Forestalling Fear Of Missing Out

I have a wonderful life. I know it. You know it. Yet I find myself looking around and wondering why I do not have trips to Europe, a giant savings account or a new car in my life. The dreaded Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) strikes again.

Fear of missing out while I do chores
I have to work SO HARD!

Most of us (all of us?) feel that we are missing out on something. Facebook and easy communications have increased this sensation. My cousins are off on another fabulous family cruise. I sit in Denver working on my to-do list making sure that we have things handled before venturing back to our isolated park in southeastern Utah. My posts on Facebook are about the great stuff in my life but my daily reality includes sweating profusely through my workouts (with nothing to show for the effort, by the way), cooking, cleaning, worrying about money and being sure I am missing everything.

My research has uncovered a great article by Martha Beck (you can read it here). But I will summarize my favorite take-aways.

Combating the Fear Of Missing Out

Fear of missing out sticky notes work
Sometimes I need notes to remember the good stuff.
  1. FOMO comes from thinking other people have better lives than we do. Parts of their lives are great. But they don’t mention the family fights, eating cereal for dinner instead of cooking, the time they lost their phone or how difficult their co-workers are. Our glimpses are only a piece of the truth. One truism says that if you sat in a group of friends and everyone put a list of the problems they face on a piece of paper, you would look through the pile and pick your own set of troubles. Yes, everyone has them. So, pay attention to the good stuff in your own life. I have found I have to make a list of wonderful things we have done so I can remember during those low moments.
fear of missing out the ice cream
Ice Cream is very comforting!

2. We can re-enginer the acronym to work for us. What else could those letters stand for that remind us of what we already have? The author suggests a few: Feel Okay More Often find little things that give us pleasure and focus on them; Find One Magnificent Object appreciate something wonderful in your own life; and my personal favorite Flocks Of Magic Otters.” She adds,What, you don’t think these actually exist? Huh. They’re no more outlandish than believing that everyone you know has a more awesome life than you.” I made up one, too. Focus On My Own. Do you have a car that runs? Someone who cares about you? A home? Comfort food available to eat? Past experiences that make you smile when you remember them? Luckily, each life has its good moments.

What’s Next?

The trick is to pay attention to when we feel sad about what we don’t have and make an effort to notice all we already have in our lives. Yes, it is easier said than done, but has become more automatic with practice. Daily gratitude, being kind to others and noticing other people’s smiles all help me stay focused on the good side of my life. Finally, for me, writing things down always supports my efforts. I feel lucky that you take the time to read my blogs. Thanks!

Fear of missing out the forsythia
There is always something worth enjoying!

 

“In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day–or to celebrate each special day.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru

 

 

 

 

8 Ways To Find Comfort During Change

Surprise isn't always comfort
Life is changing again!

Life is filled with change. We all have to handle the fact that nothing remains the same. The truth is that change that happens to us (without our permission and often without warning) is hardest to survive. But even when we choose to embrace the transition, there are bumps in the road. Here are some thoughts about easing the transitions.

My life, by design, is filled with changes. We are seasonal workers, needing to move every six months or so, and never sure of what is on the horizon. We have chosen to live with fewer things and less regularity. Much of the time, I enjoy the newness and the uncertainty. However, the constant of change wears on me.

Here are ten strategies I have employed to smooth the way and cope with the anxieties that inevitably crop up.

1.  Hold on to something Familiar

Holding coffee mug helps change
Warmth helps with change

When we travel, we have a set of belongings that come with us. They have to fit in our two-door compact car, so we have to be picky about our choices. We love our down comforter, our electric toothbrush, comfortable shoes and a three-ring binder filled with my favorite recipes (yes, it is full of comfort food ideas!). In addition, we only bring one suitcase each of our favorite clothing and personal items. It turns out most people don’t really notice when you wear the same things all the time. The few things we bring are all “old friends.” Our continuing efforts to simplify pay off big time here.

2. Let go of Expectations.

I do research before we head out on our journey and automatically draw mental pictures of what the newest spot will be like. I have to be careful of these expectations. It turns out change is harder to handle when things are not going as I expected. We came up with a saying: “We are on Vacation!” because this reminds us that we have never been here before, that the road is unfamiliar and that is why we are doing this! It is time to be present to what is right in front of us and not what we left behind.

grumpy cat hates change
Change can make me grumpy

3. Ignore negative input.

There are many people who prefer to live in the same house and go to the same job. It is hard for those people to imagine that taking off in random directions could be fun or that change could lead to something better. Because of this, they feel obligated to tell me that what I am doing is a bad idea. It is tempting to listen to them, or even chime in. That’s when I do the next step.

 

4.  Make a List of why I am doing this crazy thing

I write down the reasons I am on the road (or whatever new vision I have created). This has come in useful in the past to get through classes, finish projects or stay in a job long enough to make it to the next step. Some people prefer to draw pictures, make collages, create vision boards or put up sticky notes on their mirrors. We all need reminders that what we are doing is important and why we want what we want. Every now and again I read my notes and ask myself, “Is this still true?  Do I still want this?”  It is okay if the answer is no, but almost always I am still inspired by my goals.

