4 Causes of INFJ Stress (And How To Beat Them)

INFJs are highly perceptive of their environment and other people. They are deeply empathetic and often understand others better than they understand themselves. They work hard for the common good, commit, and follow through. And they are perhaps more likely than any other personality type to experience anxiety.

The relationship between these traits is fairly solid. One recent study published in an Israeli academic journal suggests that anxiety can be positively correlated with elevated empathy. People who care deeply for others tend to be much more anxious than those who are less empathetic - although the science is less clear about causality. Does empathy make people more prone to anxiety, or are anxious people better at understanding others?

An equally significant aspect of stress is that it can actually make a person less generous and caring toward others. When stress rises, empathy suffers. No matter how empathetic you are to begin with, under stress, you're more likely to interpret neutral events as hostile ones and displace frustration onto those around you. As this fascinating study shows, it also makes you less likely to feel someone else's pain.

For INFJs, these studies make interesting reading. They hint at something you may have noticed in yourself - specifically, that you experience higher stress levels compared to other personality types and that, under stress, your ability to stand in another's shoes is severely compromised. INFJs have a reputation for becoming sarcastic, narrow-minded and critical under pressure, often lashing out at others in ways you can barely comprehend.

What triggers such uncomfortable behavior? Let's take a closer look.

#1: Dealing with details

Too many details or other sensory stimuli can provoke a stress reaction in INFJs, especially when you feel uncertain about a situation. Unexpected environments, events or interruptions unsettle you greatly since you are forced to focus on immediate, sensory details rather than relying on your intuition. Examples range from filing your taxes to navigating your way through a foreign city.

As you start to lose your global perspective, you may make frustrating and stressful mistakes. For example, you may misplace or drop things. You may obsess about the minute details and become fixated on finding the "right" or "missing" piece of data that will solve your problem. Or you may attempt to control everything around you, compulsively alphabetizing your DVD collection or putting things permanently and immediately in order.

Interestingly, the focus of your obsession may have nothing to do with the situation that caused the stress reaction in the first place. And since your labor is misdirected, it is unlikely to produce any meaningful results - causing even greater stress.

How to beat it: Removing the sensory stimulation is essential if you are to restore a feeling of balance. Consider lying down for 10 minutes, in the dark, with earplugs in order to block the sensory overload, and make sure you get a good night's sleep. In the long-term, learn to recognize the signs of overstimulation and take steps to mitigate them. For example, you might switch off the relentless email, music, bright lights etc and schedule a break from some of these distractions.

#2: Too much extroverting

Crowds, noise, frequent interruptions - INFJs need their personal space and may experience great anxiety if they have too much contact with people in one day. Faced with such provocations, there's a risk that you will spread yourself so thin responding to other people's problems that you neglect your own needs.

In such situations, your stress reaction tends to go one of two ways. Either you shut down from the world, communicating very little. Or you externalize blame and become angry with the world around you; a type of anxiety that will continue to plague you until you can escape to a low-pressure, solitary environment.

How to beat it: INFJs agree that regular periods of solitude in a simple, non-threatening environment is important to help them regain their equilibrium. You need to give yourself the time to recover from social interactions so you can stop feeling the emotions of others and start reconnecting with yourself. Exercising alone is helpful, and some INFJs find great solace in nature. Other stress busters include light reading, writing in a journal or meditation.

#3: Lack of autonomy and efficiency

Controlled and structured work environments that do not provide the flexibility to think independently are extremely stressful for INFJs. You establish very high, often perfectionist, standards for yourself and need the freedom to creatively accomplish these goals. Inefficiency or teams that have no sense of direction will also string you out since they stifle your ability to produce something significant.

When overwhelmed at work, you are likely to focus on all the things that are wrong with the environment. You may start micromanaging others, feeling like you have to do all the work yourself. Or you may become picky and fault-finding toward your co-workers, trying to change their behavior "for their own good."

