12 Ways to Fight New-Parent FOMO
In typical millennial fashion, I put off getting married and having a family for quite awhile. Instead, I opted for staying single, renting and traveling as I pleased. Two years ago, at 33, I had my first baby and bought my first house. Baby No. 2 came along shortly after. Suddenly, I’m a mom with a mortgage and a 529 savings plan for my kids’ college — and I’ve never felt more like I’m missing out.
Now, every time I open Instagram to the smiling face of a friend enjoying her European vacation with her family (it happens more than you might think) or raise my blinds to see my neighbors doing yet more landscaping to their beautifully renovated house, I feel a very subtle (but very real) pang of envy.
Millennials have dubbed this feeling FOMO — fear of missing out —and when you’re a parent, it’s not only about things you could be missing out on, but stuff your child could be missing out on as well. Luckily, there are a few ways that experts suggest help ward off FOMO, and they don’t involve cutting yourself off from society (at least not completely).
Shut Down Social Media
If you want to post something on social media, that’s fine, but stop scrolling through your feed, says Christine Hassler, millennial expert and author of “Expectation Hangover.” “If there’s someone you compare yourself to a lot, turn off notifications for their updates,” she suggests. “Be in charge and remove opportunities where fear of missing out can happen.”
For a little extra help, try an app like Freedom that blocks access to the sites you want, when you want, across all your devices.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Research shows that a lack of adequate sleep affects not only our mood, motivation and judgment, but it also affects how we perceive events. In other words, lack of sleep could lead you to believe that missing out on a dinner with your friends is a much bigger deal than it actually is.
If you’re a parent, getting a good night’s sleep might seem impossible. But there are a few things you can do to help you get to sleep quickly when the opportunity presents itself, and it starts with your phone. “Commit to plugging your phone into an outlet outside of your bedroom at night so you can get a good night’s sleep,” suggests Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT, a Texas-based marriage and family therapist.
Other tips include avoiding caffeine close to bedtime or taking a warm bath to relax.
Every time you feel a wave of FOMO coming on, think of someone else. “Stop obsessing over yourself,” says Kay Wills Wyma, mom of five and author of “I’m Happy for You (Sort Of … Not Really): Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison.”
“There’s likely a person in your life who could use a little attention or assistance, so focus your energy on being helpful to others instead of worrying about what you do (and don’t) have yourself,” she adds.
Volunteer at your local community garden, walk dogs at the pound or deliver food for Meals on Wheels. Bonus points if your kid can help with these altruistic activities, too.
Adjust Your Expectations
If you feel like you’re missing out on something specific, figure out a way to have something similar.
For example, if you always skip happy hour with colleagues because you need to get home to the kids, set a lunch date instead, so you can socialize in peace while the kids are in school, suggests Hassler.
The next time your mind wanders to what you want and can’t have, focus on your immediate surroundings.
“Smell a flower, listen to the birds, hug your kids,” says Hassler. “The more you’re present, the less you experience FOMO.”
Remember What You Do Have
A little gratitude goes a long way. To practice it, Hassler suggests making a list of three to five simple things you’re grateful for every night before you go to bed. “Again, focus on what you have, so you’ll focus less on what you’re missing,” she says.
For a more physical and immediate method, Hassler likes the rubber band trick. “I tell people to wear a rubber band around their wrist. Then, when they’re mentally going to a place that isn’t useful, they snap the band and snap themselves back to the moment,” she says.
Perfect a Skill for Your Own Gain
FOMO is such a waste of precious time that goes too fast, especially when you’re parenting, says Wills Wyma. Instead of caring about others, use that energy to concentrate on being your own best self.
To that end, make a list of things you always thought you’d like to try, and start tackling one the next time you find yourself feeling jealous of someone else. If taking up a new hobby feels too daunting right now, divert your attention to one hobby you already know you enjoy. When you feel a wave of FOMO coming on, work on mastering it.
Getting outdoors helps with everything, but more than just getting outside, it’s about getting into nature, says Rachel Wright, a New York-based psychotherapist and therapeutic relationship coach.
“Going on a walk in nature for 60 minutes can prevent against depression and change your mood,” she adds.
Bring the Outside In
If you honestly can’t find the time to get outside for even a couple minutes a day, Wright suggests looking for ways to bring micro-nature to you. Even if it’s plants or some pinecones, she says, bringing some form of nature inside is a great way to enjoy the benefits of the outdoors without actually going outside at all.
Natural light can also do wonders when it comes to lifting your mood and helping with your overall health. In fact, research has found that natural light boosts vitamin D storage (which helps prevent depression, among other things), leads to higher levels of productivity and improves your overall mood.
Practice Self-Care on a Daily Basis
It can be easy to jump straight to feeling like you’re a bad person for sensing a twinge of jealousy when others seem to “have it all,” but instead of feeling guilty, consider channeling that guilt into action by creating a self-care routine.
“[Self-care activities] like meditation and journaling can help people become more present and grounded in the here-and-now, and less worried about what other people are doing in their own lives,” says McBain.
Go to Therapy
If you’ve tried every method under the sun to shut down feelings of FOMO and you just can’t seem to rid yourself of those jealous tendencies, it might help to find someone to talk to about them.
“Therapy is another helpful place to explore some of these concerns when they come up,” says McBain.
If You Can’t Beat 'Em, Join 'Em
When it came to my own FOMO, I decided if I couldn't beat 'em, I’d join 'em. Any time I see an envy-inducing photo on social media, I like it and comment enthusiastically, which actually eases my FOMO-filled conscience.
I also befriended the neighbors and use their renovations as inspiration for my own future plans. After all, maybe I can't have everything I want all at once. Someday, I'll get a clawfoot bath and kitchen remodel, but for now, those pesky 529s are helping to ensure my children have a bright future, and that’s pretty awesome, too.