One of the few things I have liked about COVID is video conferencing for name recall. When I am in a meeting, I see the name of all the participants right on the screen. That makes it easier to call on people by name and be more personal. But what happens when the videos go […]
During the pandemic, a few new terms have arisen based on fear and apprehension. One of those terms has to do with feeling anxious about going out again. Even for the masked vaccinated person, the idea of going to an event or to meet friends again can create anxiety known as FOGO (Fear of Going Out).
Listen to this young adult, “I know I can go out to dinner now or engage with my friends, but my anxiety is high when I plan something. For so many months, I was afraid and so careful. Now it feels weird socializing again. Every time I am with a big group of people, I think, am I at risk?”
Another told me, “I don’t want to go back to the office. I feel anxious returning to my cubicle. Why can’t I just continue to work at home?”
And this may sound familiar. “As weird as it sounds, I wonder if I have lost some of my social skills. I mean, I haven’t been around people in over 18 months, I feel anxious just engaging again.”
This apprehensive feeling is actually a common experience. This type of apprehension, however, does not rise to a clinical condition or is in the DSM-5, but it does capture the anxiety so many feel. And it is normal given how long we have lived in a state of high alert.
Prior to the pandemic, the fear of leaving your house was called agoraphobia, a true clinical condition that is in the DSM-5 and is often accompanied by panic. Agoraphobia is a psychological phobia that triggers anxiety also. But it involves an irrational fear of being in a place you can’t escape or receive help. Thus, you stay in your home to avoid that frightening experience. FOGO is not agoraphobia but does involve anxiety over going out again. However, the root of FOGO anxiety comes from being conditioned to isolate for months and will take intention to reverse.
In fact, FOGO can lead to a broader anxiety known as FONO (Fear of Normal), another crowdsourced term from the pandemic. After months of hearing about deaths, severe illness, virus spread and loss, is it surprising that there may be a reluctance to resume normalcy. Well, actually to resume a new normal. And this new normal is still filled with uncertainty as we continue to contend with the virus and it’s variants.
But we can’t live our lives in fear. Yes, things have changed, but fear is not a good motivator when it comes to adjusting.
Fear is a warning system built into the our bodies as a natural reaction to danger. It is healthy to feel fear in the face of danger. When the danger alarm goes off, it prompts us to action.
But when fear takes hold of our lives, it turns into worry and anxiety. When you live in fear, you focus on the uncertainty of life and the future, rather than the present. For example, you could get sick, infected or miss work, but you don’t want to live in a constant fear state.
The good news is that you can learn to turn off the fear response. To do so, look to your faith. Fear not...is a phrase that appears in 18 books of the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, angels, prophets, apostles and Christ himself announce that we are not to fear.
God tells us that He is our present help in times of trouble. We are to cast our cares on Him. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. These are not empty words. God invites us to give our fears and anxiety to Him. He has all things under His control. Nothing happens away from His watchful eye. Your life and care are in His hands. And He invites you to pray for protection and keep your mind stayed on Him. In all things, we are to look to the Lord versus our circumstances. When. we do, the promise is He will keep us in perfect peace not anxiety.
So pay attention to fearful thoughts. Do what you need to do to be safe. But don’t give in to FOGO or FONO. Instead, work on moving through the fear rather than avoiding it. Once you exposure yourself to the fear and see that nothing terrible happened, it will boost your confidence and allow you to master that fear. And that means engaging in life again.