How ENFPs React to Stress (and How to Get Back on Track)

Energetic, outgoing and creative, ENFPs are highly social individuals who crave fun and freedom. They love coming up with new ideas and original solutions and sharing them in an enthusiastic way. Empathetic ENFPs also love connecting with others emotionally and helping them to express their feelings. Together these traits form a person who is friendly, interesting and popular with almost everyone they meet.

Despite their fun-loving and gregarious nature, however, ENFPs are just as susceptible to stress as any other type. So what is it about these compassionate people that makes them so vulnerable to stress? And what can they and their loved ones do about it?

Why ENFPs Become Stressed

While the ENFP appears to have all the skills she needs to become successful in both work and social settings, she also faces some challenges, just like any other type. Here are some reasons why ENFPs become stressed:

  • Poor practical skills. While ENFPs excel at idea generation, they struggle with the details and administrative work needed to follow projects through to completion, leaving many of their ideas stagnating and unrealized.
  • Lack of focus. ENFPs are curious, philosophical individuals who are interested in people and ideas, but this can lead them to exploring the next exciting concept rather than the work at hand.
  • Independence. While some autonomy is healthy, ENFPs tend to have a hard time accepting rules or regulations, causing them to balk at any perceived restrictions on their freedom.
  • Overthinking. ENFPs question everything, but they can become obsessed with asking themselves why people act the way they do, what it all means and what they should do about it, leaving them worried and anxious.
  • Intense emotions. ENFPs are an interesting combination of empathic socializer and sensitive dreamer, and they tend to be very emotional. Unfortunately, their passionate outbursts of feeling, especially when they’re under stress, can be damaging to their relationships. They also dislike conflict and are likely to withdraw rather than deal with difficulties.
  • Sensitivity. While sensitivity is not a flaw, it can present challenges for the ENFP, who is highly aware of others’ feelings and takes any kind of criticism personally, which can weaken her self-esteem. A study in the journal Psychological Bulletin showed that low self-esteem can lead to depression. ENFPs also overextend themselves and give too much in response to people’s demands for help and end up feeling overwhelmed.

The ENFP Under Stress

When ENFPs become stressed, their normally friendly and cheerful natures turn irritable, emotional, defensive and reactive. They often feel overwhelmed, struggle to communicate, shut out other people and reject new ideas.

Feeling trapped, out of control and unable to find a way out, they can become extremely critical of others, lashing out, blaming and finding fault with everything and everyone as they try to regain control. For some ENFPs, this can develop into a focus on routine and order, and a strict demand that everything is done their way.

ENFPs under stress also fail to see any fault in themselves. They deceive themselves as a way of coping, pretending that they are not at fault. Eventually, however, they can feel hopeless and depressed as their energy turns inward and they begin to feel numb inside.

This normally energetic type also feels the effects of stress physically, becoming exhausted and suffering from fatigue. Their tendency to give too much and do too much can make them neglect their own needs for sleep, rest and relaxation.

Unfortunately, this type is the least likely to recognize when stress has affected them and it’s only when they become ill or a crisis occurs that they realize how stressed out they’ve become.

How ENFPs Can Help Themselves

When ENFPs are stressed, they can feel locked in their interior selves as they become increasingly depressed and struggle to find a way out. Their efforts to regain control by criticizing and controlling others, working harder and pushing people away only makes things worse. There are ways for ENFPs to cope with stressful situations, however. Here are some tips to help you get back to your normal, enthusiastic self:

  • Attend to your own physical needs. ENFPs spend so much time bouncing from one activity to the next that they often fail to look after themselves. You can help to prevent and alleviate your stress by getting enough sleep, eating properly and taking time out to rest and enjoy some ‘down time’ in your daily routine. Exercising outdoors with a relaxing walk in nature can also be extremely calming.
  • Learn to say 'no.' ENFPs are sensitive souls who love to engage with others, but they can easily give too much. Many people are drawn to your engaging and compassionate personality, but there are many who will take advantage of your kindness. Keep a balance between giving to others and taking care of yourself by delegating tasks and pausing before you say ‘yes’ to requests for help. Remember, it’s okay to say 'no.'
  • Check in with yourself. If you are becoming picky about details, overly critical or unnecessarily controlling, take a step back and check to see how stressed you are. There may be circumstances that are causing you stress that you haven’t paid attention to, especially those involving doing too much for others. Take some time to relax and don’t make any serious decisions while you are stressed.

