How to Manage COVID-19 Vaccine FOMO
As more and more people are getting the vaccine, a new type of challenge coming with COVID-19 has started to emerge: Covid-19 Vaccine FOMO.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is the perception that there’s something out there that is better than what you have or what you’re doing right now. COVID-19 Vaccine FOMO is the mix of envy and frustration for feeling like more and more people are being vaccinated, but you.
It can bring a mix of feelings like frustration, anger and even increased anxiety for feeling less safe than others. It can bring difficult thoughts of being left out, and other ones around unfairness when believing that others may have skipped the line. The issue is that Vaccine FOMO can lead to further social isolation, loss of enjoyment and other consequences that can reduce our quality of life.
In this post, we discuss in depth what Covid-19 Vaccine FOMO is, why it’s normal to experience it and a few tips to start managing it!
COVID-19 Vaccines: Where are We Now?
According to Our World in Data, 62M Covid-19 Vaccine jabs have been administered in the UK (data continuously updates). The number rises to almost 290M in the US, whereas globally, about 1.74 Billion shots have been given! For many, this has meant finally feel safer from some of the uncertainties of the Pandemic, returning to socialising and even travelling. For some, instead, it has meant a rise in feelings of jealousy, envy and, in general, a sense of missing out. Today we talk about C19 Vaccine FOMO, how it links with distressing emotions like sadness and anxiety. Finally, we discuss some ways to manage it while patiently waiting for our turn!
Most COVID-19 vaccines require two doses for a person to become fully vaccinated. Thus, the current numbers mean that almost 35% of the whole population is fully protected by the vaccine against coronavirus in the UK. That’s nearly 24M people! At the moment, people aged 30 and above are also starting to receive invitations to book an appointment to get their first jab in one of three ways, according to the BBC: – at their local GP practice or community pharmacy; – at Hospital hubs; – at Major vaccination sites scattered around the country.
As the rollout continues and considering these increased numbers of vaccinations, one might think everybody’s spirits have been lifted (together with the lockdown), but it’s not that simple. About 65% of the population is not yet fully vaccinated (even though this includes children). Many of them might be experiencing a new type of issue: Covid-19 Vaccine FOMO.
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What is FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)?
To understand COVID-19 Vaccine FOMO and how it works, it’s first helpful to define FOMO itself.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is, to put it simply, the perception that there’s something out there that is better than what you have or what you’re doing right now.
FOMO can be about many things. For example, feeling that others are having more fun than you when, on a Friday night, you decided to stay home. Feeling that others are better off than you because of their shiny new car, the job they do, the promotion they got, or the places they go to on holidays.
Psychologically, FOMO is made up of a sense of envy, influencing our self-esteem negatively. It can be described as a sense of being ‘less than’ others, bringing our mood down and making us feel anxious. FOMO can also underlie the frustration for feeling a sense of disconnection from other people, for missing out on experiences, like attending certain events; missing out on possessing material goods, but also missing out on ‘being’ like others, which can lead to a sense of loss and lack of belongingness.
It can be tough to experience FOMO. It may lead us to feel quite anxious and on edge and experience dissatisfaction with ourselves and our own lives. Those who experience FOMO more frequently are more likely to develop anxiety and mood issues, such as depression.
FOMO is surely not a new concept, as envy and feeling like we’re missing out on what others are doing have arguably always existed. However, in recent years FOMO has become a much more well-known and studied phenomenon due to the increased presence of social media in our lives. To put it simply, social media has increased the chances of being exposed to (often carefully selected) aspects of other people’s lives. This, in turn, makes it more likely to feel like we’re missing out on other people’s experiences, what they have and what they do, which we don’t feel we are or have! Studies have suggested that the higher the social media usage, the higher the probability of experiencing FOMO.
In essence, FOMO makes us buy into the distorted idea that our life is worth less than the lives of others.
Although we all may experience a bit of FOMO from time to time, it may get worse for some. It can lead to very intense feelings of dissatisfaction, upset and anxiety, which can further develop into more severe and enduring issues.
What’s COVID-19 Vaccine FOMO?
If experiencing FOMO when thinking about others having more fun or better lives than ours was not enough, on came the COVID-19 Pandemic and (thankfully!) the COVID-19 Vaccines!
Covid-19 Vaccine FOMO is the mix of envy and frustration for feeling like more and more people are being vaccinated, but you.
Still, Vaccine FOMO seems to have started to increase as the vaccine rolls out to the larger, non-vulnerable population.
In the UK, as in most countries, in the beginning, it was the time of doctors, nurses and other frontline workers to get their jab, and for good reasons. These were (and still are!) the people whose invaluable work has managed to save millions of lives across the country. They were the ones people were cheering for on a Thursday evening for a period. Then, it was the time of the most vulnerable, those whose lives would have been most at risk if they had caught the virus.
