Rees, 23, is a former social worker. “It was very awkward because I was pretty lonely, I had a lot of trouble meeting people, and I was pretty introverted. “His social anxiety was reflected in ‘a lump in the stomach, sweating or even a strain.’” Today, the young man has managed to overcome his fears: Furthermore, I learned that other people also have this fear.Knowing that you are not alone in experiencing a disturbing situation is already a reassuring first step.
Be sweet to yourself
All too often we are hard on ourselves and put ourselves down in front of others. To combat this trend, Laurie Hawkes, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist and author of Overcome your fear of others (Editions Eyrolles), advises its patients to become their “own parent” by developing a benevolent presence towards themselves. She explains: “I encourage them to become this parent who helps them leave their comfort zone, by saying to themselves, ‘it will do you good, and what can happen to you then worse?’ or ‘you have not lost anything, you can congratulate yourself for making the effort’ ”.
It is important, according to the psychologist, to “develop a benevolent and supportive presence rather than a critical presence. »
Ask yourself to combat social anxiety
Similarly, if social relationships seem complicated to us, we can “reflect on what went wrong before,” as Laurie Hawkes explains. Whether it’s a friendly or romantic breakup, or difficult relationship at work, one can wonder about the causes of one’s problems: “Have I done something that caused a bad reaction in the other? »,« What causes me this discomfort at work: the tasks? Coworkers ? Pressure? “.
Once we have analyzed the situation and put forward hypotheses and answers, we feel more at ease. The psychologist emphasizes that it is important “to question oneself in order to avoid constantly pondering”.
Analyze yourself by building a progress plan
Laurie Hawkes recommends making a “progress plan and questioning our desires”. For example, we may ask ourselves “what comfort do I need?” »,« What would I like to do when I have reached this relative comfort? », And above all:« what are the stages on this path? “. The psychologist emphasizes the need to” break up the big goal into several phases “. This makes it less impressive. The steps are more affordable and therefore there is a greater chance of intervention. Every small step taken is so an opportunity to congratulate yourself.
This exercise is the core of psychotherapy followed by Flore *, 24, who suffers from social anxiety. His discomfort with others is due to his “lack of self-esteem”. To remedy this, she uses a “pyramid diagram”. Specifically, she focuses on her needs, desires, or even her priorities in life to redefine her value: “I try to figure out what I’m worth, I think about what I can do to deconstruct my limiting beliefs, them which feeds my worries.For example, one day I was afraid to talk on the phone.I fed this belief and today I can no longer make certain phone calls.So I try to free myself from my blockages by working on my strengths.
Exercises to relieve physical symptoms
Like all anxiety, certain physical symptoms can make the situation of an anxiety person worse: headaches, stomach aches, stress, tremors or even depressive symptoms … To soothe them there are a few methods.
Breathing: First of all, it is important to breathe well to refocus in the present. We suffer from social anxiety, but also from anxiety in general, when we get stuck in the disturbing events of the past or, conversely, when we worry about the future. To get back to the present, we can therefore breathe better with an exercise in the “heart context”. It involves inhaling deeply for about 5 seconds and then exhaling for 5 seconds. Repeat the exercise for 5 minutes to calm down.
We can also concentrate on this breathing by making sure to inflate the stomach well during inhalation and to empty it well during exhalation.
Meditation: To feel more peaceful, you can also participate in meditation. In addition, the breathing exercise suggested above makes it possible to enter the meditation state. By becoming aware of your breathing, you relax more and more and the mind can shift to a slightly different universe, a universe of its own. This is the time to find a comfortable position in a quiet place, to take a deep breath and let your thoughts come up. When they do occur, it is sufficient to observe them without analyzing them, and above all to accept them.
Visualization : Laurie Hawkes is also in favor of visualization. This method involves imagining yourself in a particular situation. In addition to the images we first visualize, we can also imagine smells to make the exercise more realistic.
In the case of social anxiety, we visualize ourselves as the master of the situation that worries us. If we prepare things in advance, we can actually avoid being scared, or at least reduce anxiety.
“We imagine the evening in advance by creating topics of conversation to avoid silence and blockages. We are preparing a kind of “palette” of different topics: films, exhibitions, all kinds of cultural topics, to be sure to get out of it with at least one person “, advises Laurie Hawkes, before clarifying. “Above all, it does not matter if you do not use it! It is about adapting to the situation. »
In specific cases, drug treatment can also be prescribed on the advice of a healthcare professional.
* Name changed to maintain anonymity.
Laurie Hawkes, clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and author of the book Overcome your fear of others (Eyroll Editions)
Social Anxiety: What is Fear of the Other?
Have you ever found an excuse not to go to a birthday party, worried about a presentation at work, or avoided the crowd at all costs? If this is the case and these situations are stressful for you, you are definitely suffering from social anxiety, more commonly known as “anxiety for others”. What does it mean?