FOMO in Midlife: Why It Happens and How to Cope

Do you feel like you’re missing out on something significant? Does it seem like everyone else is having a better time than you are? Do you scroll through social media and feel jealous of other people’s seemingly perfect lives?

You’re not alone. But these existential concerns may indicate the presence of fear of missing out (FOMO) in midlife. And even though it’s a buzzword term, FOMO isn’t just a short-lived trend. It can signify a deep dissatisfaction or evidence of regret in daily life. In addition, research shows that FOMO has less to do with age and more to do with low self-esteem, loneliness, and poor self-compassion.

What Exactly Is FOMO?

In 2013, FOMO was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The concept, however, is nothing new. It’s just that the rise of the Internet and the explosion of social media have likely triggered even more feelings of inadequacy and restlessness.

FOMO, at its core, refers to being worried about missing out on something. Some of the symptoms of FOMO include:

  • saying ‘yes’ as often as possible (even when you don’t really want to do something)
  • using social media excessively
  • being flaky (because you’re always looking to find the “best thing” to do)
  • having experiences just for the sake of having them
  • taking pictures constantly without enjoying the moment
  • spending time with people you don’t really like just to be busy
  • feeling insecure or pathetic when you don’t have plans

What Causes FOMO In Midlife?

FOMO in midlife comes with two paths. The first path is the ‘past path.’ That might be the one chalked with regret or lost opportunity or poor decision-making. Maybe you should have asked that girl out back in high school. Maybe you should have quit that miserable job and started your own business. Maybe you shouldn’t have moved into that big, expensive house.

The second path is the ‘future path.’ When you’re younger, this path may seem exciting and limitless. You can be anything! You can do anything! All you need is time.

But as you get older and time becomes a finite resource, this path feels scarier. Suddenly, you might be anxious about the prospects of loss or death. Maybe you’re worried there just isn’t enough time to get everything done. Perhaps there’s a grief that you just don’t have as many years left.

FOMO, in many ways, can be the crux of depression and anxiety. Depression often comes from ruminating on the past and not feeling good enough. Anxiety manifests from worrying about the future and believing bad things will inevitably happen. FOMO can capture both of these spirals.

How Can You Cope With FOMO?

If you identify that you struggle with FOMO, you can take a proactive stance against this problem. Here are some tips to consider.

Reduce Social Media Consumption

Spending too much time scrolling through feeds can make anyone feel insecure. It’s hard to look at people’s happy lives, even though their profiles are often curated and distorted to show a perfect image.

Aim to set reasonable limits with triggering apps. If possible, consider doing a full detox for a week or so. Notice how you feel during and after this time. Did you notice any emotional shifts? Were you more present in other activities or relationships?

Strengthen Your Relationships

FOMO often manifests from loneliness and social anxiety. Healthy relationships can help us feel more connected and happier in our daily lives.

Prioritize spending time with your current friends or aim to reconnect with old friends. Don’t hesitate to be the one who initiates getting together. Sometimes, FOMO comes from wanting to try a specific activity or event. If there’s something you really want to do, organize it yourself!

Find What You Value (And Pursue It)

Maybe you feel jealous seeing photos of people traipsing around the world. But when you’re really honest with yourself, the idea of international travel makes you anxious, and you actually find yourself homesick whenever you’re away for too long.

There’s nothing wrong with knowing what you value! In fact, people tend to be much happier when they live authentically and congruently to what matters the most to them.

So, spend some time thinking about how you really want to live your life- despite how it may look on social media.

Accept Limitations

Nobody can have it all, but FOMO comes from this disillusioned idea that you can. Instead, recognize that every yes often entails a no somewhere else. And that’s okay- you just need to understand that you won’t get to do absolutely everything.

If you find this concept difficult, practicing mindfulness and gratitude can help. Mindfulness allows you to slow down and embrace the present moment. Gratitude shifts your focus from obsessing over what you want to appreciating what you have.

How Therapy Can Help

FOMO sometimes coincides with mental health conditions like anxiety or depression. It can also emerge during times of grief or significant life transitions.

Therapy offers a safe and supportive environment to explore your emotional obstacles. While you may not eradicate all feelings of regret or wonder, you can learn to live a fulfilling, meaningful life. Contact me today to get started.

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Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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