The more the vaccine rollout would progress, the more we would hear from people closer and closer to us that they, or their family members, were getting their first jab. We’d hear about friends’ parents and older people in care homes, and other vulnerable individuals. And we’d most likely feel glad and grateful that, as a community, we managed to protect the more vulnerable ones, reducing the strain on the NHS. What an astonishing achievement!
However, as the vaccine starts to roll out and become available to more and more people beyond the vulnerable groups, FOMO has begun to emerge.
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How Does COVID-19 Vaccine FOMO feel like?
George, who works in a family-run business in the Midlands (UK), told us how he was the only adult member in his family who had yet to be vaccinated, as he did not qualify. He said, “I felt really left out like I was missing out on something crucial, and I wanted to find an acceptable way to get the jab“.
George couldn’t get the vaccine and was told he needed to simply wait for his turn as eligibility expands.
He added, “I can’t wait to be able to simply feel less anxious about catching COVID and return to living a normal life; It just annoys me to think that there are people out there cutting the line, and these will be the people who’ll be able to go to events, and even maybe travel abroad soon.“
George’s mixed feelings are understandable and very common across people in similar circumstances.
A sense of being left out, almost forgotten, emerges from his words. When he thinks about others getting their jab, George expresses his upset for feeling like he’s practically stuck, like in a cage, without agency over what will happen or when he’ll receive his vaccine. Frustration also comes out when he thinks about others potentially ‘jumping’ the line, who might soon be able to enjoy more freedom, perhaps including travelling. It’s clearly tough.
COVID-19 Vaccine FOMO can be consuming and challenging to cope with, especially as we see more and more people around us getting the vaccine while waiting patiently for our turn. Social media has further increased this via the trend in people posting proud ‘I got the Jab’ pictures (of course, there’s nothing wrong with these!).
How Does COVID-19 Vaccine Envy look like?
More and more people across the UK and the rest of the globe are experiencing envy for not having received their first jab yet, or in some instances, for not being fully vaccinated yet.
FOMO is underpinned by envy, but the way it materialises may be different as envy itself may come in two different forms:
- a hostile type of envy, where we transform our pain and frustration into anger, and we secretly (or openly) wish for the other person(s) to fail or encounter difficulties and
- a more brooding, depressive form of envy, where we are overwhelmed with sadness and a sense of surrender telling us that we have failed, that we’re ‘less than’, and inferior to others.
In both types of envy, we compare ourselves to others, focussing on what we feel they have that we don’t, which is the essential element of FOMO. Whatever the form, experiencing envy and allowing it to roam free into our minds and dictate our behaviours and interactions with others can have negative long term effect. For example, decreasing our self-confidence and maintaining a sense of dissatisfaction, sadness and anxiety.
Is it Normal to Feel COVID-19 Vaccine FOMO?
People who initially felt good about others getting their vaccine have started feeling annoyed at hearing that people around them were getting the vaccine and not them.
When hearing about people who cut the line, potentially cheating the system, to get the vaccine, there’s a greater probability of feeling envy, anger and frustration, and arguably for good reasons. In this case, it may feel really unfair that these people are taking away precious vaccine doses from others who need them more.
Setting these more unfair circumstances aside, not being part of a fast-growing private club with great benefits to its members is definitely not a pleasant experience. This is what, for many, COVID-19 Vaccine FOMO might be about.
Soon, vaccines could become our new passport to travel abroad and go on long-awaited holidays. Being vaccinated could also be what allows people to attend concerts and other social events.
Being vaccinated can make the difference between choosing to resume socialising or, instead, staying in isolation. In some countries, being vaccinated also means wearing a facemask is no longer mandatory nor part of the official guidelines in some cases (e.g., in the US).
At the very least, not being vaccinated is likely to make us feel less safe than those who got the jab. After all, vaccines are here to protect us from the virus. Being vaccinated dramatically decreases the chances of getting ill. This sense of lack of safety, just out of reach, plays on our difficulties dealing with uncertainties, leading to more likely experiencing Anxiety about COVID-19.
Overall, it seems normal to feel like you’re missing out when other people, who have been vaccinated, may be allowed to do things and go to places more freely than you; unlike you, they may feel ‘safer’ to attend social events and meet friends and family as the lockdown gradually lifts.
It may be even normal to feel a certain amount of anger and frustration, maybe one that you hadn’t predicted, towards others who have already managed to get their vaccine.
What are Common Signs of COVID-19 Vaccine FOMO?
Thoughts you may be noticing
“Almost everyone I know is getting the vaccine but me!”
“I have to have my jab now. I can no longer wait!”
“I’m sure many people just skipped the line!”
“If I don’t get the vaccine now, I’ll definitely catch the virus.”
“It’s like when every friend gets engaged before you.”
