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When we’ve achieved a certain age, a lot of freedom is the result. Remember being young and being slightly (if not full-on) envious of “old” people who seemingly get away with doing and saying outrageous things? You might have said to yourself, “I can’t wait until I’m an old lady so I can do/say _____.” Well, there’s no time like the present. And there’s a flip-side to that coin: with age comes freedom to do what you want, but also to NOT do what you don’t want to, and not feel guilty about it. Let’s take a deep dive into the dreaded FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out.

If you’re a natural introvert, this article is probably not for you. But if you’re a natural extrovert who is busy all the time, struggling to maintain a balance, and not happy about it, it’s time to do some self-evaluation.

Many of us have had very active social lives; in our younger years, we went to concerts, stayed out all night drinking, went to parties, and jumped on any spontaneous adventure that dropped in our lap. It was just what we did, and we never questioned it. But as we age, we may wish to slow down, and we start making choices that involve less going out and doing things and more staying home. We may even LOVE staying home. When you’ve been very active though, that transition is HARD.

FOMO has worsened in our culture with the advent of social media. Your social media feed is probably filled to the brim with your fabulous acquaintances doing fabulous things. So what if you opted to stay home in your pajamas, drink wine, binge TV and pet your dog? While you were doing that, your friends were at a concert…or at an author presentation or play…or posting pictures of their delicious cocktails and dinners out…and you see the pictures, and get that familiar twinge in your gut: “I missed out.” “I should have gone.” “Look how much funnnnnn they’re having.” So what? You’ve made it this far. You’ve earned the right to be selective with your time, and to be selective who you share that time with. We’re definitely not knocking social activities or having a social life here…we’re just saying that it is PERFECTLY okay to not do as much, and to be more selective. You can give yourself permission to do this.

Recently I was invited by two totally unrelated people to a large-ish event “that you just HAVE go to, because why on earth would you not go to this thing, it is SO YOU!” Well. Couple of problems with that. I don’t like being told I have to do something, and I also don’t like big crowds anymore. When I was younger? Sure. But now, not so much. Both of them repeatedly asked me about this event. I tried politely declining, but it didn’t work. So I realized I would have to speak up about it. I finally said, “You know, that sounds really fun, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I just don’t like crowds anymore. It’s just not my thing. Have a good time, though!” I felt really empowered, and it closed the discussion. I was being honest with myself and with the person who invited me. Even though the event was so ME, and I saw tons of pictures after the fact, I was perfectly happy that I wasn’t there. I didn’t NEED to be there to feel personally gratified.

So how do you balance this slowing down of activity? If you frequently feel that you’d rather be at home (or elsewhere) when you’re at an event or activity, that’s a sign you should listen to yourself and your body. Don’t force yourself to go out because you feel you have to, or because you’re being pressured to go. Give a voice to your sense of comfort and your choice to do something else—or nothing at all—instead of an activity. It may be hard at first, but it gets easier.

Questions

  1. Do you find yourself wishing you had more time at home, or just to yourself and/or your partner?
  2. When you’re out, do you wish you weren’t there?
  3. Do you find yourself frequently accepting invitations just to avoid hurting someone’s feelings?
  4. Are you afraid that if you turn down an invitation you won’t be invited again?
  5. Are you pressured by your friends (or even a partner) to do things?
  6. Do you feel like your life will be less interesting if you don’t participate in certain events or activities?
  7. Are you frequently exhausted by your own schedule?
  8. Do you find yourself putting off time for yourself in order to be present?

If you answered “yes” to more than half of these questions, you’re ready to settle down a bit.

How to transition

First and foremost, you need to tell yourself that slowing down is OKAY. We aren’t spring chickens anymore. This is not an admission of defeat; it’s an embrace of self-care. That’s important to remember.