How to beat it: You tend to see your environment as a house of straws that could collapse on you at any time. To avoid stress, you need to constantly reinforce the structure and make sure you have enough room to maneuver.

Ideally, find a quiet space to think and work. If that's not possible, redirect the phone, shut down your email and pop on a pair of headphones. Establish rules for when and how work is delivered and how much others may interrupt you - and make sure that you are available within these slots. This is important since you tend to be hard on yourself when you cannot meet others' expectations.

#4: Distress with close relationships

INFJs are particularly vulnerable to hurt feelings when there is conflict within a close relationship. Feeling chronically misunderstood can strike at the heart of your authenticity and bring into question your value when a friend or partner seems opposed to your opinion. You also have a tendency to absorb the beliefs and feelings of others as if they were your own. When external conflict grows, so too does your sense of personal discomfort.

In a low-pressure environment, you typically will put up with many things in a relationship for the sake of keeping the peace. But there is always an invisible line that others shall not cross. When they do, your stress reactions can be cataclysmic. An angry INFJ can deliver a wrath and intensity that most people have probably never experienced before.

How to beat it: There are really only two ways to handle a stressful relationship: dissociate from the situation or call a friend and gripe. It's probably wise to do both. Spending time alone will allow you to separate your feelings from those of the other person and understand yourself without distortion. Talking to someone can help put those feelings into perspective since you tend to solve problems by articulating them.

If you feel uncomfortable blabbing about your problems (let's face it, no INFJ enjoys airing their dirty laundry in public) reconnecting with your intuition can offer the same catharsis. You have a habit of dropping all your favorite activities when stressed, but the time to relax is when the molehills are erupting into mountains. It really does help to give yourself permission to be creative, put your intuition back in charge and honor your muse.

What about you? What triggers your stress reactions? What tips have you learned to decompress? Let us know in the comments.

Molly Owens

Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. Since 2006, she has specialized in helping individuals and organizations utilize personality assessments to develop their potential.

In 2012, Molly founded Truity with a mission to make robust, scientifically validated personality assessments accessible to everyone who may benefit from them.

Molly is an ENTP and lives in San Francisco, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and racing toy cars with her son.

Comments

INFJ1961 says...

This is a very useful and insightful bit of information, and of course, perfectly timed as I am momentarily in need of pulling myself out of this rut I've created for myself by staying away from my muse. Thanks!

Femmy (not verified) says...

Thank you!!!!

Excellent points and well expressed.

I have noticed recently, while stressed out, that I have trouble in all of these areas. Thank you for the validation and tips.

I appreciate it very much.

James Harman (not verified) says...

Well, yet again Truity seems to understand me better than I understand myself! Thanks again for the cutting-edge insight.

Guest (not verified) says...

I had no idea that there are others who see things the way I do or need the same things I do! Wow! This was reading a description of me in almost all respects. Thank you! What a relief to read this. I usually feel so different from others and isolated

Guest (not verified) says...

My stress reactions are triggered when my alone time is constantly interrupted , When I dont have a set schedule but overwhelmed with tasks that must be completed, and when I have to constantly exert myself even when I dont want to. My tips to decompress is to sit in nature and observe it while listening to calming music.

Kathryn88*infj/pisces (not verified) says...

I am exactly the same way. When I start getting worked up or need to shake things off I go outside and lay in my hammock and look up at the trees and the sky.  Helps me sooooooo much.  

INFJ Artist (not verified) says...

Well timed as well. Married to an END for six years, we still don't seem to understand each other. I do all of these things, and I do remember to stress out more than anyone I know. I have put myself in a leadership role in my community, for the greater good and the promotion of the arts. Dealing with the details drives me to crazy so
It is been hard to keep things into perspective.

Naki (not verified) says...

I understand this too and how unpredictable events in Arts organizing can be because artists are so impulsive! Currently planing a film festival and have a weekend full of invites figuring how I can get out of some of them, ha. Generally what works for me is nature walks and reading..which explains why I found this post. I'm comforted.

