I’ve always dreaded holidays like the 4th of July — and this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m lacking American pride. Occasions that aren’t family-centric like Christmas or Thanksgiving generally come along with an obligation to have plans with a group of friends or significant other. As a result, we feel the need to have something special planned (because you know everyone’s going to be asking you what you’re doing for the 4th) and make what we do look epic on social media (because getting a lot of “likes” means that we’re doing something right).
It’s a lot of pressure. Hello, anxiety!
FOMO, or, fear of missing out, goes hand-in-hand with the uneasiness that can arise from the holidays or the onslaught of summer fun in general. FOMO is so real that it was recently added to the Oxford Dictionaries, and defined as, “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”
There’s SO much pressure to attend events and socialize on the 4th of July…and every other weekend throughout the summer season. Naturally, this can be rough on anyone’s mental health, but the FOMO dynamic is taken to another level when mental illness comes into play, when sufferers may already feel on edge about social situations. In this case, summertime events can definitely be a trigger. It’s hard enough for someone with social anxiety or depression to face interacting with others. Add on the resentment and guilt that comes with the fear of missing out, and you’ve got yourself a dangerous, and combustible combination.
Here are a few pointers (tested by yours truly) to keep your FOMO at bay.
Everything Is Not What It Seems
Images you see online are almost always edited! At the very least, a filter will be slapped on. Someone may post a photo of themselves looking like they’re having the time of their life on a giant swan floaty in the pool, but they actually might be having a really crappy time. Social media is more about projecting the way somebody wants to be viewed than projecting the sometimes harsh reality of things. Feeds are perfectly curated to only showcase the best (or best looking) moments.
Do a Social Media Detox
Stay off of social media for a few days — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, the whole nine yards! If you’re being hit with a flood of images of people having fun, it’s going to be way too easy to compare yourself to others. If you don’t think you’ve got the self control to keep your fingers from tapping on the app icons, don’t hesitate to delete them! They’ll take just a minute to redownload when the time come. But hey, after your detox, you might not even want them back!
Keep Yourself Busy
I’m not talking about jam-packing your schedule with parties and other social engagements. Indulge in some me-time and enjoy your hobbies, practice a skill, or watch a movie that really makes you think. Remind yourself that being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. An idle mind is a breeding ground for negative thoughts, so try your best to keep it occupied.
Appreciate All the Good
Rather than focus on what you might be missing out on, focus on what you do have. I know, I know. This is way easier said than done. It can be hard to change the way your brain ticks, especially if you’ve been a negative thinker for a long time. Reflect on even the littlest things that make you smile, like the way your dog greets you when you come home or how delicious that bagel you had for breakfast was. Keep a journal and every night write down three things you’re grateful for, no matter how small.
Try out some of these tips, and remember that you’re not the only one feeling the FOMO this summer. We’re all so prone to comparing our lives to to those of others, and it’s incredibly difficult to break that habit. In the meantime, focus on yourself, and while you’re at it, catch some rays. But only if you feel like it — no pressure!