As people return from their winter travels and rejoin work, experts in the UAE highlight that they are encountering individuals grappling with anxiety linked to the “fear of switching off” (FOSO).

Psychiatrists underline this as a phenomenon that has been visible both preceding and following residents’ travels.

The term FOSO describes the uneasiness or reluctance people feel when they have to cut off from their obligations, technology, or jobs, especially on holidays or during weekends.

It shows itself as a worry about losing out on crucial knowledge or chances, or a fear of being “seen as less dedicated”, explained Dr Adnan Ahmadiazad, specialist psychiatrist, Thumbay University Hospital.

Guilt when away from work

Dr Ahmadiazad said: “I frequently come across people who are experiencing anxiety connected to FOSO, both before and after travel. Some clients say they feel guilty or restless when they try to unwind on vacation, while others worry about switching off from work.”

Medics indicate that FOSO also has a lasting impact on the affected individual’s overall wellbeing.

“People may have difficulties adjusting to work expectations after travel, which suggests that FOSO has a long-lasting effect on their general well-being,” added Dr Ahmadiazad.

As per an earlier study, around 49 per cent of UAE residents experience FOSO. That’s according to new global research from Priority Pass, an airport experiences programme — owned and operated by Collinson — which surveyed 8,500 people across 11 countries.

The findings also said more than half, which is 58 per cent of the population, admit to finding it hard to reduce the amount of time spent on their phone while away, which rises to 61 per cent for just millennials.

Unable to relax

Girish Hemnani, life coach and energy healer based in Dubai said: “Many of my clients have expressed their frustration with this situation. They've invested in vacations and luxury experiences hoping to escape their daily stressors, only to find that they're unable to relax and unwind. Despite spending on travel and high-end accommodations, they often encounter feelings of frustration, increased arguments, blame-shifting, annoyance, and dissatisfaction.”

“This indicates that the root causes of their stress and anxiety are not being adequately addressed. The triggers for these negative emotions are not location-specific; they are internal and thus, pervasive regardless of physical surroundings,” he added.

Experts in the field also underline that the fear of switching off the mobile phone, sometimes referred to as “nomophobia” (no mobile phone phobia), is the distress that arises from being without a mobile phone or unable to utilise it due to various reasons.

Setting healthy boundaries

They point out it is not only a phenomenon where individuals experience anxiety or discomfort when disconnecting from technology, but it's also about being away from their everyday responsibilities and routines.

Dr Nada Omer Mohamed Elbashir, Consultant Psychiatrist at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi said, “It’s important to highlight the need for healthy boundaries and mindful use of technology.”

While mobile phones offer numerous benefits, individuals need to balance their reliance on these devices with periods of disconnection to promote mental well-being and reduce anxiety. “Encouraging digital detoxes, setting aside designated phone-free times, and practicing mindfulness can all be helpful strategies for managing FOSO and promoting a healthier relationship with technology,” she added.

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