Neil H (not verified) says...

Honestly, I was looking into a mirror that showed every minor detail and flaw as I read this.

Jolene Marais (not verified) says...

Why are we so obsessed with details? :-)

Ivona (not verified) says...

Thank you for this insight, Molly.

Sharing my experience and thoughts: What triggers my stress reactions is an old-fashioned work/life imbalance. INFJs are Doers and Drivers; however, to get enough so vital me-time to recharge to keep giving is just one part of the story - to justify taking such time off might be an issue. I use a flight safety rules analogy, 'to put your oxygen mask before assisting others'. This works magic to give myself a permission to hide away with my creative muse.

To beat distress with close relationships:venting elsewhere indeed helps; it many not solve a conflict, though; and let's face it, INFJs usually do not like to bother others with their issues (being natural counselors, we listen:-)). An advice from a professional helped me: in a safe and ambient environment, sit down with your significant other/friend/family and take turns, each 5 minutes, to speak your mind. No interruptions, judgement, or questions. Give yourself time to process and next time you meet, talk again.

Guest (not verified) says...

OMG! This was soo me!!!
I have a very stressful work enviroment right know with much cooperation needed and little time to do it. I feel so overwhelmed sometimes - like I am going to burst into little pieces.
Thanks for all the advice on how to handle it!

Guest (not verified) says...

This is incredible information for me right now. I've had the most stressful summer on record and have been feeling like I'm unable to hold everything together. (And why should I feel I need too anyway, right?). Everything you listed has been affecting me. I will print this out to share with my husband (possibly ESTP) so maybe he will "get it". I feel I now have permission to go find my happy place when I feel the need. Thank you!!

ItsSarahKo (not verified) says...

Thank you SO much for this. It is so insightful, and for me, so true. Pinpointing my stressors and giving me real, viable solutions will be so beneficial, now and for the future.

Rob P (not verified) says...

This article is spot on!
I have pets that I retreat to for solace and renewal.
My 2 dogs offer unconditional love and are happy just to sit with me, no questions, no demands.
These moments help me recalculate the GPS.

Blou (not verified) says...

The universe thinks it is so funny. I know someone (not very well) who is the only one who can push my buttons. All he has to do to snap me out of my tirade is to say "remember rule #6". This is in reference to "The Art of Possibility" by Rosamund and Ben Zander. Rule #6 is do not take yourself so seriously. It usually cracks me up and I'm done with my tantrum. It's true that I am usually stressing out at the time but this practice allows me to stop taking it out on him and take care of myself.

Theo (not verified) says...

This article speaks to me in so many ways. Thank you! I'm a real beginner when it comes to managing my stress. What I have learned is that it requires great discipline and consistency. Meditating during my lunch breaks helps, but having been an intnern and entry-level employee in several companies, I find it difficult to make time for these short breaks without annoying by boss. What has probably worked best is morning exercise. With that I can effectively start the day on my own terms. Now if only I had the discipline!

Theo

Koolkat (not verified) says...

I actually have a friend who is also an INFJ, and this article was perfect for helping me understand an area where I can do better, as well as understand why he sometimes seems silent and broody for a few days. I used to feel rejected by him until I realized not only why, but also that I do it too! Any advice on how to become a more detail-oriented INFJ?

Also, I lose things so often my family teases me that "there are other objects in this world!" lol

Guest (not verified) says...

If this isn't me.. Thanks a lot for this very valuable information! :)

Guest (not verified) says...

