It wasn’t so long ago that we were stuck inside our homes, prohibited from leaving for more than an hour unless it was to exercise or go to the supermarket. How we yearned to be back in the world, hugging our loved ones, dining in restaurants, socialising and, well, living.
When lockdown restrictions started to lift, many of us bolted back into our social lives. But the return to normal(ish) life meant FOMO – the fear of missing out – was once again a threat. During lockdown, FOMO wasn’t an issue as no one could go out and have fun, so there was nothing to miss out on.
But now we’ve been living without most restrictions for months, there seems to be a new attitude to going out that we didn’t see coming. You’re not alone if, post-pandemic, you feel like leaving the house and socialising is a lot more of an effort than it used to be.
We can’t blame ourselves, but we did become incredibly accustomed to always wearing something with an elasticated waistband and not having to put make up on. Going out and doing things can now feel like a real hassle. Suddenly, it’s hello travel costs, we’d forgotten about you. Oh, and having to organise outfits for multiple occasions that you also need to somehow fit in your diary. Ah yes, and all the kids’ extra curricular activities and school events.
Move over FOMO, we’ve got HOGO now – the hassle of going out. Don’t get us wrong, we still love our freedom and wouldn’t want to return to a lockdown lifestyle ever again. But it can often feel like the effort to organise yourself outweighs the fun of it – especially during a cold and dark winter when we’re still worrying about catching Covid and other illnesses.
In November, The Sunday Times reported restaurant group Gusto Italian said it had 1,000 no-shows across its 12 restaurants, in one week alone. Even venues that required a pre-payment also saw a dip in attendees. According to trade body UK Hospitality, around 15 per cent of guests who purchased tickets for prepaid sporting and music events failed to show up, too.
So, how exactly did we go from FOMO to HOGO? Gail Marra, a clinical hypnotherapist and author of Health, Wealth & Hypnosis, explains that it’s because essentially we have a lot more to think about now.
‘We humans are social creatures by nature. We have a fundamental need for human connection,’ she said. So before the pandemic, many of us didn’t want to miss out on social situations in order to feel accepted, part of a group and not ‘excluded from the pack’.
Lockdown life soon became the ‘new normal’ after we adjusted, and we were stuck with it for longer than we anticipated. So naturally, we became used to life as it was but ‘we also tend to want things we can’t have,’ Gail explains. ‘In this case, the thing we wanted most was freedom. The freedom to go out and live our lives the way we always had. When freedom finally rang, it was different.’
Our minds were filled with so many questions about how to socialise in a pandemic – what kind of face mask is best? Do I have hand sanitiser? Who’s cleaned this and when was it last cleaned? How was this food prepared?
Gail continues: ‘We have become hesitant, almost fearful of being around one another. Things seemed a lot less frightening and much simpler at home.’ But of course, we have to gradually readjust to a life where we co-exist with Covid.
Now that Christmas and party season is upon us, what can we do to help shift our focus off HOGO? Gail shares her top tips…
How to beat HOGO and brace yourself for socialising
- Don’t pile on the pressure to do everything at once and have The. Best. Time. EVER. Allow yourself to ease back into social situations at your own pace.
- Don’t let others pressure you, either. It’s perfectly fine to decline an invitation, or leave a social situation when you feel ready.
- Choose the people you socialise with carefully, if you can. If seeing one friend in particular feels like more of an effort than a desire, perhaps it’s a good time to think about your relationship and whether it’s worth holding on to in the new year.
- Broaden your idea of what socialising means. Physical activities like going for walks together, rather than a drink or meal, can take the pressure off. Plus, virtual meetings still count!
- Breathe. No, really. Gail suggests practicing deep abdominal breathing before heading out, in order to release your calm, happy hormones and lower your adrenaline, which can make you feel more anxious.
Remember, if you ever feel totally overwhelmed, scared or anxious, you can always talk to a professional in therapy, or seek more advice from a doctor.