The fear of missing out (FOMO) is not a new concept, but younger people are finding its symptoms negatively impact their mental health.

FOMO can show up in different ways. It can be as simple as coming across a post where you see people you know at gatherings you were unaware of. FOMO involves the perception of being excluded from the social events, friendships or enjoyable activities. The thought of being left out fosters intense feelings of anxiety. It also can trigger unhealthy behaviors. 

A Forbes report noted that a few symptoms of FOMO include depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, stress, obsessively checking to see what others are doing and mental exhaustion. Mental health experts concluded that this phenomenon is the desire for belonging. Humans thrive on connection. When that connection feels at risk, it creates uneasiness. While the fear of missing out can impact people of all ages, research has found that teenagers and young adults are at greater risk because of social media. 

“With social media, it’s so hard to avoid that anxiety,” Saundre Allen, a therapist and clinical social worker, told 21Ninety. “You’re constantly looking at highlight reels and all the best things people around you are doing.”

Other sources of FOMO can include being an outsider to a conversation, missing out on a sale, turning down a job, withdrawing from school and more. To help combat FOMO the next time it surfaces, Allen provided her recommendations to break the cycle.

Limit Screen Time

In a digital world, not scrolling through Instagram or watching the latest viral videos on TikTok can sometimes feel impossible. However, too much of anything, is not the healthiest. 

“Before social media, we had no clue what other people were doing, and that was helpful,” Allen said. “I encourage people to have that boundary between yourself and others who may not be in your intimate circle.” 

Turning off social notifications, increasing activity and turning on the do-not-disturb feature are a few small ways that can have a big impact. 

Examine The Key Areas Of Life

Allen recognized the fear of missing out as a form of anxiety, which indicates a lack of fulfillment in other areas of life. Mental health, social life, physical health, family, education/career and recreation are the six categories of life’s balance. Allen said people who are not meeting the needs of these categories are more susceptible to FOMO.

“To cope with some of these feelings, the healthiest thing to do is try to make sure you have a full and whole life where you’re accessing all of these categories,” she said.

Allen suggested participating in psychotherapy as a starting point for determining which areas require more attention. Psychotherapy can be beneficial because it helps a person identify and improve specific behaviors and thinking patterns. Developing coping strategies, tracking emotions/behaviors and raising awareness work to enhance the quality of life.

Determine What You Value

The internal battle of deciding whether to socialize can be mentally exhausting. However, your value system can help you decide if it is worth doing.  

“See if the activities align with what you care about and are interested in,” Allen said. “If not, give yourself the space and grace to ask, ‘Do I want to do something that doesn’t align with my values and interests today.'”

The practice of learning to say “no” prioritizes oneself and honors benefits you at that moment. Knowing what’s important results in setting boundaries. Drawing a line between what is nurturing and what is draining provides clarity. It also removes the sense of urgency that FOMO can cause.

Embrace The Joy Of Missing Out (JOMO)

Missing out does not to have a negative perception. Allen urges everyone to lean into self-care during those spare moments. JOMO doesn’t involve the guilt or shameful feelings that surface for not attending an event or being left out. It welcomes the pleasures of life that come from taking the alone time to pour into oneself.