It's officially silly season - the time of year when Christmas carol concerts, Secret Santa's, and work parties are in full swing. While it can feel exciting, this time of year can also be daunting, which is why setting boundaries and saying "no" when you need is so key to safeguarding your mental health. That said, there's nothing worse than feeling left out when you do respect your own boundaries and turn events down - which is where this guide to how to deal with FOMO comes in.
Fear of missing out - FOMO for short - is all too common at this time of year, and according to recent stats, it impacts over half of us. That's right - a survey found that 56% of social media users have experienced fear of missing out. Whether it's because you've prioritised alone time, are freelance so don't have any Christmas parties to go to, or decided not to spend it with your family, the creeping feeling of not being involved can hugely impact our mental and physical wellbeing.
Social media often acts as a highlight reel, and it's important to remember that what you're seeing online often isn't the whole picture. That said, that often doesn't stop you from feeling low or left out if you're at home alone while everyone and their Aunt seems to be spending quality family time together or partying with their friends.
Interestingly, though, saying no might have more positive ramifications than you'd think. Research released just last week from the American Psychological Association found that saying no this Christmas time could actually be good for your mental health. Researchers working on the study concluded that we "overestimate the negative ramifications that arise in the eyes of inviters following an invitation decline."
Below, we've picked the brains of Sunday Times best-selling author and self-development coach Roxie Nafousi. Below, she shares her top tips for enjoying the festive season, rather than letting it get on top of you. Keep scrolling - and don't miss our guide to how to reduce stress, while you're here.
How to avoid FOMO at one of the busiest times of the year, according to a top life coach
It's the age-old conundrum - you say no to a plan because you've got too much booked in, but then end up questioning whether you should have gone and feeling left out. Sometimes, you weren't even invited. Let's go back to basics before diving into how to avoid this feeling.
So, what exactly is FOMO? "The fear of missing out, otherwise known as FOMO, is a psychological phenomenon characterised by the anxiety or apprehension people feel when they believe they might be missing out on enjoyable experiences or opportunities," explains Nafousi.
Why does it happen? Short answer - "It happens because of a combination of social comparison, the constant exposure to what everyone else is doing on social media, and our innate human desire for connection and novelty," she explains. Think about it - if you're constantly viewing a highlight reel of what influencers, friends, and colleagues are doing online while you're at home, it's only natural to notice feelings of inadequacy or loneliness.
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That being said, this very feeling can often lead us to overcommit to social engagements, Nafousi points out. That's where owning your boundaries and decisions is so key.
Remember this: "Saying no is such a power move," Nafasoui explains. "It’s an act of self-love and is key to finding balance." She points out that, as much as we'd like to think we can, we can't do everything and have to draw the line at some point. "Figure out what your priority is, and only say yes to what is aligned with that priority," she advises. Remember, too, that that priority can change from day to day. For example, today your priority might be finishing wrapping the Christmas presents, which means drinks with your old school friend might need to be a no. If the next day your priority is to let your hair down and unwind, then go for it.
Interestingly, there's science to back this up, too. "Research suggests that healthy boundaries, and saying no reduces stress, increases productivity, and improves mental health," she goes on.
Why is December in particular so overwhelming?
December is a pretty overwhelming time of year for many - so why does Nafousi think this is?
"It’s a time of year where both social and work demands are at their highest," she highlights. That can often result in a real struggle to find balance, she goes on. "At work, there is an intensified pressure to get a month's worth of work done before people start to break for Christmas, and on top of that there's so much to do personally, from Christmas drinks, to parties, to present buying."
With that in mind, it's important to go gently with yourself. Not sure where to start? If you're someone who generally finds December manic or hectic, then the below tips might come in handy.
4 simple ways to avoid FOMO and make December feel less overwhelming
1. Reframe your mindset
Nafousi herself relies on one particular phrase to reframe her mindset. The phrase in question? Joy of missing out, or JOMO for short. "Life's all about reframing things," she shares. "Instead of wishing you were somewhere else, say to yourself: “I’m so glad I’m doing this, instead.""
The approach encourages you to focus on what you have in front of you, rather than on what could be. For example, I'm so glad I'm at home tonight because I'm cosy, warm, and relaxed - not just that, but I'll feel fresh in the morning, too.
Nafousi continues: "I always like to think ahead of how grateful I'll be not to have a hangover or wake up exhausted. It's a real motivator for me to embrace the joy of missing out."
2. Remember that you have a choice
This one's important "It’s very helpful to remember that you have always have a choice," shares the expert. Think about it: you could choose to go out, but instead, you’re choosing to prioritise your well-being.
"This is really key to feeling more empowered by your decisions," she points out.
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3. Try meditation, breathwork, or yoga
Nafousi points out that your nervous system can often be in overdrive at this time of year thanks to late nights, alcohol, festive food and work stress. "It’s important to find ways to calm your nervous system as well as introduce practices that create some mental space for us so that we can recharge, both physically and emotionally," she shares.
4. Make the most of your downtime
Last but by no means least, we reckon your feelings of missing out will vanish pretty quickly if you make whatever else it is you might be doing that bit more enjoyable.
If you're relaxing at home and having an evening in, Nafousi advises lighting a candle, enjoying a bath, and putting on your favourite music to help you unwind.
Shop MC UK's go-to cosy night in kit now:
Like the sound of soothing smells that calm me down and help me to focus? Then you'll love these Anatome aromatherapy oils. They also serve as a sensory reminder to focus on your breathing.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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