Annie Denver talks FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in Adults
FOMO - it’s not just for kids. More and more, we notice that adults are contending with FOMO, fear of missing out. Our team was lucky enough to sit and talk with Annie Denver, a psychotherapist in Aspen, Colorado to learn tips and strategies on how to manage or, even better, let go of FOMO altogether.
It’s such an interesting time we live in. People are hyper-aware of living right, exercising smart, eating healthfully, giving back, and all sorts of high-minded exemplary behaviors. And then, right alongside these lofty attitudes and mores, lives the nagging world of FOMO, in which social media posting reigns supreme, and pictorially bragging to a very wide audience of friends and not-friends has almost become acceptable. It’s a very unusual dichotomy that puts so many of us off-balance.
It's very easy to create an image, to tell a story without the burden of proving that the happy, wonderful life you’re putting out there for everyone to see is actual and substantial. This narrative creates an imbalance, a false sense of the life you’re living versus the life you’re telling everyone you might be living. And it is fertile ground for FOMO.
Why do so many of us get caught up in a world of wondering what we might be missing, who’s doing what with whom, why we weren’t included, or was the trip I just took as special as the one so-and-so just enjoyed?
Help! How can we create a community (both actual and on social media) that values authenticity? How can we best deal with the perils of FOMO?
First things first, what is FOMO? Is it a construct of the social-media-infused times we live in?
FOMO, or “Fear of Missing Out,” is not a new construct. It is as old as time. We live in a culture of this “condition” where social media heightens and brightens it. But, to be clear, this is not new – it is a part of the human condition. Think about it, jealousy, one-upsmanship, how we compare our insides to others’ outsides. These are not new ideas.
Are there short-term and longer-term strategies that can help adults manage FOMO?
Keep things simple, genuine, true – and hold yourself with compassion. It is normal to have these “FOMO” emotions and reactions to situations. That said, it is important to be mindful and intentional with what we do with these emotions. Things inevitably will make you jealous, for instance. But learn, through practice, how to be skillful with that emotion, how to manage it, reduce its scope, and mitigate its effect and power over you. It’s important to recognize what your priorities are in life.
Continue to remind yourself to pause, investigate, and redirect. When a feeling of jealousy or judgement comes up, notice it. Pause. And then see how you can redirect your thought patterns to a more positive place that is in keeping with how you hope to be.
Give yourself credit when you do catch yourself having a FOMO moment, be patient and accepting as you attempt to rewire those thought processes. Know that you won’t always get it right, and that you will occasionally fall into those well-worn patterns of judging, comparing, and having petty thoughts. Continue to stay aware, try to re-wire, and learn to laugh a little at yourself. A sense of humor always helps.
What are the most important things we, as adults, can do to help ourselves when we feel FOMO?
I would say the first thing to do is to have awareness and an intention to create new pathways. For example, you think to yourself, “Whoa. What is really important to me?”
By labeling an emotion, we limit it. Come up with a kinder interpretation of that feeling and, in its place, bring acceptance. For example, what is this emotion telling me? Is it true, is it helpful? Remember, you are creating a new, more skillful way of thinking and being.
Secondly, set an intention at the start of every day. Then, at the end of the day, take inventory. Notice how this can help tune you in to a life that is built on a more positive foundation.
Thirdly, mindfulness can reset the wandering mind. Yoga, meditation, spiritual connections, and spending time in nature root us to a more meaningful and fully-realized way of living.
Finally, establish a gratefulness practice. At the end of each day, list three to five things you are grateful for. Studies have shown that gratefulness practices, done consistently, increase a sense of calm, happiness and wellbeing.
What are the risks and realities if we don’t manage FOMO?
There are true risks if FOMO isn’t managed; depression, low-self-esteem, missing out on the joy in life. FOMO is a natural impulse, but one that can be managed and redirected into something else. It can be seen as a gift and a challenge to redefine and, with purpose, decide how we want to be in this world. It is your opportunity to make different choices to make a fuller, more realized life.
Are you seeing FOMO more and more in Aspen, a place where people appear to have it all?
Any time you are in a place of great wealth, you will have fertile ground for this kind of thinking. However, everything is relative. And it is important to remember that everybody is climbing a hill inside themselves. To this I would add, keeping the conversation simpler, rather than more complicated, will always help us find our way back to our truest selves. In Aspen, we may have certain realities, but, these exist in every place, in every person, all over the globe, they are just realized in different ways.
How can we best model our behavior of managing FOMO to our own kids, who undoubtedly contend with it in their own worlds?
We can teach our children how to recognize their feelings and thoughts, and how to redirect and relabel them when they arise. We can teach and demonstrate how to be gentle with ourselves, how to connect to something aligned with values and character. We can also create a family-home and family-life that exemplify the things that matter to us.
FOMO can cut deep when we think of our kids and our loved ones missing out, getting hurt feelings. What can we do to help others when the pain or embarrassment of these feelings is so out in the open?
I would suggest asking the question, “Missing out on what?” “Is it even true?” Unpacking the emotions and thoughts that surround FOMO-moments help bring us back to a grounded truth. Lots of times, these “stories” on social media are really just that – stories. They do not represent a true retelling of what was actually happening.
How can we realistically adapt and positively co-exist with social media – and keep our feelings of FOMO at bay?
Feelings of FOMO come up with or without social media. Envy and jealousy has been around for hundreds of years. However, Instagram, Facebook, etc. do not make it easier on us.
We ask you this not to induce FOMO, but just because we’re Helen Jon. Where is your favorite beach, your favorite place to go and be away from it all?
My favorite beach, that’s easy. Mead’s Bay in Anguilla. One of my favorite places on Earth to just “be” is anywhere in the Rocky Mountains and the White River National Forest. I love to be able to call this place my home.
Thank you, Annie! We loved getting to know you and learning how we can manage and minimize FOMO – and how we can get back to the basics of enjoying life, living it up, and laughing all along the way.