You may have heard of F.O.M.O. or the Fear Of Missing Out or seen the column I wrote about it a while back. Recently during the lockdown, someone coined a new term—J.O.M.O. or the Joy Of Missing Out. I can understand the J.O.M.O. despite the hardships of the lockdown that we all have endured.
For some people, lockdown is a nightmare so I don’t want to minimize the pain of so many. I shudder for our collective mental health, especially for the number of women and children in abusive homes that have gotten demonstrably worse during lockdown. The pressures of job loss or interruption, the concerns for health, the stress of being confined or homeless, the worry for the planet as a whole—it takes its toll. However, there has been an opportunity here during lockdown that many people have realized.
Those who understood the J.O.M.O. early on in the lockdown, especially those people who are naturally more introverted, really appreciated the slowing down of life. Many of us are chronically stressed, doing too much, overwhelmed with the demands and choices of our life, trying to take care of too many people while neglecting our own needs. It’s a recipe for a health and mental health disaster which shows itself in our communities every day. The J.O.M.O. then, was palpable for many who wanted and needed an ‘excuse’ to say ‘no’ to their overly committed lives. It was like getting a free pass for some level of renewal. Once you could get past the ‘shoulds’ and the stress of suddenly having a lot of unstructured time, there was a collective deep exhale for so many of us to not have to do one more thing.
One client of mine had her 7 year old daughter in no less than 5 classes a week and activities on the weekend, all while the mother worked full time and was a single parent who not surprisingly, suffers from insomnia, headaches and neck and shoulder pain daily. When I got her to ask her daughter about how she felt about their activity level, the daughter was thrilled to have everything cancelled. Finally the mother believed me and all the others that advised her that her daughter was overscheduled and stressed, even if her daughter said she enjoyed the activities. We ALL, especially kids, need unstructured down time for the brain to process what is happening in our lives, to feel our feelings, to know our real beliefs and desires, and be a human being instead of a human doing.
If what it takes to have some people accept being a human being instead of a human doing is a pandemic, then we can actually come out of this being grateful. Our collective humanity is careening off the edge of a distressed planet which would benefit from our removal. We MUST stop, find the J.O.M.O. and realize you aren’t actually missing out at all.
So many of us found benefits in the slowness, after we got through the ‘boredom’ and our nervous systems were allowed to be heard. Then a sigh of relief was also heard. At some point, did you feel like you got a staycation? Did you feel better when you did less? How much easier did it get to say ‘no’? How can you apply this in your life post-lockdown when you don’t have the ‘excuse’? What were the benefits to you of slowing down? What things did you get rid of that helped you with your J.O.M.O.?
You have probably heard the saying, ‘No is a complete sentence.’ All of us, especially women, suffer from doing too much and not knowing how to say no. We think we are responsible for other people’s feelings (we are not) and un-learning that takes some time and work.
The kids (and hopefully all the pets) benefited from more attention from the adults or family in their lives. Kids do NOT want or need another toy, device or activity, even if they say they do. It is up to the adults to help our children learn how to self regulate. We do this by interacting with them and providing emotional support, validation and good role modeling. They often see much more than we think. The mother of the 7 year old I mentioned was letting her daughter call the shots but I pointed out that kids don’t know how to self regulate well and that’s why they need the adults in their lives to say ‘no, you are doing too much. You need to go play.’ Fifty years of child development research clearly tells us that unstructured imaginative play is critical to physical and mental health, as well as brain development. In addition, positive interactions, even as simple as consistent family dinners together can be the deciding factor in how well a child copes with life. Less is more. The J.O.M.O. is a gift. I hope you will accept this gift and never, ever go back to ‘normal.’
What would a new normal look like to you, your family, your work, your relationships? Adults also need unstructured time to play and unwind in a thoughtful way. We don’t need complicated or expensive toys and activities to be happy. Have you benefited from more time with loved ones or found a way through the inevitable conflict that first arises when our old patterns of ‘normal’ are challenged? What new skills and realizations do you have because of the J.O.M.O.? If the lockdown was a nightmare for you, what have you realized about your old life that must change and what is one small step you can make toward a new normal?
Will you be a human being or a human doing? As we come out of lockdown, the slowing down can and will continue to some degree. We can’t do everything we used to do because of the continuing need to for physical distancing. How can you use this to your benefit? What will you prioritize or will things be prioritized for you? That is a choice. If you need help figuring out your new normal OR being able to stay with your J.O.M.O., reach out for help. This is YOUR life. Start with playing and that will give your mind, body and spirit the space it needs to know what’s next.