What if the change is not my choice? I focus on who I want to be (and WHY!) while the change is happening and write that down. After all, there are almost always good things that come out of change. We just need to find them.

5. Add structure

When I feel lost, I create to-do lists to get me moving. This for me adds structure, plus I get ridiculous satisfaction from crossing the tasks off. Yes, I am one of those that will add items I have already completed just so I can them off. Other ways to add structure can be making sure you eat at the same times, exercise every day, connect with family or whatever makes you feel more in control of the day in small ways.

change is not comfortable
What!? This isn’t what I asked for!

6. Know that not everything will turn out the way we wanted

The sad thing is challenges occur, even in an exciting, travel filled adventure life. Cars break down, I get tired of being so far from family, weather disrupts our plans, there are bad days at work, people disappoint me. In addition, there are moments I disappoint myself. I accept that those things are a fact of life on this planet and get over it. Eventually.

7. Practice Gratitude

Counting my blessings is a instant way for me to remember all the things going right. I know there are many people who advocate writing down at least three things you are thankful for every day. I am sure it is a good idea and I have seen studies that say that your mental and physical health measurably increase after doing this for several weeks in a row. But I resist this exercise, even though I am a writer in my heart.  Therefore, I prefer to be spontaneously grateful. I am thankful for rainbows, bird songs, cloud formations and hot and cold running water. As a result of noticing all of these, and more, I remember to acknowledge the gifts in my life.

 

Touch helps me cope with change
Keeping in Touch

8. Communicate with my anchor people

Finally, I have several people that I consider my anchors. They are family members and friends who love me. They remind me that I am on an adventure, not an endurance race. Touching base with them frequently helps keep me grounded.

 

“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.”

Hugh Prather

Reconnecting To Joy – Action

Current political changes feel as if they are out of my control. I think many of us are worried about the future, on both sides of the aisle. When I am afraid, I become paralyzed. I tell myself I am too small to make a difference. I curl up on the couch under the blanket and despair. Yet, little action steps can lead me out of this scared rabbit reaction. Asking questions rather than demanding agreement, reacting with kindness to angry words and even picking up litter on the trail help me remember that I can make a difference in the world, in this small way.

Action Dumbbells
Action Requires Heavy Lifting

The New Year brings a lot of attention on goal setting. These visions are designed to spur us into action, to take steps towards who we want to be. Though goals can motivating, they are intimidating. It is all good to say “I will lose 30 pounds this year” or I will change the world. It is quite another to actually figure out how to do it. Even harder is to sustain the energy to accomplish large goals. I am very good at coming up with ideas, not so good at the follow through.

Oh, I start out well. Going to the gym for the first three days is exhilarating. The problem resides in the fourth through the three hundred and sixty second day. I understand that many great athletes work out every single day. Though, they do vary their routines to be light on some of those days, maintaining the momentum keeps them on track. Plus, the habit of moving every day becomes ingrained.

While I understand this idea, the thought of never taking a day off sounds exhausting. Then I remember the One Day At A Time philosophy of the Twelve Step programs. I don’t have to do this every day. I only have to do this today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Action Eat Carrots
A carrot a day

With that in mind, I find I can take action on my dreams. Often, I only have time or energy to do one thing a day. But three hundred and sixty five actions can lead to big things. Maybe not a belly that is flatter, but towards a body that is stronger, a retirement account that is larger, a blog that is well-written and a world where kindness is the norm. How are your goals going? Maybe just do one thing today. We can do this together.

“Just For Today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once.”Al-Anon Family Groups

 

Reconnecting to Joy – Gratitude

Gratitude Journal
Gratitude Journal

The scientific benefits of gratitude have been proven. My life is better when I remember to be grateful. Many advocate using gratitude journals to record why we are thankful for what we have in our lives. So why is it so hard to do? I have started many journals only to let them gather dust on the nightstand. I get tired of writing “I am grateful for my family” even though I AM actually happy they are in my life and do notice this fact often. But writing it down feels like a chore, one for which I am not thankful. So why should I try again?

Studies have shown that writing down a gratitude list even once a week can make dramatic changes in one’s attitude. Those who make the effort to keep a gratitude journal report being happier and more optimistic. They also tend to be able to handle negative life events with greater ease.

Recording the people and events we are grateful for reaps greater benefits than gratitude for material things. This can actually increase our empathy and help us more kind to others on a daily basis. Plus it turns out that relationships need to have a five to one ratio of positive to negative interactions. In other words, for every frown or complaint, we need five smiles and compliments to make the connection work. A gratitude journal can remind us the good parts of being in a relationship (whether it is personal or professional) so we can smile more often.

Gratitude Apps
Download a Gratitude App

I know why I should do this. How can I make sure to create this habit? There are apps to put on my phone (most of them are only a couple of dollars). I can download pages from the internet. Some people have posted beautiful writing prompts to tickle my imagination. Photography can act as a writing prompt or be a gratitude journel of its own. But what appeals to me most is to give myself permission to continue to look for those things I appreciate. I can remind myself to acknowledge those things as they arise and be sure to mention them out loud when I notice them.