Tips for Friends and Family

Friends and family can be very helpful in getting the ENFP out of his stressful state. Try these stress-busting techniques before the ENFP finds it all too overwhelming:

  • Give a stressed out ENFP some time and space to calm down.
  • Encourage her to take a break from the stressful situation and get a change of scenery.
  • Don’t offer advice or solutions when he’s feeling stressed.
  • Listen with compassion, not criticism, if she wants to talk about her feelings.
  • Encourage him to take regular outdoor exercise.
  • Ask her to join you in a nature walk, watch a movie or a weekend away.
  • Reassure him that he is capable and competent.

It’s often difficult for ENFPs to even recognize when they are feeling the effects of stress and so they struggle, often in counterproductive ways, to get themselves back on track. Awareness of what causes you stress and how it makes you feel, whether it’s depressed, critical, irritable or controlling, is the first step. With a little help from loved ones, you can then give yourself the time, care and compassion you so often give to others.

Deborah Ward

Deborah Ward is a writer and an INFJ. She has a passion for writing articles, blog posts and books that inspire, motivate and encourage people to build self-confidence and live up to their potential. She has written two books on mindfulness, Overcoming Low Self-Esteem with Mindfulness and Overcoming Fear with Mindfulness. Her latest book, Sense and Sensitivity, is based on her Psychology Today blog of the same name. It's about highly sensitive people and is due out in Feb 2020. Deborah lives in Hampshire, England, where she enjoys watching documentaries, running and taking long walks in the country, especially ones that finish at a cosy pub.

Comments

Phyllis R Cox, LPC (not verified) says...

This is why I'm accused of stressing out before I can even think, "wow, I'm really stressed!". I'm so busy caring for others and being a part of helping others feel better that I do feel a weird lonely and numb inside. I do give myself some down time now that I'm older, but I prefer to spend that time with family and friends as well, not alone. I have now set aside an "alone" time each evening where I can think, watch something mindless on TV, read, and generally get in touch with my inner child. 

Anand Choudhury (not verified) says...

This whole article is written in a way which i exactly feel like. I too belong to ENFP and i thank you deborah for writting 110 % accurately what an ENFP feels like. Hats off to your research and analytical skills which i think has been especially god gifted to you.

Sasha M. (not verified) says...

Wow, very informative. Thank you for the information. 

Gene L (not verified) says...

Being an ENFP is both a blessing and a curse. Most of the time, I wouldn't be anything else, for it can be a really "fun" temperament type. I often know what someone is going to say next well before they even begin to speak. I can fill in the awkward, quiet times at social gatherings effortlessly, though I take little pleasure in small talk, and much prefer emotional intimacy and depth. And I can usually get people to relax and open up to me, though I don't do this for devious ends. But there are times when I think this temperament type extracts more than its pound of flesh, particularly in the grownup world of business, where many jobs are repetitious, heavily structured and with a fixed routine. Also, feeling like one is on the outside looking in can be hard to deal with at times. And what ENFP hasn't been lonely in a crowd, almost as though one were outside oneself, watching from afar?

The tips Ward offers for dealing with stressed ENFPs are right on the money, I think. When I'm mildly to moderately stressed, I'm not always aware of it until later, and I'm certainly not aware of what I need for myself and from others at the time. But when I'm relaxed, as now, I can see that her suggestions for what ENFPs need in order to manage stress are just what I need to get my footing again. I'll simply add that we ENFPs tend to be hypercritical of ourselves, so it's not necessary for others to be too critical. We know when we're in the wrong, though we can and often do come up with excuses that can appease others. Doing so ultimately causes an ENFP to feel like a fraud, though, and this is a temperament type that demands one be true to oneself. 

