How to deal with FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
It’s uncomfortable and we really don’t want to feel it (or even admit that we feel it!). But it’s not unusual for expats to experience fear of missing out (FOMO). Thanks to social media, we can stay hyper-connected to our loved ones, but this means we also witness all the good times and special occasions they’re celebrating without us.
Missing all this – and knowing “everyone else” is probably there – can be painful. But don’t despair: FOMO is normal, it can be resolved, and it may even hold a few lessons for us…
The complexity of expat FOMO
Most people who decide to move abroad do so with a better life in mind – a new job, an adventure, a fresh start. But what happens when you find yourself spending a lot of your time thinking about what you’re missing out on or scrolling through your social media feed, trying to keep up with everything at home?
Expat FOMO is complex: it’s not just about missing out on good times; it’s also about seeing people move on with their lives. Wondering if they miss your presence, if you’re being replaced, or if you’ll ever be able to connect that way again. You might find yourself wanting to be in both places, or even questioning your move, as your more familiar loved ones carry on with their lives, without you.
Yep, expat FOMO can come in a big and beautiful package of sadness, nostalgia and jealousy, even if you’re really happy for your loved ones. These feelings can increase your anxiety associated with the idea that something fun and exciting is happening elsewhere.
Whether it’s a missed wedding, a family member’s special birthday or your best friend’s graduation, it’s never nice to see a photo and think to yourself “I would (or should) have been there”. Or to Skype with a good friend back home and hear they’re going to a party hosted by someone whose name you don’t recognise.
Studies show that experiencing FOMO can increase feelings of frustration, anxiety and mental exhaustion. Add being an expat into the mix and the level of “missing out on things” is inevitably high. You can start to feel some serious FOMO.
What to do about FOMO
So, here are six strategies to try if you find yourself stuck in FOMO mode:
1. Remember that it’s all relative
You chose to move away and your friends at home probably have FOMO too! Just as you’re missing out on parts of their lives, they’re missing out on parts of your life – they’ve been left with a “you-sized hole”. And while it might feel like you’re being replaced, you can’t really blame them for making new friends (just as you have).
2. Know your FOMO triggers
FOMO tends to strike harder when we’re feeling low or lonely, so take extra care of yourself in those times, to build your emotional resilience. This will probably involve setting social media boundaries– go on a social media detox if necessary, and choose to use it only when it supports your wellbeing (see tip below).
3. Plan ahead
Use online technology (e.g. schedule Skype chats) or plan in-person visits to help you stay connected to the people that matter the most to you. Make time for them so you can enjoy healthy, happy long-distance relationships.
4. Know that it’s okay to feel this way…
… and that friendships and group dynamics change in day-to-day life too. It’s okay to sometimes feel disconnected from people who are far away – this might also have been the case if you were still living close to them! Invest in all friends you consider kindred spirits, whether they’re at home or in your new country.
5. Make peace with where you are now
When FOMO has you in its grips, take a quiet moment to appreciate where you are. The art of gratitude can soothe your FOMO pains and help you to move through them. And remember: friends are the family we choose and, more often than not, real friendships last a lifetime.
6. What is your FOMO telling you?
There may be some important lessons to be learned from it. Sometimes the things you are missing can be a sign of what’s important to you, and which aspects of your current life you’d like to develop more.
Embrace the new
Realising you can’t be part of everything can be one of the hardest things to deal with as an expat. It’s important to know that the people who are meant for you are likely to stay in your life. Remember them but also embrace the new people and new experiences in your life right now.
P.S. If your FOMO is chronic, and if it is limiting you from leading a full life, consider reaching out for support.
With thanks to Sophie Patrick for her contribution to this article.
What are your FOMO triggers? How do you deal with FOMO? Share your thoughts below and let’s conquer this together!