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Fear of missing out can cause stress and anxiety

Social media can exacerbate the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Picture: Pixabay
Social media can exacerbate the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Picture: Pixabay

IN THE age of constant connectivity and digital overload, a term has emerged that I hear more and more: FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out.

Many clients who come to see me describe it as a source of constant anxiety, that they may be missing out on life's experiences. It can also extend to other things in life too.

FOMO is not a new phenomenon: its roots can be traced back to our innate human desire for social connection and belonging. We naturally crave acceptance and inclusion, a sense of being part of a group or tribe. This fundamental need stems from our evolutionary history, as our survival depended on being part of a community. When we lived in caves and went out to hunt for food, we relied on the protection of others in our group.

However, the advent of social media has amplified FOMO to unprecedented levels. Social media platforms have transformed the way we interact and share experiences, providing a constant stream of images and updates from the lives of others. While this can be a great way to stay connected, it can also lead to unhealthy comparisons and an exaggerated sense of what others are experiencing.

The often idyllic portrayals of life on social media can distort our perception of reality, leading us to believe that everyone else is having more fun, more success, or more fulfilling lives than we are. This constant bombardment of perceived perfection can trigger feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and FOMO.

The negative impacts of FOMO can be far-reaching, affecting our mental well-being, self-esteem, and even our behaviour. Studies have linked FOMO to increased anxiety, depression, and loneliness. It can also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating, excessive alcohol consumption or even substance abuse.

So, how can we combat FOMO and protect our mental health? The first step is to recognise the prevalence of FOMO and its potential impact on our lives. Acknowledging that we are not alone in experiencing these feelings can be empowering.

Secondly, we need to be mindful of our social media habits. While social media can be a valuable tool, it's important to limit our engagement with it. Constant exposure to carefully crafted social media feeds can add to feeling of FOMO. Taking breaks from social media and reducing our screen time can help us reconnect with reality and appreciate our own lives.

Focusing on our own experiences and pursuits is another effective strategy for managing FOMO. When we immerse ourselves in our own passions, goals, and relationships, we have less time and energy to dwell on what others are doing. Engaging in activities that bring us joy and fulfilment can shift our focus away from FOMO.

Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or yoga, can also be helpful in managing FOMO. These techniques can help us cultivate self-awareness, reduce stress, and develop a more accepting attitude towards ourselves and our experiences.

It's essential to remember that FOMO is a normal human emotion. We all experience it from time to time. However, if FOMO is starting to interfere with our daily lives or causing significant distress, maybe it’s time to take a step back from some of the things that trigger it.

*I couldn’t finish off November without giving a mention to ‘Movember’ and anyone who has grown a moustache for the month - well done! I have one all year round, so you can’t really see a difference. Seriously though, it’s a great time to bring awareness to men’s mental health and men’s health in general. When we consider that three in four suicides are men, then we can perhaps see the need to get men thinking about, and talking about their health and well-being. There is still so much stigma attached to conversations around mental health.

Let’s face it, men don’t always find it easy to open up. For many men, from all types of backgrounds, talking about their feelings can be regarded as a sign of weakness or just not cool. It’s something that happens across many cultures. One place that you can talk with other men, without judgement, is Andy’s Man Club, a national organisation that really supports men to meet up and talk about how they are feeling. You can find out more about the local branch on Facebook.

Next week I am going to be taking a look at anxiety and depression and looking at the connection between the two.

Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various modalities and an Instructor Member of Mental Health First Aid England you can contact him at wellbeing@martinfurber.com

I always say that if you are struggling then see your GP or call the Samaritans on 116 123, or text SHOUT to 85258 they really can help and will not judge you, you are not alone.