 

Dawn Steveson (not verified) says...

Yes! Me to a "T"!

The only thing I would counter in her article is that if someone suggests that I take a break in the middle of a stressful moment, I'm going to blow up on them! I will not leave a situation that's out of control until it is back under control. So the best way to help me is to show me I can count on you and try to anticipate what needs done.

Because I can anticipate what someone else needs, I get very frustrate when others can't do this for me! It comes so naturally to me, I can figure out why it isn't easy for everyone! I have to pause to remember that it is a blessing of my personality type. 

Jana B (not verified) says...

Yes Dawn!

Anticipating needs... I have said these exact words in arguments many times. I have thought that I was somehow dysfunctional for thinking this but your post helps me to see that it’s actually my response to my type. And I love my type! ENFPs are so in tune with other’s experience (makes us so darn magnetic) that we can feel super annoyed when others don’t reciprocate our energy.

So what to do?? It’s the expectation of reciprocation that seems disappoint me. I think I’m going to pause and say a little ‘prayer’ of thanks to my type and gifts when I’m feeling my needs are being neglected and unanticipated. “I’m so proud of my gift to be able to read people and connect to them. I have amazing powers!” Then I’m going to tell myself that just because I’m amazingly gifted to know other people’s needs and feelings I DONT HAVE TO MEET THEIR NEEDS. Ever. They are responsible for meeting their needs. I then release myself from the expectation I carry that others need to know what I need, too. I’m released from being pissed at them for not ‘getting it.’ And if they happen to understand and offer me my level of reliability and deep understanding I can then truly enjoy it as it comes to me.

I feel like this is a way of maintaining my energy and power, like not sloshing the soup bowl as I walk to the table, in a manner of speaking. All my soup remains in the bowl. No messy hard feelings to clean up.

Thanks again for the inspired post!

Metamind (not verified) says...

Hey this comment is true to me, but may I say not our blessing(😉) it's our curse. In this moment if we can control the urge of certainty take a second to pause, perceive and feel. The intuition is you/we have already lost. Negative energy sorounds us and we nay have more success explaining it to a rock. What will conuin

Helen (not verified) says...

Well put! I can relate to your comments too. I hadn't considered the 'outside looking in' factor, but that's so me too. 

Lc (not verified) says...

spot on Gene!! This response could have been written by me...

its great to know there are like minded/spirited people ?

Metamind (not verified) says...

A descriition that fut this term but "outside looking" in has no relevance to spirtuality. Based on this comment you are not like minded to this mbti. Happy and hopeflly helpful

 

 

Mary Anne NP (not verified) says...

You're right on the money, Gene. I think the thing I struggle most with being an ENFP is how hypercritical I am of myself. As I near 40, I am even more aware of my critical nature of myself, my emotional sensitivity, and my increasing need for social and mental stimulation. I wish there was a guide out there for how to survive as an ENFP! LoL! 😂 

Leah M.C. (not verified) says...

I find this text quite accurate, but I also wanted to mention that after I lash out under pressure, I often feel guilty afterwards for doing so and that often causes me to panic even more. I've started taking occasional walks with a friend (whom also suffers from an anxiety disorder) and that really does help me calm down a lot. Spending time with cute animals also relieves stress. 
Well done to the author :)

Ana Cristina Kolb (not verified) says...

So GREAT! usually people think I am a "endless source of energy" because I am eletrical.With age and maturity, I have learned a lot about relaxing, taking time for myself  and taking time simply OFF.   

To read this text, has helped me to feel, understood, what usually is not really the case! So thanks a lot for this article! :) Namasté!

 

amit samant (not verified) says...

Thank you very much DEBORAH.... I have been facing too much stress last few years. I consulted to psychologists. when one of them take my personality test. I have come to know that I  am ENFP (best matches INFJ) now I can handle my immotions better. thanks again.

James Tyree II (not verified) says...

 I unified with the details of this article hundred percent and it's very frustrating but I see now that it is important to have quiet time and to do more exercising. INFJ for a match, huh? I am looking for a. Are so I shall learn about INFJ. Thanks!

