When you start university, it feels as though a wealth of opportunities have suddenly appeared right in front of you. You can develop your own routine, eat whatever you fancy, go to every single party without worrying about curfews, and the list goes on.
In fact, when you imagined your first year, it was probably a chaotic vibe of drinking, playing games, house parties, and all-around fun. This isn’t the case for everyone, though, and for a lot of freshers, this lifestyle doesn’t exist because it isn’t sustainable. Seeing everyone else’s lives play out on social media is bound to kick off FOMO; that’s “fear of missing out.”
FOMO can cause us to have low self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, loneliness, social anxiety, and look negatively at our own image. Of course, we can experience these feelings at times anyway, so how do we know it’s FOMO?
- If you find yourself always saying “yes” even when you don’t want to.
- You begin to feel excluded from opportunities, including the ones you said “no” to.
- Being on social media almost obsessively, just to see what others may be up to.
- You might even begin to feel concerned about other people’s opinions, and what they might think of you if you don’t go to an event.
- You don’t feel satisfied with your life or the choices you make, perhaps even feeling underwhelmed.
Feeling as though you aren’t making the most of your newfound freedom can really play on your mind and stop you from taking part in things altogether! It’s easy to get swept up in this notion that if you aren’t busy 24/7, then you must be doing something wrong, and this leads to a certain pressure. There is a fear that you will potentially face social exclusion for the rest of your university experience. That is overwhelming for a fresher who is already feeling the pressure of being away from home!
In my experience, I was quite shy and did not drink, so I was worried about starting university and having people pressure me to drink or exclude me completely. I was fortunate to have a flat that didn’t really care, and so I made friends with like-minded students who didn’t always want to party. It’s not a terrible thing to like to go out, but it is certainly not for everyone, and it is okay to say “no.” The guilt still crept up on me sometimes, but it was important to remind myself that I can’t be everywhere at once.
Here are some tips that might help you to handle FOMO:
1. Focus on doing things you enjoy
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed with feeling as though you aren’t doing enough, try and reconnect with yourself and what you enjoy doing. Perhaps you’re in need of a fun shopping trip, there’s a film you’ve wanted to see at the cinema, or you love a cosy night in with your favourite snacks and a nostalgic TV series. These are all things that will help to remind you that you can find enjoyment in things yourself, without feeling as though you have to compete or join with others.
2. Take a social media break
We’ve all done the dreaded ‘doom-scrolling’, where we can find ourselves online for hours. If you’ve noticed that you’re getting caught up in what others are doing, perhaps looking at their stories or looking through their tagged photos, then it is more than okay to take a break! If you still see friends posting, then perhaps choose to interact with posts that don’t make you feel sad. Try not to focus on what you’re missing and focus on things that you like to see or watch online, perhaps you have a favourite content creator. Try not to see what people are posting as a competition for how fun your life is, your friends will end up doing things separately, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t enjoy yourself just because you aren’t there.
3. Connect with your friends
FOMO can often leave you feeling lonely, so take the time to text your friends or call them for a catch up. It doesn’t have to be a crazy social gathering, but even just a cup of tea and asking “how are you” can go a long way and will make you feel a lot less distant from them.
4. Ask yourself: “What is important now?”
One thing that helps to subside feelings of FOMO is remembering that realistically, you cannot be in more than one place at once! Sometimes other things in your life need to take priority, so by asking yourself what requires your attention at that time, you’ll be able to focus on what you need to do instead of worrying about missing out on other things. For instance, if FOMO has reared its head during exam season because you’ll miss out on a party, just remember that if you take the time to study now you can party again later. This helps to add some logic and reason to the emotions that come with FOMO, don’t put too much pressure on yourself by trying to please everyone!
You might find yourself feeling a little burnt out from constantly agreeing to do things, but understanding your limits is a wonderful thing. If you think you aren’t doing as much as others and you’re worried you aren’t making the most of your experience, just remember that there is no rule book when it comes to what you do and when you do it.
FOMO is a real mood killer, but the only thing you do not want to miss out on is some quality you-time. The key things to focus on are to set boundaries, do whatever you find enjoyment in, use this time to truly get to know yourself, and prioritise your own health.
Here are some helpful resources that might help to curb the FOMO:
1. Set out daily, weekly, and monthly priorities ahead of time
In order to feel less overwhelmed, get ahead of the game with a planner. This will help you to jot down any deadlines, appointments, or even social gatherings you want to make time for in the future. This way you’ll feel more on top of things and it’ll help you feel much more satisfied when everything is ticked off!
Check out this 2022-2023 planner that even has a monthly overview and a to-do list section.
2. Taking time for yourself and practise meditation to help with any anxiety
If you find yourself feeling anxious then it’s important to let yourself relax, breathe, and focus on yourself. It may not be something you do regularly, but meditation can help to focus your mind and regulate your emotions in the moment.
Here is a 3-minute meditation exercise to try, which helps you to reframe stressful situations.
3. Treat yourself to a cosy night in!
Life can be too much at times, so if you feel like you just want to enjoy your own company for an evening, there’s no harm in that. Get yourself snuggled up and watch your favourite film.
Of course you’ll need the essentials: a hooded blanket and a microwaveable popcorn maker.
4. Write down all of your thoughts and worries into a journal
Journalling is a great way to empty your thoughts out onto paper. It’s private and allows you to share every and any emotion. Once it’s written down you might feel a weight has been lifted, and it should hopefully put an end to the overthinking! You can also document positive things, or activities you’ve really enjoyed so in the future you can look back and see how far you’ve come.
Check out this lined notebook so you can scribble down all of those thoughts.
5. Speak to others who have felt the same as you
Most people will experience some type of FOMO, and because it can feel quite lonely it can be a valuable experience to speak to others who understand how you feel. This can be with friends, family, or even student counsellors who are trained to listen and help you through it.
We’ve all been there, you’ve got this!
About the Author:
I am currently a freelance journalist, and have been since 2021 when I graduated from Salford University where I completed my MA in International Journalism. Before that, I studied at Lancaster University where I did my undergraduate in English Literature, and I really enjoyed my time as a student there. One thing about me, is that I am passionate about the environment, and this is what I specialised in at University. It also shows through the twelve plants currently sat in my room!