I concur with most of what was said but with regards to losing things, well I think that's an INFJ trait in general. INFJs tend to not always be present in the sensory world and don't always pay attention to their environment, therefore it's plausible that things/items will be misplaced/lost. With regards to stress, everybody experiences it but it's particularly acute amongst INFJs. What stresses me out is: a) Lack of autonomy as I like to carve my own path, rather than have it dictated. b) laziness in the workplace as that's guaranteed to get my back up, particularly if it's left to me to carry the load. c) Wilful ignorance as some people pretend that they know less than they do, purely to advance themselves. d) Gossip within the workplace, who'd rather bitch about 'kathy in finance' than do the job they are paid to do. These people take offence if you don't join in with their little bitch fest. I go to work to work so I wish they wouldn't take it so personally. I can think of many more but I'll leave it at that.

Guest (not verified) says...

This was an incredible read.. and at such a perfect time! Thank you. I feel as if my entire world is falling apart from Top to Bottom and there is nothing that I can do to help or fix anything. My home is my safe place to retreat, find comfort, Re-Center myself and go forward. It is so hard and so overwhelming at times because I don't handle chaos well and at the moment, I am surrounded by chaos. I need structure, schedules.. it almost feels like a safe place... Thank you once again for writing such an amazing and informative piece, it is an amazing feeling, knowing that I am not alone in feeling like this.

Paulus (not verified) says...

Great article. As an INFP male, I found that a lot of this applies to me as well. Sometimes the line between P and J is pretty ambiguous. At any rate, some of the techniques that are outlined are really to deal with strong pulls in the extravert or sensory direction, which are not my preferences. The basic strategy to me seems to be getting some down time, to cool off and get my center back. This is great. The most challenging situations are when I cannot "escape" - for instance when I am at work in an adversarial situation. I try to reflect on my breath, have presence for where I am at, and have compassion and acceptance that I am feeling anxiety and that is okay. Sometimes I need to take a walk, or go into the restroom and sit in a stall until I can regain my composure. Some days are better than others, it is a process, but thank you again for these great suggestions on how to better live.

Paul

Guest (not verified) says...

Another area that has caused me stress is working for people or organisations that don't share a similar value base. I recently worked for an organisation that was more interested in profits than education. As a teacher I couldn't put up with this for long, I was pushed to pump out passes so the organisation could claim funding. Naturally I left - walked out. I think infjs need to be in workplaces that match or complement their values otherwise it can be very stressful.

Arlynx (not verified) says...

It's relieving to see that my behavioral tendencies can be attributed to INFJ traits and not solely the answers that others have imposed on me (too emotional, youngest sibling, unconfident). Moreover these solutions to stressful situations and my reactions are illuminating to managing my mental health and relationships.

Guest (not verified) says...

