Too Many Summer Plans? How To Gracefully Cancel And Access Your Inner JOMO

After a long, dark winter and a rainy spring, most people are looking forward to summer in a major way. As the invitations to barbeques, bonfires, and pool parties roll in, you may find yourself accepting them all with wild abandon ... until the day of the event arrives. Once the novelty of the warm weather and sunlight wears off, the honeymoon period for summer plans can wear off with it in a hurry, leaving you with an overflowing calendar and a sense of dread.


You may have heard of the acronym FOMO, short for "fear of missing out." But have you heard of JOMO? JOMO stands for the "joy of missing out," and it's exactly what you're going to feel when you take action to cancel all your excess summer plans. Join us as we examine the many good reasons you may have for canceling your plans — and how to communicate your cancellation in a firm yet graceful manner.

Take a cue from spoon theory

If you're struggling to explain why the thought of attending an event is suddenly overwhelming and not something you'll enjoy, spoon theory — a concept that has emerged from the online chronic illness community over the past two decades — can be a useful way of looking at it. The term was originally coined by blogger Christine Miserandino, who was trying to explain to a friend what it feels like to be chronically ill. To illustrate, she gathered a few handfuls of spoons, giving them to her friend and asking her to list off her typical daily activities. For each activity the friend listed, Miserandino took away spoons, explaining that the utensils represented the energy needed to complete the task. By the time the friend reached mid-evening on her theoretical day, she was out of spoons.


This spoon analogy helped Miserandino demonstrate how a chronically ill person must carefully prioritize their energy to perform necessary tasks. But spoon theory can also be applied outside the realm of chronic illness and used to explain a limited amount of energy due to stress, burnout, or mental health struggles. Explain the concept to your loved ones and let them know when you need to cancel plans because you're low on spoons.

Prioritize your physical health

Your health should always take priority over social obligations, so whether you have a potential cold or flu virus or just feel a headache coming on, listen to your body and cancel your plans. For one, you don't want to risk spreading a potentially contagious illness to your loved ones. Secondly, your body feeling tired, achy, or run down is a clear sign of a need for physical rest.


Illness and physical exhaustion are important indicators of your overall health and shouldn't be ignored. And don't feel like you have to explain your symptoms or their severity when you cancel summer plans with your loved ones. You know your own body better than anyone else does — simply stating that you aren't feeling well should be enough. If the host of the event gets pushy or intrusive, simply restate what you've already said and end the conversation. You don't owe them proof or an explanation of your personal health issues.

Cite your financial goals

As unfortunate as it may be, money doesn't make itself. If you're working on financial goals this summer, like paying down debt or saving money for a large purchase, you're probably going to need to spend a lot of time working. Since you can't be in two places at once and you also need to take time for rest, some of your summer plans are going to need to be canceled.


If the friends or family members you made the plans with are invested in your long-term success and happiness, they should understand why you're making the choice to scale back on summer activities. If they don't, it may be a sign that it's time to reassess the relationship. Someone who is truly rooting for you in life will be happy to sacrifice an event or two with you in order to see you crush your goals and obtain exactly what you want.

Fall back on prior engagements

When you realize that you've accidentally double-booked yourself in the excitement of filling up your summer social calendar, you might feel a lot of pressure to decide which event to attend and experience guilt over canceling your other plans. This is an opportunity to get very honest with yourself and work on reading your body's cues. Imagine attending each of the events in question, and notice how your body feels. If one elicits a light, warm feeling in your chest and the other leaves you feeling like you've swallowed a sinking brick, you have your answer.


If neither event makes you particularly happy when you envision attending, cancel both plans. Life is too short to spend time in spaces that don't bring you joy or to agonize over a nonessential decision. Feel free to schedule a date night in with your dog so you can still cite a prior engagement as your reason for canceling — specifying your previously made plans to the event host is absolutely not required.

Plan on some alone time

Spending time alone is vital for everyone — it allows you to unwind, relax, process recent events and your emotions around them, and practice being comfortable in your own essence. If your personality leans toward introversion, alone time is even more important for recharging your social batteries and preventing an introvert hangover. Introverts and extroverts alike should make a point of scheduling alone time, though introverts may require more of it.


If you tend to skip alone time for social activities until the point of burnout, it's time to start planning solo dates right along with all your other summer events. Pick a day at least once every other week and choose an activity to do alone, like taking yourself out for dinner or coffee or having a DIY spa night at home. Then, put it on your calendar and consider it non-negotiable, even it means canceling or refusing to make other plans. You'll thank yourself later. 

Decide on your priorities

Adult life boils down to priorities. There will always be more events than you can attend, more relationships than you can maintain, more chores than you can complete, and more work than you can commit to. The key is taking the time to figure out what matters the most to you as an individual. It's also important to understand that priorities can (and should) change. For some people, the first decade of adulthood is spent prioritizing creating stability by focusing on establishing a career. For others, early adulthood is all about having as many fun experiences as possible before prioritizing settling down and establishing roots.


Only you can decide the order of your priorities in your phase of life. Once you do, make sure that those priorities are reflected in the day-to-day decisions you make. If your top priority is currently advancing your career, embarking on a health and fitness journey, or raising a family, a summer packed with social events might not make the most sense. You're allowed to reevaluate and cancel plans accordingly.

Communicate assertively

If the thought of canceling plans makes your anxiety spike, you may need a refresher on assertive communication. When you communicate assertively, you express your needs in a manner that is clear and concise while remaining respectful. Assertive communication is not rude, angry, or aggressive. It is matter-of-fact, unapologetic, and open to reasonable compromise. If you normally find yourself apologizing profusely and giving detailed explanations for canceling social plans, try a more assertive approach next time.


Rather than starting your communication by providing the exact reason for your cancellation, simply state that you won't be able to attend. Give a general explanation if you wish, without going into specific details, and end the conversation. If you've only ever communicated passively, this might feel a bit uncomfortable or unnatural at first. After a few more experiences, however, you'll find yourself wondering why you ever let such matters dictate the way you felt. 

Normalize refusing to overextend yourself

Overextending yourself can lead to higher stress levels or burnout and negatively impact your mental health — so canceling plans when you've committed to too much should be a default response that isn't shamed or treated like a social faux pas. If it makes you feel better, take the time to discuss your views on the matter with your loved ones, and let them know ahead of time that you'll be canceling plans in the future whenever they no longer work for you.


You can help to normalize the cancellation of plans for the purpose of self-preservation within your social group by encouraging your friends and family members to cancel their excess plans as well. Make it abundantly clear that you will never get upset or demand an explanation when they cancel plans with you and that you fully support everyone being upfront about their own priorities and capacities — after all, we no longer worry about FOMO; we're all about JOMO now.