We have all experienced that “stop the world, I want to get off,” sensation. It’s the feeling we get when we have too many obligations, commitments, dependents, assignments, expectations, pings, buzzes, rings, dings and other interruptions. It’s hard to get a thought in edgewise.
How much of this overwhelm is self-created? The acronym FOMO stands for “Fear of Missing Out,” and it’s not only tweens and teens that fall for it. The way commercials whet our appetite for the latest breakfast cereal (Cartoon Channel) or erectile dysfunction drug (The Golf Channel), social media and the internet can create a craving for the latest, well, everything.
FOMO spurred me to listen to dozens of Tim Ferriss podcasts in record time. Not only did I spend every minute in the car and on the treadmill listening to these information-rich two to three hour programs, I bought a lot of the recommended books, wanting to soak up as much as I could as fast as possible.
What happened? As with caffeine or sugar, when you ingest two much information you’ve got a crash coming. I felt edgy and invincible for about a week, then began to realize that the pile of books by the bed was not shrinking and I was not absorbing and internalizing a lot of what I was trying to learn. Basically I was cramming, and that is not an organized approach to learning.
Many people experience FOMO socially and show up at every meeting, party, lunch, coffee and fundraiser. The crazy thing is that lots of social FOMO-ers can’t tear themselves away from texts and tweets while they are supposed to be present in a room full of people.
Shopping can be another FOMO hazard for the orderly life. Following fashion magazine and celebrity trends can become a seriously expensive and time consuming habit, and oddly enough can still leave a girl with a pretty closet full of nothing to wear.
How to go from FOMO to FWMO (Fine with Missing Out—I know it doesn’t make a very fun acronym)? I got really lucky when a friend invited me to take a meditation class. It forced me to sit and try to clear my mind for 45 minutes.
When I finish meditation, I feel so great that the last thing that occurs to me is mucking up my mental state with hashtags, political rants and unicorn jokes—the usual social media suspects. If you can’t find a meditation class, try one of the phone applications such as Headspace. Put on your headphones and let someone guide you through a simple ten minute meditation. Or try Insight Timer and do your own meditation but let the app bring you out of it with a gentle bell or gong.
Summer can be full of FOMO—everyone seems to be taking amazing vacations and thanks to Facebook, we get to “react” to everybody else’s white sand beaches. Lucky for us, we live in one of the most gorgeous places on earth, so if you haven’t been outside soaking up some serious natural beauty, balmy evening air and sun light, what are you waiting for? There’s nothing like the natural order of moving your body through a summer day to banish FOMO.
Exercise is also a good “bye-bye” to FOMO. I always feel like my day is a success if I have exercised.
Take a fast from screens (TV, tablet, phone) to get some FOMO-less peace of mind back. Try to go 24 hours, and if that is painless, keep going. If you have to, set aside one or two times a day to check phone and e-mail. Put your phone on silent, and if you are going someplace you can’t or shouldn’t use your phone, like the movies, leave it in the car. Cut the cord!
Sometimes all that FOMO activity is avoidance of our own projects and goals. It sometimes seems that everyone else is working on something more interesting. But with a little meditation, exercise, time in nature and a screens fast, you can gain some insight into your own work and passions. These activities free up brain RAM so that you can forget FOMO and go for GTD (Getting Things Done).