  1. Listen to your body.
    Our bodies are changing. We simply can’t do some of the things we used to do. We may have aches and pains that we didn’t used to have. Or we may just be TIRED. It’s okay! Listen to your body, and if it’s telling you you need more rest and relaxation, give yourself the permission. Don’t push yourself; it really isn’t worth it. For those of us that are drinkers, the pain of even a minor hangover makes it not worth it. Which leads us to…
  2. Really, truly remember that last horrid hangover you had.
    Stamp it in your memory. And the next time drinking is involved, pace yourself. When you’re young, hangovers are just something you deal with by eating crap food after the bars close or popping an Alka-Seltzer and going to work or school on three hours of sleep. When you’re older, this is NOT an option. It can sometimes take DAYS to rid yourself of the effects of too many cocktails. That is something, like foot pain, that you just really shouldn’t have to deal with anymore. It’s time to wear the Big Girl panties and learn to say when. And don’t try to keep up with the young’uns. For appearances’ sake, you may think you’re being cool, but you have to remember the price tag attached to multiple cocktails; that price is days of misery. NOT WORTH IT.
  3. Feather your nest.
    If you’re going to be spending more time at home, make that home your favorite place to be. Whatever you like to do most at home, whether it’s a hobby, reading, cooking, watching TV, sleeping, gardening…start there. Make your space as comfortable — and inviting — as possible. Instead of spending money on activities, spend it on yourself and your space. Our House & Home shopping department has some great ideas! Make your space YOUR favorite place to be. For example, I love taking bubble baths. It’s truly one of my favorite things in the world. My bathroom has become my haven. I painted it pink and decorated it. I have all my favorite bath goodies (bubble bath/salts, sponges, pumice stones, scrubs), and candles within easy reach of my tub. I have a special large insulated cup that I fill with ice water just for baths. And I will disappear in there for hours.
  4. Give some attention to your loungewear.
    If you’re like most of us, you spend your clothing budget on stuff for work and going out. You don’t have to fall into the sweatpants trap. If you’re going to spending more time at home, or doing leisure activities, spend some money on looking cute at home. Just because you’re going to be home (or relaxing elsewhere) doesn’t mean you have to give up your sense of style. We have a whole department of gorgeous (and maximum comfortable) stuff to wear at home and still feel put together and fashionable. Even if you’re home alone, you can still feel cute. It’s great for your self-esteem!
  5. Give yourself permission to do things you never have time to do.
    If you like reading, start and finish a book. Get good cookware and dedicate yourself to making something delicious. Build a list of shows and movies you want to watch. Build a record collection. Learn to sew. Basically: do whatever YOU want to do. And be unapologetic about it. Which leads us to…
  6. Stop being sorry because “you can’t make it” to something you’re invited to.
    Let’s say you had a rough week at work. The weekend is coming up, and all week you’ve thought about something you’d like to do at home, or you have some shopping you want to do, you want to spend time with your pet, or you want to go hang out by yourself or with your partner at a coffee house or bar. At the last minute, a friend offers you tickets to an event, or tells you about some rare celebrity or band coming to town for something outrageous. You immediately feel the war start inside your head, and see your relaxing weekend fading into oblivion. You want to go, but you don’t want to go. Your own plans win. Do not say you’re sorry you can’t make it. Try this instead: “That sounds fabulous, and I hate to miss it, but I’ve already got my plans laid out for the evening/weekend and I’m sticking to it.” If they pressure you further, you have to stick to your guns. “I really appreciate the invite, but I’m sitting this one out.” It feels good. Try it.
  7. Learn to view your social media without regret.
    This is a hard one. When you’re working towards allowing yourself more You Time and your social media is filled with pictures of people doing fabulous things, you’ll feel a twinge of regret. The most important thing to remind yourself of is this: as long as you are happy with your decisions, it is OKAY to not be there. Be happy for your friends. Live vicariously through them. Enjoy their pictures. And enjoy YOUR time and decisions just as much.
  8. Think of your finances.
    Unless you’re rolling in dough, chances are that you have to be careful with your money. We have all been reckless with our finances and tossed money away on objects and events that ultimately don’t carry any weight in our lives. Now is a good time to re-evaluate time and money you’re spending on eating out, paying for overpriced cocktails, parking, taking Ubers, and buying tickets. Make cocktails at home; you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving, and a bottle of wine/champagne or a bottle of nice gin costs less than one or two cocktails at a restaurant or bar. Cook at home: you know what the ingredients are, and you can buy a week’s groceries for the price of one meal out.

In conclusion

By no means are we suggesting or endorsing that you completely shun social life, bars, restaurants, and activities with friends and become a shut-in. We are just encouraging you to take it easy on yourself and get comfortable with the fact that it is perfectly okay to slow down and enjoy your life on your own terms. You’ve earned it, and now you can do what YOU want. Bottom line: enjoy yourself, whatever you do (or don’t do), and don’t be sorry about your choices in this arena!

by Stacie Herndon

Stacie is a writer, graphic designer, and web developer. Legend has it that she was born old. She has always loved outrageous older ladies, often befriending them over people her own age. She is a devoted Francophile, loves a good Sauvignon Blanc and can mix a mean cocktail. She will have red hair until the day she departs this earth.