Loved this article. Have struggled for years with the commonalities associated with INFJ but had no clue about MBTI until recently. INFJ is me to the core and it was so cathartic to finally see my personality explained in writing and that someone out there finally "got me". Well, actually, a lot of someones. I am 33 and have been in the healthcare field since high school. I was born 3 months premature and spent a lot of time around healthcare as a child so I think it was a comfortable environment for me. I have strong relative mentors in healthcare as well who also influenced my ultimate decision to pursue my B.S.N. I always excelled in most subjects in K-12, with more effort needed in subject matters like trigonometry. I was an office manager for a healthcare practice at 19 for close to 2 years. I had my first child within that timeframe and then decided to go back to school for my nursing degree. I pushed myself and took a lot of core undergrad classes together in the sciences and did extremely well. I went into my Bachelor's RN program with close to a 4.0. I had a lot of life events at this time and balanced those with nursing school and graduated on time with a good GPA. I started my nursing career in Critical Care, where I worked for 5 years. I transitioned to a position as a nurse auditor for two years and grew to love my position. It was also during this time that I was involved in education for our departments with regard to documentation and charging practices. I found that I love to educate and use my extroverted function with material that I have thoroughly researched and have prepared. I do not do well being put on the spot; however, in this case I was able to excel because I could not only research and prepare a presentation, I could execute it well because I felt confident in the subject matter. I eventually decided to transfer to a different position, not because of a lack on enjoying my job, but due to conflicts of interest and office politics that, although indirectly involved me, put me in a position where I felt my core values and ethics were being compromised and I could not continue. I transfered to a position within our quality department as a data analyst. I enjoy the people I work with and the politics and ethical issues from the previous position are not an issue here. I have been in the position close to 6 months. I enjoy some aspects of the position; however I am finding that the work itself is frustrating me. The "greater meaning" is there for what I currently do but I am having trouble with the "analysis paralysis" issue in my work. I am a great writer and my boss likes my work; however, there have been communication issues with myself and my boss and others and my boss that we are working to improve. Coupled with the internal struggle I am having balancing the workload with my need to adjust to the newness of the position. I am the only one who has the particular tasks that I have and the person prior to me who did the job was gone 4 months prior to my arrival. I enjoy writing; however, in my position I review and write abstracts for peer review. Certain reviews come easier than others but I have struggled to find balance. I can spend so much time trying to perfect each abstract and find every little bit of pertinent information that could be meaningful that it slows me down and my productivity and efficiency suffer. I also try to put into perspective the big picture and utilize evidence-based practice via research pertinent to the cases. I get distracted easily and defiantly suffer with overstimulation and information overload. If I am looking at a general case with no defined subset of information to look for, I get overwhelmed with all the data possibilities and 1.) feel the need to shut down or 2.) try to push through but end up going down 15 different rabbit holes by the end of it with a end result of a thesis when it should have been 4-5 lines. I call this the Dory phenomenon. I wonder if other INFJs have experienced this also. It is something I struggle with in communicating to others all the time in all aspects of my life. in my close circle of friends there are always Dory jokes. I am very good at writing and love English; however, have difficulty communicating my thoughts verbally, unless previously, methodically, planned out. I hate being put on the spot, because most of the time I go from A to C and skip B just because in my head it seems implied but most people communicate in linear fashion and struggle to follow along. At that point I get frustrated because I feel misunderstood and either shut down or reduce communication. As far as my current position, we will see. I have questioned whether it is thre right fit as at the current time it, I am experiencing great anxiety related to it and am not sure how to proceed. Thanks for providing this outlet for myself and many of us struggling with the same issues.

Jolene Marais (not verified) says...

Firstly I have to say it is extremely hard being an INFJ. Having constant anylystical thoughts are not great. We can't even sit at the doctor's office without sensing emotions. Feeling numb most of the time after mingling with people because people are exhausting. Yes we like people but we prefer people we feel confortable with.People we have chosen for their sincerity and honestly.We are sensitive people therefore we prefer a soft and gentle approach.Most people do not know how to make someone confortable and they don't know how to use their words wisely.  In general I have a not too optimistic feeling about people..Most people don't know how to handle their emotions.They want to come across as friendly but they haven't mastered the art of controlling their faces. This leaves me exhausted and then I can't help to get away from people and to  find my place of solitude and while I am there I want to anylyze my thoughts and when I am emotionally ready I will be myself again. But chances are great  that I  will feel the same way very soon.We can't be fooled. Our memories are amazing we can remember things way back.How someone made us feel that emotion will be vivid for the rest of our lives.

Tony Tony Tony (not verified) says...

To other INFJ's... here's a nutshell of my results....

I'm a male INFJ, in my 40's, I've had over 200 jobs in my life... riddled with anxiety and depression.. Always searched out ways to control the anxiety and still do to this day.  I was put on klonopin for 12 years :( it nearly ruined me... finally got off if it as of May 17th 2015.. it was a rough ride but I'm back...

I've been in three long-term relationships (still am) since the age of 15 (overlapping eachother usually)... Each time I find myself both insecure of leaving the relationship and yet an almost obessive desire to leave and just search out life a day at a time.. 

School was hell.. most jobs have been hell... For whatever reason I'll never understand why, I got into sales and am still doing this right now.. I hate it because I don't like trying to push people into buying overpriced crap etc.. I get very involved maybe too involved but can't change it anyway...

