Fear of missing out on personal time

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The guys have no idea what the girls are laughing at, but they’re going to smile anyways. Eliott Reyna via Unsplash

The need to socialize is taking over; the fear of missing out has only increased

by emily lints, contributor

As I write this article closer to midnight than I would care to admit, I realize that this will not be an informational piece on “How to Succeed” post-COVID in university. We’re all just continuing to figure it out step-by-step.

The stress of COVID has turned swiftly from “I feel unproductive in quarantine” to “I feel overwhelmed out of quarantine.” I find that, personally, the stress of everyday life is also added onto my academic stress. During quarantine, someone could focus explicitly on chores or other household tasks; now there is pressure to leave the house and become “more productive” with your time. Now, people expect me to leave my house and socialize – which went from taboo to being required a little too fast for me.

“But you’re missing out! Your friends won’t like you anymore!” my anxiety attempts to shout at me as my brain counters with “Just stay home and focus on yourself! You have too much to do!”

While this was an issue in time management pre-COVID, now it seems to have turned into motivation management. I do find myself with a heavier workload, thus creating less opportunities to see friends. However, I also seem to lack the motivation that I once had to go out after a long day. I find myself wanting to curl up for my millionth rewatch of Gilmore Girls instead. This is because, pre-COVID, I was balancing myself between the social, the academic, and the personal in a more equal way. Once COVID hit, I had to emphasize the personal more than ever, as I was left solely in my own company. Once school started up again, I had to emphasize academics even more than usual as online classes require more self-discipline.

While I wouldn’t say “post-COVID,” this world is certainly “post-quarantine” – leading to gatherings of friends, bars reopening, and dates being had. However, I was still used to my 60/40 split between academic and personal time. How was I supposed to add a third variable back in? I’ve been left scrambling to justify experiences to myself while also competing with narratives of “you should be home studying” running through my head. This is not just my experience, but that of many students across the country. Statistics Canada states that “Since COVID, those aged 15 to 24 reported the greatest declines in mental health – 20 percentage point reductions from 60 per cent (2019, pre-COVID) to 40 per cent (July 2020) of those reporting excellent or very good mental health.”

At first, I was very excited to get out and meet new people and see my friends again. However, I still was putting pressure on myself to take care of my home duties and my school duties, all at the same time as I was asked to put extra emphasis on my social life. This, of course, leads to the dreaded word: BURNOUT!

Before someone might have asked me “how many papers did you have due this week?” to evaluate how burnt out I am. Now they could ask “how many social obligations did you fulfill this week?” and garner the same response. One thing that we are always taught in school is to manage your time and make sure that you prioritize. But when society starts to put more emphasis on social lives than you previously did on school, how do you manage?

The key is that, honestly, you don’t. Not every week will look the same, not every friend hangout has to be an entire evening. Fit it in where you can – and if you can’t? Don’t worry about it. It is not your responsibility to be the “fun fulfillment” in other people’s lives. If you need a stress-free night of friends and pizza? Text someone. If you need a night alone to cry and watch sappy Hallmark movies months before Christmas? Cancel on someone.

Don’t feel the need to be more social than you ever have been just because the opportunity has presented itself after a long time. You want to be the person who parties every weekend now that the clubs are open? Go ahead, but don’t have a fear of missing out on experiences just because you missed out on some during quarantine. The opportunities for socialization will keep appearing, they aren’t just limited to your time at university. You never have to feel like you have your life 100 per cent under control; I know I don’t. We’re surviving, hopefully, the end of a pandemic. Cut yourself, and others, some slack.

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