Cathleen (not verified) says...

I am getting stressed just reading the comments- I feel like I am not being my usual creative and peppy self. I have been sick recently and boy do I get grouchy and critical when I am down and that makes me even more upset. My husband is an ESTP, he loves me but he is losing patience with me and me with him after 20 years! Feeling very misunderstood, but this helps!  I have a hard time letting things go if I feel people haven't acted properly at church or in business. 

RR (not verified) says...

I am grateful I came across this when searching for how ENFPs deal with stress.  I have been under immense stress the past four years, when I married a man who is ISFJ personality type. We did not know each other well as we lived in different states and had met at a conference. I am in my 40s, and the first two years together were by far the most stressful years of my life.  I felt like I didn’t even know if I was going to survive it. I have a child who I needed to put first. I don’t drink, and when I got to the point after two years where I was like I guess I’m just gonna have to be drunk every day to live this life with this person because all else has failed to be effective, I decided we had to move into separate places.

 I felt like I was giving everything to this relationship, because he moved in and then decided immediately that he was not going to get a job in his field, like he told me, and he was just going to start his own business.  And proceeded to do nothing for first six months because he had access to his retirement savings and spent that like crazy. So on top of what  Felt like an arranged marriage, which is already very stressful figuring out how to live together with two different personality types, he decides to throw on top of that starting a business. But then didn’t take action, which drives ENFP nuts.   I  did the typical ENFP thing to just work harder and do more on my own to provide stability for the family, getting promoted twice at my company.  The second time I promoted myself into a position that is really suited for an ISTJ just for the money. And I am still in that position two years later. So work causes me a lot of anxiety, and home life causes me a lot of anxiety as my husband says he doesn’t believe in having savings. So we had to get a legal divorce to protect my son’s and my future, though we are still together  and love each other, and he is a very sweet stepfather and will take care of all kinds of little details around the house. (I bought us a house after the legal divorce) But I find I spend so much time being concerned how I am going to take care of him in his old age, since he is 16 years older than me. And he has no retirement savings now. And like someone else said, ENFPs just constantly wonder why the other person can’t look after them or care about what stresses them out or be supportive the way you do for them?

So this was very helpful as we are about to try therapy again and I have lashed out at him several times out of frustration that he just doesn’t seem to get  how the only one thing I ask of him is to help provide some financial stability, even just put $75/month in savings, anything and he just hasn’t been willing to do this small thing in my mind, given all the sacrificing I have been willing to do for him to be able to do a business he finds fun and enjoyable. I am stressed every day at work because I am trying to save for two retirements now and support my son. ENFP jobs typically don’t pay well, as they tend to be in the helping profession as I used to work in before having a child, and loved my job. Because I’m too responsible, I will stay in the I STJ job until my son is grown at least. I am not capable of doing what my husband did without making sure the family was financially stable. I just would never do that and put others through that stress, and now I see here finally that I have to let go of feeling so hurt about this. Maybe other people just really are not capable of really knowing how their actions affect others even if they are repeatedly told? 

At any rate, I am going to study this and learn. I agree with the person who said don’t ask me to take a break when I am in the middle of trying to solve a crises. I won’t want to stop until it is resolved.

Roksaan (not verified) says...

That doesn't sound like an ISFJ that you married, unless he is depressed or low-skilled. ISFJs usually have a need to be needed and they like to serve the family.

Trent (not verified) says...

Hey sorry to hear your situation.  We are very future oriented people as ENFP types for sure.  Also moving up to the ISTJ job must be mind numbing.  Can you get the previous position back?  I know it’s less money.  Also what business does he want to start?  Maybe you could help provide some ideas.  Ideas, Ne is the fourth function for an ISFJ.  His ideas generating capabilities is the drunk passed out in the back.  Not even the backseat driver (3rd function).  Also ISFJ are very stubborn and private people.  And they don’t forgive and forget.  But, they are typically the responsible one in a relationship and provide for the family without complaining often more than they even should, he’s got true hero potential, but his not starting the business isn’t due to lack of motivation as much as lack of ideas on how to start it.   