I was self-employed for almost 10 years but lost it during my klonopin withdrawal so now I feel stuck in this job I hate, in a 15 year relationship that has tested me beyond belief.. at most times I feel lost and alone in this relationship.. It seems that everything written about the INFJ is true.. too much haha..

I've always been magetically drawn to "worthy" causes, professions etc., but now I seem to lack the drive/confidence/direction to ever get anywhere.. I mean how can I ever accomplish anything of real tangibility if my focus and drive are constantly bouncing from one direction to another..

Another feature is I've always had no sense of physical direction.. I can never tell what direction I'm heading or driving.. I get turned around so easy so I'm very thankful for google maps :)

I know I dreamt of being a great motivator and was headed in that direction until klonopin and the resulting decay of a productive life... but I'm not dead and gone so anything is possible still yet!

I have an incredible array of food/chemical sensitivites especially to MSG.. for me it causes an almost instant overstimulation of my mind that lasts for 1-2 days and God help anyone that crosses me on those days, it's just insane how irrational and angry I get.. but I eat plain foods now so that helps at least one trigger to not be so readily available..

I am really impatient and find my days alternating between feeling love and compassion for any and all, to complete disdain and hatred of humanity.. it's nuts. Brain fog, confusion etc comes and goes so I'm guessing its a facet of this as well...

The internal drive to always be accomplishing or moving toward a goal is both a blessing and a curse...

But in all, I'm so thankful for this life and all of the experiences so far in this wild and crazy world!

Also, I've recently realized that I've often allowed what others want to nearly always interefere with what I want.. to the point that I'm just ready to be done with all relationships.. at least until I find out who I really am.. ugh, if that even makes any sense..

Hope this helps!  Feel free to email me, anyone that wants to talk on this more :)

Tony

 

InFeRnOTTH14 (not verified) says...

Dude... it's so hard being like this... I hate myself for being like this. Anxiety ridiculous, I end up forgetting things and myself. No one understands... I tell people how I feel and immediately call me over dramatic 15 year old but the stress is very real. I guess I said it wrong but I feel like a weight to them and they don't realize how I feel on the daily basis. People are scary to me, constant sweat on the back of my neck. Thank you for writing this, I guess only other infjs or nfs understand. I'm dealing with sensors in my house and I am currently getting kicked out because of my sensitive a** and being accused of things and being misinterpreted. I am 20 years old, I guess I have some more growing up to do. Has any other infj feel super drained in all ways?

Naseem (not verified) says...

Yes, every time I do something, it feels like I need some rest. For example, if I eat, watch tv, read, talk to people, or any other activities... I need to rest. I wish I didn't feel this way too.

Most of the time, I don't follow the tasks that I planned for future because I know it will take me a long time to do it, so I just procrastinate. Have you ever experience something similar to this? 

KKtheINFJ (not verified) says...

This article is spot on.

Especially the part about relationship troubles. 

When people act inconsistently towards me or in our relationship, i pretty much downward spiral into non-stop overanalyzing and detective work. I fricking hate it. So. Much. 

I would say turning to spirituality has helped me some. Learning to love myself and give myself the attention and consistency that people in my life regularly fail to supply me with. Also, being present and realizing that i can't control A LOT of the stuff that happens in my life.

I am currently on a mission to learn how to release control and solve problems as they appear right infront of my face rather than anticipating them and overpreparing for scenerios that will never actually occur.

Our overactive imaginations and obsessive hoarding of information during times of stress kills our joy. We really need to get ahold of that. 

I'm here for you guys!!!

Jason Cornelius (not verified) says...

After I've read the article, I found out that all things that are mentioned DO make me irritated and annoyed. I took an MBTI personality test and got INFJ and I didn't believe it until I read this article. The most irritating thing (for me) out of all the things mentioned above are lack of autonomy and efficiency. I always think that I have to do everything myself when my group (I am at school, so groupwork is abundant) is not cooperative. Thanks for the brilliant article, Truity!

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