Do the Work, Beat the FOMO

Highly saturated contrasting landscapes illuminated by harsh blue light flip by as you swipe downward. This activity has the potential to inspire grand daydreams of month-long adventure, afternoons out with friends, road trips, and endless memory making. For some these thoughts pass as quickly as they arrived, but for others, it can flourish into an interest, a hobby, or their identity over time. It’s truly wonderful to be able to discover life-altering content with a few taps and keystrokes.

Scrolling can also dig up an ugly part of ourselves: feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, or loneliness. How come this person gets to adventure every day? Spoiler: they don’t. Why is my life not like theirs? Why does my life lack the same meaning? The negative loop can be paralyzing if left unchecked, and unrequited or unfulfilled plans can drive you straight into a melancholy brick wall. FOMO (fear of missing out) can and likely will affect anyone active in the outdoor/adventure community at some point. And unfortunately, it’s probable that the social media ritual many of us have with our devices can cause it to creep more readily into our real lives. Admitting that you’re finding yourself participating in this self-deprecating cycle isn’t easy to disclose personally or, especially, to others. 

Winter is soon approaching, bringing six months of Seattle Gray with it. It seems as though the FOMO intensifies and the motivation to do much of anything about it decreases. You’re probably on your phone a lot more, engaging in exactly the habit that can exacerbate this issue. If you’re like me and have felt the urge to chuck your phone out a window and hibernate until April rolls around, I wanted to share some of the self-care habits I’ve been rolling into my routine to combat these negative moods.

Stop Scrolling. Sounds simple, right? Not so! Snuggling up on in a warm blanket burrito on my phone is super tempting and keeps me from getting up to get ready for the day or going to sleep at night. To counter this, I stopped allowing myself to have a charger in the bedroom at first. Then I stopped bringing my phone in there entirely. If this isn’t possible for you, maybe move the charger to an outlet on the opposite side of the room and make your phone a home over there.

Take Vitamins. SAD is a real thing in the Pacific Northwest. Get yourself some sunshine vitamins, plus extra vitamin C (and a flu shot!) to combat all the seasonal crud floating around.

Download an App. I’ve trialed dozens of habit tracking and productivity apps this year. “Way of Life” is my absolute favorite because it’s a simple yes/no color coded reminder system. You can skip days and there’s no guilt motivated or negative reinforcement messages built in. Plus I’ve enacted the practice of calendar blocking in Google Calendar, and y’all it is the BEST.

Set Alarms for Self Care Habits. This will look different for everyone, but these are the reminders I have set: two during workdays to remind me to do 2 minutes of guided breathing, to get up and stretch, and to drink water. This item is great because you don’t need anything super fancy to make it happen and can tailor it to what makes you feel good.

Make Low-Risk Plans. If you’ve found yourself pining over hashtags, search in your area to see if there’s an event relevant to that thing. This time of year is excellent for going to see showings of outdoor-related films or attend skill workshops, or meetups. The benefit of these plans being “low-risk” is that you can cancel if the busy holiday season catches up with you.

Shake Up Your Entertainment. Binging the latest Netflix series is so easy when you’re less active, but consider other forms of keeping yourself entertained. Reading a book is a good alternative because it taps into different parts of your brain. Catching up on podcasts is pretty great too! How long has it been since you’ve played a board game? The world isn’t just Monopoly anymore—if you need a game recommendation, feel free to leave a comment below or check out BoardGameGeek (if you’ve forgotten, my day job is in tabletop gaming, and I have all kinds of info stuck in my brain on this).

Learn a New Skill. The fall/winter months are an opportunity to read up on new things and learn. I decided to get my WFA (Wilderness First Aid) certification with Remote Medical International and The Mountaineers this fall, and highly recommend that anyone with the means should take at least one first aid course. Want to try building a cat can stove? Try indoor bouldering? This is the time to experiment!

Engage in Your Community, Do the Work. Have you ever gotten to know your barista? The cashier at your grocery store? Do you know who your mayor is? How about your representatives or governor? Are you aware of what is happening right in your city or town, or what issues people are facing? A lot of folks don’t step outside their circles to find this out or examine their privilege of not knowing this. You can start small by genuinely asking how someone is, hopping on Google, finding a local non-profit to help out at, or whatever is accessible for you. I committed to voting, becoming familiar with some of the most significant issues in my area (think: Amazon head-tax, the Seattle homeless crisis, WA conservation efforts), attending Rachel Ricketts’ webinars, and learning more about the land I live on and the Coast Salish people. How you engage is deeply personal, so I suggest breaking it into the smallest, but achievable and meaningful, workable steps.

Go Outside. Yes, even if it’s cold and wet. Yes, even if you’re tired. Yes, even though the sun is only around from 7 AM to 4 PM. And especially YES if you’d rather do just about anything else. Taking 5 minutes to walk around in a space where even a handful of trees are visible is a good idea, can clear your head, and improve your mood.

Make Something. Bake or cook something delicious, draw or paint, write about a memory that stuck with you, or create something warm to wrap yourself in. The accomplishment of creating something uniquely you is so special.

This list isn’t comprehensive, and I make no claims that I’m some expert. Whether you’re outside doing the Thing You Love or stuck indoors behind a desk it is your responsibility to find your joy and sense of self—not anyone else’s. Setting yourself up for success in the “Off Season” (whatever that means to you) by finding balance outside of your hobbies, will make it that much easier to be aware, present, and show up when it comes time to pack up your crap and head out.