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Why I now choose Netflix and my couch over a night out.

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Woman lounging on a couch with Christmas lights in comfortable clothing reading a tablet
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It’s 4 p.m. on a Tuesday in December and I get this text:

“I am sooo sorry! I have to bail tonight ☹ Joe’s basketball game got delayed and they are just starting warm-ups now. I feel bad … raincheck?”

I text back, “Bummer! Totally understand — hope they win”

And that’s half true. I like Joe and I hope he has a great game. But I am the opposite of bummed that she cancelled. In fact, when I saw her text, I broke out in a wide grin.

Since noon I had been trying to send her subliminal messages to get her to cancel on me. I didn’t want to be a flake, but I was pretty much dreading the idea of going out that evening.

I was annoyed with myself for agreeing to meet her for drinks when it was going to be 35 degrees out and there was a new episode of This Is Us on television.

When she suggested going out a week earlier, I thought it sounded like a fun plan. I mean, I like my friend, I like guacamole, I like having a glass of wine and some girl talk.

The problem is I think I like making plans more than I like going out, especially in the winter and during the week. Because, when the day arrives …

I find there is a insanely strong gravitational pull toward my couch that makes it difficult to get out the door. While people talk about having a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), I tend to have FOGO — a Fear of Going Out.

I don’t feel like putting on heels or lipstick. I’d much prefer peeling off my bra and crawl under my faux fur throw blanket. ’Cause baby it’s cold outside, and I really CAN stay — no need to ask me twice.

I thought I was the only person who got FOGO until last year when my husband and I saw comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s show in New York City. At the start of his performance, Seinfeld congratulated everyone in the audience and said, “Look at what you've accomplished? Getting out on a Thursday. There is not one person here tonight who did not find this evening, ultimately, to be a total pain in the a--."

Totally, Jerry! It’s as if he heard my inner thoughts that afternoon. He completely understood how “a fun night out had turned into anxiety-provoking inconvenience.”

When I bought the tickets for his show a few months prior, I was so excited. But then that day, I thought, Oh crap! Is there still time to try to sell these tickets on Stub Hub!? Why did I think I would want to take a train to the city on a cold weeknight and get home so late that I would be cranky the next day? I could have just watched an episode of Comedians in Cars or a Seinfeld rerun, worn sweatpants, had the same number of laughs and been in bed by 9:30.

So, why do people overplan and then wish they hadn’t? Laurel Steinberg, a New York-based relationship expert, says, “When we make future plans, we don’t take into account all of the hectic life happenings that will occur around them. By the time events roll around, we typically have 43 things on our minds that can leave us so spent that just sitting around can seem like just what’s needed.”

FOMO also plays a role in overplanning, as does the concern many people have that an empty calendar means an empty life. Gail Saltz, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical College, explains, “Some people do feel afraid of having nothing to do because to them it means either they are left out or because downtime means being alone with your thoughts, which can bring on fears of anxiety or boredom.” Adds Steinberg, “Sometimes people say yes to lackluster plans, especially when they are worried that nothing better will come along.”

Of course, consistently cancelling plans or hoping others will bail is not a good idea. It can hurt relationships, weaken connections and discourage friends from reaching out. And going out when you don’t want to isn’t the answer, either. Steinberg says, “Wanting to cancel plans but showing up anyway can result in people not being their best selves during the plans, making for a subpar experience for all.” Not making plans may sound like the right answer, but that is a mistake, too. Saltz says, “Socializing is good for the brain, for overall health and for happiness. Hence it is good to make some plans and to try to keep them.”

The best idea is to find a balance and really listen to your inner voice. Yes, there is value in going out with friends, but there is also something therapeutic about enjoying your downtime and alone time (or time with the Pearson family because Milo Ventimiglia is just so darn cute).

Personally, I think that bears have a good system. A little hibernation, especially in the winter can be nice, necessary and rejuvenating. So, this winter I am going to try to keep my “planning” more in check as well as staying in some nights without feeling guilty. And with fewer set plans, I’ll have more time for a spontaneous night out with friends. And sometimes, that’s the best plan of all.