DeepThought (not verified) says...

A Type of Meditation:

Clear your mind from all voices. Thought without thought. Focus on breathing and your sharp emotional focus.  Reach deep inside and expand your inner core energy. Open your eyes, soak in your present surroundings and feel with your heart.... not your mind. Remember to train to CLEAR YOUR MIND completely..... our ENFP type, If I'm right, can unlock say.... a power up from this type of mindset.

Gooluck 

Shiloh Ruthie (not verified) says...

Wow, this is my life in a shell.

I only started working for less than 3 months and then I got overwhelmed by my own thoughts. So, I resigned. I knew the problem was about me and how I deal with my responsibilities as an HR in-charge. 

Thank you so much for this. I need to focus on this matter seriously.

Nupur Chakraborty (not verified) says...

Wow, this is eerie! Fits me like a glove, and really reassures me that my personality weaknessess -- the overdoing, oversensitivity, overthinking, trapped/ lashing out, etc -- are all reversible if I remain strongly self-aware at all times. Thank you for such wonderful clarity! Having said all that, I still love being ENFP -- would have it no other way! Cheers, fellow ENFPs! 

ryne (not verified) says...

i am too unfocused. i tend to jump from one project to another. it feels like I am always busted and  burnout mentaly and emotionaly. the more days pass by, the more problematic i can become. i am too stupid. i am very foolish. i am very weak. very very weak . i dont even understatnd my self. i am making a stupid descicion like everyday. Right before others will hate me for my personality, i am already a hater of my-self. Like i wish i was never born to have this trait. it's consuming me like i am being controlled and I just can't figure out how I can loose from this bondage of this stupid trait.

holulu (not verified) says...

I feel the same, burnt out and overcomitted. Please don't give up though, it's a bondage but also a great skill.

In the long term though, it means we get a bigger picture, more adaptabilty and life experience. Maybe the best tips for tackling the lack of focus are To-Do lists and setting SMART goals and allowing more time to get things done (where we can allo for some procrastination and creativity too). And you know about making stupid decisions, this is how to learn. To tackle self hating, notice the thought patterns as they come and say to yourself again and again 'I am worthy of love and belonging. I am perfect with all of my flaws' - mega awkward and cringy, over time it cuts through the negative thinking and you start to get positive patterns happening too.

Trent (not verified) says...

We ENFPs feel this way. Unfocused.  But if you view it as following your feelings, you can switch between tasks and you will spend the most time on the ones that matter most.  If there are tasks you have to do, then reward yourself afterwards with something you love.  I hope you realize we get stereotyped as ditzy.  I have a Ph.D. and I still come off a little silly.  I am silly and distracted.  It’s ok.  Cheer up and look at all the things you have accomplished.  All the people you inspired, and good energy you give the world.  That is a worthy life and you are part of the human team.  

wb (not verified) says...

Yep, I'm in this with you all.  My comment on the business side of things...I offer to help more than I should and early in my career and relationships I found myself having to be in two places at the same time to solve everyone else's problems....just to hit my joy meter.  Later, I found that my friendliness led to women thinking I was hitting on them.  That also caused problems with my long term girlfriend at the time.

After many years of working on this untamed horse, I've found another problem.  By saying yes to helping and problem solving many business situations and opportunities, I've become the sucker.  By not getting legal contracts and having faith in others, my colleagues have taken info on a handshake and profitted from it.  They did not remember that I had solved their problem, nor did they worry that they should have monetarialy rewarded me.  That has led to some disappointment, burn out, and slight depression.  But we rebound, don't we.

Trent (not verified) says...

We do things from the heart.  We are playing with people who are just out for themselves.  ENFPs and other intuitives need to learn to protect some part of ourselves and give small amounts of help and see if we get anything back in return.  I have had to always test others with small cooperative acts to check the reciprocity.  If it’s lacking then I realize that I’m interacting with someone who has different values, and I keep a formal, polite, and possibly convivial presence, but I don’t extend.  It’s hard thought because we are ideas people and see the solutions more easily, but then would you really want to implement the details anyway?  I take satisfaction from my ideas realized.  And then I get angry too cause someone else got the money.  Happened to me too.  Feel you.

