How to Overcome FOMO and Anxiety During COVID-19

Written by: Lizzy Slonena, Psy.D.

4 Ways to turn FOMO to FONO:

2020 has been the year of unexpected surprises. The pandemic has taken a lot of things away – our precious routines, favorite hobbies, stable jobs, and even our loved ones.

As the world slowly awakens from its half year (!!!) slumber, that icky, all-consuming anxious feeling of FOMO, or the fear of missing out, may be hitting you harder than ever.

Where does FOMO come from?

  • Unhappiness
  • Loneliness
  • Comparing yourself to others

­During this pandemic, you may also feel anxiety from missing out on social gatherings or declining invites because of other’s reactions toward your decision. The fear of missing out can feel even worse when you must weigh your options of remaining physically and mentally healthy while being social.

Why is FOMO hard to fight off?

  • You are biologically wired to desire face-to-face connection.
  • FOMO is linked to higher levels of using social media.
  • People tend to increase time on social media to combat the feeling of loneliness.

Unfortunately, social media just isn’t the same as a heart-to-heart conversation in real life.

It doesn’t help that FOMO is an itch you can easily scratch by checking Facebook, scrolling Instagram, and binging on TikTok videos. That scratching may make you itch even more.  Studies indicate that when experiencing that feeling of missing out, you may automatically turn to social media to feel better and more connected.

And it may be the first and last thing you do in a day. You’re not alone, I’m guilty, too!

The only problem is, constantly checking social media may make you feel worse. Research indicates that “passive consumption of Facebook correlates to a marginal increase in depression.” Yikes.

Why is FOMO worse during COVID-19?

  • Your values, or what brings your life meaning, are in conflict.
  • The differences in re-openings across states, counties, and businesses.
  • You and your loved ones may have different comfort levels socializing and traveling.

If you value both health and human connection, you may be constantly at war with yourself when weighing the safety of your social options. Deciding to attend a wedding, join a socially distanced shindig, or even returning to the gym may feel like an exam; what is the right answer?

And for those more at risk for COVID-19 health complications, even more anxiety and indecision may arise. FOMO is more complicated than ever before.

How to overcome FOMO?
4 strategies backed by science for thriving instead of just surviving

FOMO is a signal that you crave connection. Let’s turn your FOMO into FONO, Finding Other Nourishing Opportunities, that you can safely do anytime, anywhere.

1. Practice Gratitude

You’ve probably heard of gratitude journals and counting your blessings. Turns out research shows that it really works; gratitude doesn’t just make you happier, but it’s correlated with lower stress levels and a better quality of life.

* Write down at least 1 thing you’re thankful for.
* Express how much you appreciate someone by texting or calling them.
* Invite your friends or family to start a gratitude challenge together. Check in at the end of the day to share 1 thing you’re grateful for.

You may be amazed at the delights of everyday life.

2. Savor what you already have for a breath longer

Savoring is a habit of happiness according to positive psychology research. By intentionally slowing down, engaging all senses, and fully appreciating how good a moment is for just a breath longer, you will help your brain metaphorically bookmark this experience for future enjoyment. Make the mundane magnificence by savoring:

  • Your first delicious sip of coffee in the morning.
  • Your last bite of desert.
  • Seeing the sun set or rise.

As corny as it may seem, cherish what you already have. You’ll learn that enough is a feast.

3. Establish healthy boundaries with social media

A study suggests limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to a significant improvement in well-being, including reducing loneliness, depression, and anxiety.

How to limit social media use:

  • Put an alarm on your phone for 30 mins to limit “doom scrolling” into oblivion.
  • Place your phone in another room to decrease the urge to scroll first thing in the morning or before bed.
  • Take a Social Media Sabbatical for a week or even a month.

4. Consider talking to a therapist

The pandemic has flipped our lives upside down, stress is at an all-time high, and perhaps your trusty coping strategies are now bittersweet memories of a pre-COVID life.

According to researchers, the next pandemic may be a mental health pandemic.  But, you don’t have to struggle alone.

  • A therapist can help you learn new ways to cope in these strange times.
  • Therapy is not like it’s shown on TV (We won’t ask you about your mother, unless you really want us to).
  • And, it’s more affordable than you think, even without insurance.

If you read these tips and want to dive deeper to live a more engaging, full life, you can see a qualified therapist at the CBT Counseling Center. We offer affordable, efficient, and evidence-based treatments to get you out of this FOMO funk. We can also teach you new ways to manage stress, anxiety, depression, and other health struggles to help you live a brighter life in these dark times.

We can be contacted at any time by phone at (828) 350-1177 or via the online contact form that’s available on our website.

Research Citations:

Burke, M., Marlow, C., & Lento, T. (2010, April). Social network activity and social well-being. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 1909-1912).

Franchina, V., Vanden Abeele, M., Van Rooij, A. J., Lo Coco, G., & De Marez, L. (2018). Fear of missing out as a predictor of problematic social media use and phubbing behavior among Flemish adolescents. International journal of environmental research and public health15(10), 2319.

Watkins, P. C., McLaughlin, T., & Parker, J. P. (2019). Gratitude and subjective well-being: Cultivating gratitude for a harvest of happiness. In Scientific concepts behind happiness, kindness, and empathy in contemporary society (pp. 20-42). IGI Global.

Hunt, M. G., Marx, R., Lipson, C., & Young, J. (2018). No more FOMO: Limiting social media decreases loneliness and depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology37(10), 751-768.

Jose, P. E., Lim, B. T., & Bryant, F. B. (2012). Does savoring increase happiness? A daily diary study. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(3), 176–187.

O’Leary, K., & Dockray, S. (2015). The effects of two novel gratitude and mindfulness interventions on well-being. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine21(4), 243-245.

Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior29(4), 1841-1848.