Experiencing FOMO during Covid? Learn how to navigate these feelings while staying connected

Are you experiencing “FOMO”, or fear of missing out, when scrolling through social media and seeing an endless stream of photos of your friends having fun together while you are stuck home in quarantine?

Are you left wondering why other people seem to not be taking this virus seriously and why they are going about their lives as if we are not in the midst of a global pandemic?

Are you feeling frustrated or angry by the actions of others as the numbers of people infected surge throughout the country threatening a devastating impact?

Are you questioning if you are being too cautious or “paranoid” for turning down invitations to gatherings, maybe even feeling judged or mocked for your precautions?

Responses to this pandemic vary from one extreme to the other, as we all have seen. This has created a significant divide in our society, even some friendships and relationships have come under strain as a result. My own friends have expressed the thoughts mentioned above, as well as many of my patients. Numerous times I myself have had similar feelings. “Am I overreacting? Why isn’t anyone else here wearing a mask? Am I being too cautious?”

When this illness first began sweeping the nation, Stay at Home orders were implemented, and FOMO was not as common an occurrence. There may have been FOMO about not being in certain virtual gatherings or happy hours, yet it was lessened. We were all too busy baking banana bread, finishing a 1000-piece puzzle, creating endless crafts and doing projects around the home to make the time pass. THIS is what you saw as you scrolled through social media. People were staying connected virtually and checking on one another. We banded together as we all shared in this collective experience.

As states started to slowly reopen, each person realized their own level of comfort with resuming the “norm”. Some were eager to return to their routines, while others were not so sure about what felt safe. As the cases of coronavirus began climbing once more, a fear of going out intensified for many. But not everyone. Some who did not feel threatened proceeded to attend parties, go to crowded bars, take trips with groups of friends. Now photos of events like these began circulating online. Those who have been staying cautious, perhaps even isolating, were now left questioning if missing out on these events was really worth it and second guessing their decision to remain vigilant to possible exposure.

Feelings like these are not unique, and are actually coming up for a majority of us as we try to navigate this new territory. This entire situation is completely unprecedented, and we are now expected to make decisions we have never had to make before. How do we figure out what is right, best, and safest for ourselves and also our community? How can we maintain friendships with people who hold polarizing views from our own, and make choices we do not agree with? How do we balance our mental health needs while social distancing and protecting others?

Acknowledge your Feelings

It is okay to feel sad, upset, or frustrated when seeing pictures of people getting together and feeling left out. Your feelings are valid and deserve to be acknowledged. Feel them, tell them to a supportive friend, and do not minimize them.

Recognize why you are making these decisions

Every decision we make regarding our response to COVID must be a calculated one based on assessing potential and probable risk. Generally, we each go about evaluating risk differently. Due to our personal circumstances, some of us may be wary, while others may be content to take on more liability. Factors such as the spread of coronavirus in our area, the state of our own health, and the health and vulnerability of those we come into contact with, all warrant our serious consideration. We are aware that the lowest risk of virus transmission is in a well-ventilated, outdoor space, no more than ten people, all a distance of at least six feet apart. COVID-19 is a severe, and at times, fatal illness that poses a threat for people of all ages. No one is immune, and there is no way to guarantee if you will have a “mild” case. Reports are now breaking of coronavirus patients developing lung, heart, kidney, and neurological complications even after being deemed “recovered”. If the time comes that you begin questioning why you are declining an invitation to a crowded event or gathering, remind yourself of your reasons. And remember, those who make different decisions from you also have their own reasons, so try not to judge.

Limit your use of social media

FOMO is only worsened when you are constantly confronted with pictures of a function you were not a part of. If seeing post after post has you feeling down, take measures to decrease your time spent on social media. Take breaks from it on weekends or evenings, and block or unfollow certain accounts as needed.

Share your thoughts with friends

Your true friends will understand if you are not feeling quite safe yet to spend time in close quarters and less social distancing. Tell them you miss them! Express to them how much you look forward to more time together when this is over, even if it means in several months or a year. Share your excitement to go to that concert next summer. Get creative with how you hang out. That could mean more Zoom or FaceTime meet ups, doing more small outdoor gatherings, playing a game of tennis, or going for a distanced hike. Try to find safe ways to socialize to balance your mental health needs and maintain social interactions.

Focus on what makes you happy and practice gratitude

There are many activities that can bring joy into your day, even during a quarantine. Some ideas may be exercising, learning a new hobby and trying new recipes. Think of what you can engage in, instead of what you can’t.

Let go of some friendships

It is perfectly okay to dismiss any toxic or unhealthy friendships where there exists much divide and misunderstanding. This pandemic has made it clear which friendships are a priority to us, and those are the relationships we nurture.

Remember this is temporary

These times are unprecedented and we are all in this together trying to get through. Everyone is exhausted, scared and experiencing COVID fatigue. We are all missing our “normal”. But remember, we cannot get there without making decisions that keep ourselves and our communities safe. We have to embrace delayed gratification and look out for the greater good.

Blogger|Speaker|Psychiatrist| Inspiring Healthy Minds. Instagram @drdanareid