Long before I developed Crohn’s disease, I suffered from another chronic illness. This condition is called Fear of Missing Out, and is more commonly known as FOMO. It plagues millions of Americans each and every year, and incidents of this disease continue to rise. FOMO is most prevalent among the ages of 15 to 25, but people of all ages can be affected. Stress, anxiety, and obsessively checking Snapchat are some of the most common symptoms. Several factors contribute to this condition including modern culture, improvements in technology, and excessive use of social media.
FOMO often occurs in conjunction with other chronic illnesses. People dealing with chronic disease may miss out on many experiences due to frequent appointments, fatigue, or periods of illness. When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, I was about to start my last semester of college. My friends and I were gearing up for many late nights, tequila shots, and 2 a.m. Domino’s deliveries. I was ultimately too sick to participate in these events, and as a result I suffered debilitating FOMO.
FOMO may be discouraging at times, but it’s important to stay positive. There is currently no cure, but there are ways to effectively manage FOMO symptoms:
1. Slow down
Take the time to take a breath. Our culture glorifies the idea of being overloaded, as if there is some unspoken competition for who can be the busiest. Multitasking has become the new normal and this go-go-go mentality shows no signs of slowing. It's important to remove yourself from the chaos and enjoy some unstructured downtime.
2. Keep a gratitude journal
Write down a few things that you are grateful for. Pick a time each day and make this practice a habit. It can be the littlest of things, like the breeze coming through your window or sleeping in on a Sunday morning. This is not an instant fix, but over time you will train your mind to look for the good in even the worst of situations. It's so easy to get wrapped up in what is going wrong in your life and overlook all of the things that are going right. When you experience gratitude and celebrate the little things, you will be less likely to compare your life to the lives of others.
3. Practice mindfulness
Living in the now is a great way to combat the effects of FOMO. When you are focused on the present moment, you weaken the nagging feeling that you are missing out on something 'better'. Cultivate a daily meditation practice to build your mindfulness muscle and quiet the thoughts that don't serve you.
4. Limit your screen time
Constantly checking social media sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram will aggravate FOMO symptoms. Pictures and posts are often misleading, making moments appear far more fun than they are in reality. Comparing your life to what you see on social media contributes to unrealistic expectations and negative self talk. Take some time to disconnect from these stressors to manage your symptoms.
5. Do more of what makes you happy
We only have 24 hours in a day, yet we are given an infinite number of ways that we can use that time. Your time is precious and only you can decide how you want to spend it. Remember that there is ALWAYS something you are missing out on, and nothing you do will change that fact. Block out the noise and spend your time on the things that truly make you happy.
There is currently no cure for FOMO (although pharmaceutical companies are probably developing a wonder drug that will turn a nice profit in the near future). While we may never see an end to this illness, hopefully these tips help to improve your quality of life.