Astra (not verified) says...

Oh my goodness, this is me at this very moment. I dealt with really had anxiety last year and now it's back. And I saw in a similar article that we ENFPs feel physical symptoms when we are stressed and that scares us and makes us think something is wrong with us, and that is exactly what's happening to me!! I'm 18 and every time I'm anxious or stressed out O get high blood pressure and it scares the heck out of me. Now I think I'm slowly getting into the depression stage of it because I just feel hopeless and wanna cry half the time. I just wanna go back to my old happy self. I wanna be able to juggle my busy life and stay normal without having to go through this. I'm very relieved that I found this though, because now I know this is normal. No wonder I have the urge to drop everything in my life and become a hermit and resort to listening to music and chilling at home with no human interaction. I'm also opening up to so many people about stuff just trying to get relief. It's so crazy how much stress can effect you physical and emotionally. 

Trent (not verified) says...

Hey, it’s true us ENFPs don’t feel stress until it’s too much and then those physical symptoms feel worse than they are.  I was rushed to ER and nothing was wrong with me.  Anxiety.  Thought I was having a heart attack.  It’s funny now.  But I’m back now dealing with panic and anxiety.  I’m reading “when panic attacks” by Burns.  I used the flooding method last night.  Sheer panic for an hour.  I faced everything and brought on every disturbing thought possible and tried to feel all the anxiety head on.  Scary as hell.  Not sure it was a great idea.  I think I’ll try the distraction method like I usually do.

Michael Hardman (not verified) says...

I read this article and thought to myself how accurate it is, now it doesn't state it directly, but something I am dealing with right now is that I am overcommitting to myself. I am expecting too much out of myself and stretching myself in so many different categories of my life. I am stressing over things that are in my control, but can wait for another day. This is something that also brought to my attention something I have cut out completely from my life for longer than it should have been cut out. I have been trying to find that balance and middle ground of doing what I love and that relaxes me and doing something that I know I should be doing.

PP60 (not verified) says...

I find being ENFP simply exhausting. Constant overthinking - even overthinking about my overthinking - and not being able to stop even when I know what I'm doing. Veering from one extreme to another, worrying about what others think, having moments of absolute lucidity and clarity, having an idea I feel like throwing my whole world into.....only for the cloud to descend 5 minutes later and decide its all a waste of time. Constantly looking for something to do to tame my erratic thoughts and emotions, starting a million things a day and forgetting why I decided to do them the next, looking for reasons and patterns in everything people say or do, and then not being able to focus because my head is full of 'whats if's...', never ending tiredness and confusion about what to do next, planning for everything and doing nothing, analysing everything over and over again and wondering if the grass is greener on the other side of everything I do or say.....all I need to do is somehow sit and down and give myself a break. I just can't.

Lucky Smith (not verified) says...

Thank you for writing this! I am bookmarking this so I can read it when I get stressed.

Christina G (not verified) says...

Thank you so much for writing this. This is exactly how I feel. I decided to become a teacher in an urban school...and boy have I been miserable. I began by putting time and energy into my teaching. Trying to be engaging. When the behaviors of the students were continually disrespectful and "showed me" they didn't care, I lost my excitement (even though I knew exactly what to expect going in and that these kids need more love and care than others). I started not wearing makeup, putting off planning, missing meetings and coming in late about 6 weeks in. I am now in a state of apathy and desperation. I know the kids need me, but I have no desire to keep going as my self esteem has hit rock bottom. I am irritable, snappy, and sometimes mean to my students as I try to keep my head above water. On a few days I sat at my desk and just watched the chaos. I love kids, especially my age group. But my personality as an ENFP isn't meshing with the environment. I know I am at fault as the post said, but I always find external reasons. 

We went on a trip to L.A. for a funeral and I felt so happy and invigorated during the change of scenery, and quickly became a depressed basketcase when I returned. I don't know how to make it better...my instinct is to pick up and move again like we seem to do every few years. 

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