Tree of Hearts Gratitude
Love Being Grateful

I will try out the app. After all, why not make my phone work for me for a change. Stayed tuned and I will let you know how this goes. Meanwhile, feel free to share how you remember to count your own blessings. We would all be grateful. 🙂

 

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” Rumi

Reconnecting To Joy – Learning

Atlas
Joyous Learning – Maps!

Learning new things is both exciting and difficult. I love the process of following my curiousity into a new topic. Back in the day, I used encyclopedias and card catalogs to look for information. I loved sitting at those big tables at the library, reading and taking notes, absorbing the knowledge even if I didn’t know where it would lead. Of course, I did not like the tests at the end, those exams covering topics that the professors thought were important to learn. Still I enjoyed the process of devouring the information, even I resisted regurgitating it on demand.

Don’t you love the resources we have available today?  The internet offers amazing opportunities to pursue any interest, at a moment’s notice. Podcasts invite me to spend a pleasant hour (or two, or three) learning about topics I never knew I would like. TED talks open the doors to exciting “ideas worth talking about.” Online libraries bring almost every book I can imagine right into my computer. It sparks my desire to delve deep into topics that interest me. All of this wealth means I can talk about new ideas rather than the weather. Bonus!

Purple flame
Flames of Curiousity

Yes, we have to filter the information. Fake news and opinion pieces presented as facts can skew my views. I can lose myself in the information overload if I am not selective. But these days I have access to a buffet of knowledge, enough to satisfy my desire to educate myself on a cornucopia of subjects. Of course, now my learning has a different test. Can I use this information again? Where will this help me or the people in my life? Still, in most cases, there is no final exam. Now that is joy.

 

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi

Balance

Christmas

Christmas time is a wonderful time of year but I have a hard time keeping my balance.  This balancing act takes on many forms.

 
I must balance my budget with my desire to shower everyone I love with gifts. My mom was fortunate enough in her later years to have enough resources that she would shop all year for each of her family members.  She would arrive at the extended family holiday celebration with a VW Vanagon loaded with gifts.  It would take us a long time to unload the plethora of presents, crowding theVW Vanagonm under the tree and dwarfing the gifts already in place there.  I understand now how tempting it is to be generous and lavish everyone with physical evidence of love.  But I am lucky enough that I also got to experience the overwhelm that comes with this amount of generousity.  Over the past few years, we have moved to the other side of the pendulum and now give each other the gift of time, laughter and playing games. We extend our holidays by adding on a “game day” on the 26th, playing charades and board games until we have to drag ourselves home to rest our smile muscles. The connection with each other is the best gift of all.  Other families have traditions that allow one gift each, of giving to favorite charities, of white elephant exchanges or only buying for the kids. Perhaps we will move to the center and once again agree to buy presents.  But for now, this works for our family.  Still I fight the urge to “cheat” and buy out the store for each of my family members.

 

Speaking of cheating, I find it difficult to balance my choices around heathy eating during the holidays. My inner voice insists that because these special treats only come around once a year, it won’t hurt to indulge.  My weakness is eggnog.  Oh yes, and cookies.  Did I mention pumpkin pie?  Or red and green M&M’s?  I have been diligent about exercising every day for the past few weeks but I have to remind that little devil on my shoulder that exercise does not give me permission to cater to my every gastronomic whim.  (My main trick is to keep it out of my house.  I have not figured out how to resist at parties. Sigh)

Christmas Tree balanced
Christmas Tree

Even though I love decorating the house for the holidays, recent circumstances and the travels we are on have forced me to downsize. This pendulum swing has been difficult for me.  It would be nice to have a festive Christmas tree and boughs of holly on every wall but that is not possible for now. I struggle to keep myself from getting forlorn over the lack of adornment, although usually I am quite proud of my ability to simplify our lives.  In an attempt to help alleviate the melancholy, I have purchased a couple of things to add some festive color to our home.  More balancing.

 

Tree pose balance
Balance

Living in a new places has its challenges.  Every time we move, I have to find a way to handle our mail, search for internet connections, learn a new grocery store and remember where the bathroom is when I wake up in the middle of the night. This adventure we are on has also been interesting, exciting and wonderful.  I am more adaptable than I ever realized.  My connection with my husband is stronger than I ever knew it could be.  Remembering what I am grateful for helps even out the difficulties.  It helps me find my balance once again.

 

 

 

Blessings

A blessing of light
Sunset in Utah

December brings in wonderful  holidays. The sentiment remains the same for each of the celebrations:  time with family and friends. These are the true blessings in life. The gatherings are one way of reminding us we are bringing light and warmth into the darkness of winter.

Star burst
Light – A blessing for us all

This time of year invites each of us to be joyous and generous.  It is an opportunity to remember that there is more to life than our daily responsibilities.  Yes, of course this season also adds to the busy-ness of life, bringing a clutter of to-do lists, sometimes unmet expectations and can bring home that not everything in our lives is perfect. Still, it is also time to remember I have friends, family, sustenance and a warm place to sleep each night. I take a deep breathe and I am once again centered and grateful.

candles-1861915__340

 

“Having somewhere to go is home. Having someone to love is family. Having both is a blessing.” – anonymous