Why the Risk of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) Increases Over the Holidays

The holidays are a time when families come together, catch up and make new memories, but for those who can’t make it home for the holidays, it can be lonely thinking about the celebrations that you’re missing out on. Experts say those feelings of exclusion and disconnection can be made worse by social media. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram make it easy to keep tabs on friends and family, but all those photos of their holiday parties can contribute to holiday FOMO, or fear of missing out.

FOMO has been studied by experts in human behavior who say that constantly comparing your life to the experiences shared on social media can lead to depressive mood, anxiety and a feeling of inferiority. But Joel Barcalow, PCC, a counselor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says instead of allowing yourself to question your life decisions, follow these tips to help kick your holiday FOMO.

— Recognize the issue – Take an honest look at your behavior on and off social media. Do you have a pattern of comparing yourself to others? It might be helpful to get an outside perspective and ask friends and family if they’ve noticed a pattern. You’ll probably learn that they feel some effect of FOMO as well. Knowing you’re not alone is a good first step.

— Accept that you can’t always be there – Life is full of choices and obligations, and it’s unrealistic to think that you can be part of every gathering or event. Accepting that you’re not going to be in every shared photo is an important part of letting go of FOMO. Instead, appreciate that you have the choice in the plans you make.

— Limit access to social media – If you are stuck at work over the holidays or can’t make the trip to see friends and family, don’t torture yourself by being glued to your smartphone, scrolling through pictures of everyone else’s fun. Limit social media access to once a day, and reduce temptation by turning off notifications. This will help you enjoy the present instead of wishing you were somewhere else.

— Practice mindfulness – The easiest way to start a mindfulness practice is to observe your breath. Try breathing through your belly instead of your chest while sitting quietly in a place where you won’t be distracted. Taking just a few slow deep breaths while concentrating on living in the moment can reduce stress and anxiety.

— Learn to let it go – Letting go of the worry associated with missing out and learning to feel secure about the choices you’ve made can be difficult, but realizing why you’ve made those choices can help you see what’s important in life.

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