more enriching or more fun experiences or objects than them and the fear of falling behind or falling short can lead to anxiety, unhappiness and dissatisfaction. They tend to unfavourably compare their own possessions, achievements and life in general with others which fuels insecurity, lowers confidence and makes them minimize / dismiss their own accomplishments. The grass always seems greener on the other side. Social media today plays a great role in being a constant reminder of the apparently #Instagram-worthy moments everybody except you is enjoying. At times FOMO also stems from a problem of plenty – having too many lucrative opportunities or options to choose from and not being prepared to risk letting go of something to choose another.
As a coping mechanism, people often end up taking on more and more activities or tasks on their plate which can consequently lead to overwhelm, fatigue, sleep disruptions, mood swings and burn out.
FOMO in a small, healthy dose can provide the motivation and drive to engage proactively with and get more out of life. However, too much of it can make us lose grip down a slippery slope of overcompensation and it-will-never-be-enough state of dissatisfaction. Some of the following tips can help be an antidote:
1. Remember, appearances can be deceptive. Do not believe everything you see on social media. Just because it looks like the others are having these amazing experiences and living it up, doesn’t mean that’s the whole truth. In reality, almost everyone is struggling with challenges, though they may post about only what’s going well [probably filtered to exaggeration].
2. Get in touch with your values – make a list of what’s important to you and why, what gives you joy, what gives your life meaning – do more of these – these experiences will provide the fulfilment and satisfaction which will fill the void of FOMO.
3. Identify your priorities and your limitations. We would all like to be rock stars, astronauts, business tycoons and Nobel Laureates all in one life. It is unlikely that we would be able to achieve all our dreams if we dream of achieving Everything. Accept that you are merely human - with only 24 hours each day and finite capacities of energy and attention – so make the most efficient use of your resources to reach your most important goals and build yourself up for success rather than disappointment.
4. Optimize by planning and scheduling – use SMART goals and time management techniques to optimize your day and attend to your priorities. Avoid over-scheduling yourself.
5. Say NO – set boundaries and limits – you cannot go to every party, be part of all the clubs, take up multiple roles and expect yourself to be superhuman.
6. Practice the art of gratitude. Remember the hard work it has taken to get where you are - appreciate and enjoy the fruits of your labour instead of only looking at the next milestone. What you already have could be amazing in itself, if only you’d notice. Gratitude begets joy.
7. Choose quality over quantity. Instead of hoarding experiences and constantly needing more to feel good enough, invest in quality experiences which add value to your life and help you in becoming the person you want to be.
8. Find your individuality instead of trying to do everything that others seem to be doing (refer to values to discover the same). There are more than 7 billion people on this planet, there really is no end to the pursuit of fitting in.
9. Take time to rest – your body and mind need rest to cope with all the pressure and the adrenaline you’re putting it through. It’s okay, you have time, not everything needs to be accomplished right now. Look at the bigger picture. If you don’t support your body, it will take the rest it needs by breaking down and falling sick – don’t push it!
10. Get Help – Discuss your fears with a trusted friend or family member as they can help you with some perspective and support and provide a reality check. If needed, consult a counsellor.
11. Mindfulness – the very opposite perhaps of FOMO. Give it a shot! This articles provides some easy ways to start.
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