3 tips to turn festive FOMO into JOMO

The fairy lights are out, the sentimental adverts have hit our screens, and Mariah is warbling out of every shop from here to the North Pole. Christmas is truly upon us, along with its old sidekick, festive FOMO.

We spoke to clinical psychologist, Dr Michelle Muniz, to get the lowdown on what causes FOMO and what we can do to try to tackle it.

What is festive FOMO?

FOMO is short for ‘fear of missing out’ and describes that gnawing feeling you get when you think something more exciting or fulfilling is going on somewhere else, without you. It can range from a twinge of disappointment, to feelings of acute loneliness and low self-esteem.

FOMO can also strike when you have too many options. You might choose to go on an amazing date, but you'll still sneak a look at your phone to see what you're missing with your mates. And that's the real killer: FOMO stops you from ever being truly present in the moment.

What's so hard at Christmas is that ‘perfect’ images that we're used to seeing online suddenly jump out of our phones and surround us wherever we go. Those glittery parties, festive dinners and picture-perfect presents take on a life of their own in TV adverts, magazines, films and seasonal songs. We’re lulled into this feeling that everyone else is having a good time except us, which can trigger feelings of isolation and poor self-image, particularly for those already struggling with their mental health.

Festive or FOMO?

FOMO isn’t new

As clinical psychologist Dr Michelle Muniz explains, “FOMO isn’t a new thing.” It’s been around forever and is part of how we’ve evolved successfully as a species.

As humans, we have a drive to achieve and maintain the best lifestyle we can. For our ancestors, Dr Muniz explains, this meant their “basic needs being met.” But as we’ve advanced this has become more complex, with many people craving “status symbols” too, like the newest phone or the fastest car. When when we don’t have those things, some people feel envious.

We also have an in-built need for social acceptance which can stimulate FOMO. “We developed as social beings, to run in a pack,” explains Dr Muniz. So, when you don’t feel part of the pack (for example, when you’re not invited to a party or can't afford Christmas presents for your friends), you can feel really vulnerable.

For our ancestors, this would have had life-or-death consequences, like having no one to watch your back when you went hunting. The stakes may be different today, but we still feel the same intense social rejection.

Three ways to fight festive FOMO

According to Dr Muniz, the first step in fighting FOMO is to be more mindful – to bring your attention back into the present moment. Here are three ways you can start to do this.

1. Set social media boundaries

It might help to be extra-vigilant with your social media use over the festive period. If you know an event is happening that you can’t go to, try not to check your accounts while it’s on. Seeing updates will only make you feel worse. As Dr Muniz puts it, social media presents “a false reality that’s with us every minute of every day.”

Turn off your notifications and do something you enjoy instead – in the here and now. You might even mute or unfollow certain accounts that trigger your festive FOMO. That influencer skiing over Christmas? Unfollow.

2. Create a gratitude list

This might sound a bit cheesy, but bear with us. Writing a list of things you're thankful for, whether they're big or small, can help you to stop comparing and focus on the real things that you do have, rather than what you don’t. You can revisit this list to ground yourself if you start to feel anxious or like you’re missing out.

3. Embrace JOMO

JOMO, or the 'joy of missing out', is the ultimate antidote to FOMO. JOMO is that contented, satisfying feeling when you know you’re right where you need to be. It’s about doing what you want to do rather than what advertising or social media make you feel you should do.

Would you rather go to that Christmas Eve party or stay at home and watch a film? Would you enjoy catching up with an old friend more than schmoozing at the office event? Or… wait for it… would you rather not do either? Yes. It’s a real option!

And have yourself a merry little Christmas!

FOMO (festive or otherwise) is a normal part of being human so it isn't something that's going to go away. That doesn't mean you can't take steps to control it and limit the extent to which you let it affect your life.

So, this holiday season, kick back, let your hair down, enjoy a mince pie... or don't. It's up to you. Just make sure, whatever you choose, that you're in the moment, living your own experiences and making your own memories.

Do what YOU want to do this Christmas.
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