Feelings you may be experiencing
Behaviours you may engage in
Loss of Enjoyment
Lack of Concentration
Being snappy with people who got the vaccine
Tips to Manage COVID-19 Vaccine FOMO
There are multiple ways to deal with FOMO, and when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine FOMO, you can try with one, or more, of the following:
1- Understand your envy to accept it
With Covid-19 vaccine FOMO, the sense of unfairness for others receiving the vaccine before you is likely linked with an underlying inherent need to feel safe and secure. After all, COVID-19 is a serious disease affecting millions of people worldwide. It only makes sense to want to feel protected. Thus, it is normal to feel a certain level of envy towards those who got vaccinated before us. To an extent, our life, and that of our loved ones, is at stake. A little bit of envy is entirely understandable. Don’t let it control you, though. Try to be mindful that envy can lead to frustration and anger, disrupting your relationships with others and significantly impacting your general wellbeing.
2- Gain Perspective to feel Empowered
Although waiting for a vaccine when others are getting it before us can make us feel that we’ve been treated somewhat unfairly, there are several positive aspects we might be overlooking. First of all, those who got the vaccine before us are very likely people at greater risk of severe complications if they contracted the virus. They may have underlying health conditions, like cardiovascular or pulmonary ones, as well as diabetes. This means that by waiting in line and accepting that others before us might need the vaccine more than we do, we’re making an implicit sacrifice for the wellbeing of more vulnerable people. Thus we can learn to see our wait as an indirect act of kindness and compassion, making us feel empowered and generally better about ourselves.
3- Think Community (think Herd Immunity!)
A vaccine is not a fix that is only relevant to an individual. Instead, it is a measure to protect an entire community of people. When other people get vaccinated, it means that the probability of us or our loved ones catching the virus diminishes. Our interests are not in competition with those of others. On the contrary, they work in concert for the wellbeing of everyone in our community. Adopting this thinking style can alleviate the FOMO by allowing us to see how, even though we have not personally received a jab yet, the more people get vaccinated in the community, the more our own safety increases. After all, we’re all waiting for that much-coveted herd immunity.
4- Focus on What you Have
FOMO is about believing that other people are living better lives than we are. If this becomes a persistent style of thinking, it can negatively affect our mood and make us discount who we are and what we have. Although it may be true that we’d be better off with the vaccine, this does not mean that we need to spend our time waiting for the jab in sadness, anxiety, frustration or anger.
Instead of focusing on what you’re missing, try to note what you have and what makes you happy and satisfied with yourself and your life.
For an extra hit at FOMO, try limiting the time spent reading news related to the vaccine and scrolling through endless social media posts where you may be exposed to people who insistently brag about having had their jab.
5- Practice Gratitude
FOMO is often facilitated by a tendency to take what we have for granted. Practising gratitude once a day is the best antidote we know. Use a 5 (or even 10!) fingers gratitude exercise every day after waking up. Think about things you are grateful for, counting them on your fingers. Try to tune in to the sensations that focusing on gratitude triggers in the body. Pro Tip: there are many things we can feel grateful for, from the colours of a flower to the presence of our children or other loved ones. From enjoying a delicious meal, to the intimate time we can get with a friend or partner. The trick is to take nothing for granted!
6- Practice Self-compassion & Kindness
With FOMO, including about COVID-19 Vaccines, the risk is to disengage from what typically makes you happy. To combat this, plan for and engage in activities that bring you joy. Better if these are things that you do for yourself. Doing this sends a message to your mind and body that you matter. You are there to take care of yourself and your needs, despite feeling at a loss for not being vaccinated yet.
Activities can range from going for a walk (or another physical activity) to playing a game; from having an in-person (or zoom) chat with your family, to making time to watch your favourite movie, or listening to your favourite music. The critical bit is to pick something you do for yourself. Be kind to yourself. There’s no better way to feel that you value!
7- If you Get the Jab, be Mindful of those who haven’t!
It’s easy to get caught up in the joy and sense of liberation that getting your COVID-19 Vaccine jab can give you, and for good reasons. Chances are you’ve been waiting for this for quite some time. Perhaps, you are already savouring the freedoms that you’ll be able to allow yourself (and that the government will allow). Nonetheless, in sharing your happiness, be mindful of those who haven’t got their jab yet. They are likely to still be experiencing anxiety given by the Pandemic’s uncertainty and feel less safe than you do. Try to offer empathy and understanding.
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If You’re Struggling, Contact Us for Professional Help!
Covid-19 FOMO may be a relatively short-lived issue, one which may go away as more and more people get vaccinated, including us. However, if you notice that it has started affecting your everyday life, influencing your work, relationships and leisure time, it’s possible that other, more serious issues underpinned by anxiety, sadness or anger have emerged. In these cases, it can be very helpful to talk to a professional. Contact us to get a FREE 15 min consultation with a trained therapist to discuss how you feel, and see if therapy can be of help!