Why INFJs Are at a High Risk of Burnout

One reason INFJs burn out is they absorb other people’s emotional distress, which can wear them down.

Navigating the world as an INFJ often feels like a battle. As both a mother and a teacher, my energy frequently hits “E” for empty. There are weeks when I just want to lock myself in my bedroom and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.

But I can’t. Moms (and INFJs) never get a break.

Why do I, being an INFJ, often experience burnout? Too many forces push and pull at me. My desire to pursue my own dreams mix with a deep empathy for others’ feelings, and my strong INFJ trait to help and support.

This combination puts me and other INFJs at a high risk of burnout. Of course, burnout isn’t exclusive to INFJs, but we have specific reasons that make us more susceptible to it. Here are three common reasons for INFJ burnout, along with some strategies I’ve found helpful in managing it.

INFJs are peculiar creatures. Unlock the secrets of the rare INFJ personality by signing up for our newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

3 Causes of INFJ Burnout

1. Being everyone’s counselor

As INFJs, we often become everyone’s go-to for advice, much like a counselor. In fact, many INFJs are professional counselors, therapists, or psychologists. As a teacher, I’ve had countless students wait at my door in the morning to discuss their home life struggles. My own kids, and even older relatives, also turn to me for guidance or just someone to listen.

Don’t get me wrong. I deeply appreciate being trusted as a confidant and helping others unload their burdens. I’m proud to be a part of helping and healing others.

However, being everyone’s counselor has a downside.

The constant demand for my advice and attention cuts into my personal time, crucial for an introvert like me to recharge. This alone time is essential to maintain balance and to face the next day with energy.

Additionally, the counselor role activates my innate “doer” tendencies. As INFJs, we’re driven to achieve closure. I find myself not only listening but also trying to resolve the issues presented to me. Thoughts like “I should call and check on them” or “I could help by doing this or organizing that” are common.

For ambitious INFJs, taking action is not just an option; it feels mandatory. This often leads to spending more time helping others and less on self-care. Over time, this depletes our energy, leaving us frazzled, on edge, and at risk of burnout.

I’ve found that the solution is to set healthy boundaries around my time. (Here are some tips to set better boundaries when you’re a peace-loving introvert.)

2. Always striving for more

Sometimes, I find it hard to relax and enjoy simple, rejuvenating activities like most people do. As an INFJ, my mind is constantly active. Always. When others are “Netflix and chilling,” I am “Netflix and planning.”

Sure, I may be looking at the TV, but there’s an unseen conversation unfolding in my head. While others are focusing on the storyline, I’m focusing on my oh-so-important to-do list, thinking I should be making better use of this time, a typical trait of my “judging” nature.

There’s so much I want to accomplish. I feel like I should be spending quality time with my children to be the mother they need; I should be working on my next article to advance my writing goals; I should be preparing an dynamite lesson for the struggling students I’ll see next week.

As an INFJ, there’s a constant sense that I’m not doing enough. While my introverted side craves downtime, my judging side pushes me to keep going. And to keep doing it, over and over.

Who needs downtime, right? Well, guess what? I do! Not getting enough of it takes a toll on the INFJ’s spirit and physical health.

3. Absorbing others’ emotional distress

As highly sensitive people, we INFJs continuously absorb the emotions of those around us. While everyone picks up on others’ feelings to a degree, INFJs are particularly susceptible to this. We’re also akin to radiators of internal energy, with our own emotions constantly simmering just beneath the surface. The emotional upheaval of those around us often amplifies this internal intensity, sometimes to the point where we feel on the verge of bursting.

(Speaking of highly sensitive people, here are 27 “strange” things highly sensitive people do.)

Judith Orloff, author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, defines an empath as someone who can “sense subtle energy and actually absorb it from other people and different environments into [their] own bodies.” She continues by saying that empaths “energetically internalize the feelings and pain of others — and often have trouble distinguishing someone else’s discomfort from their own.” Thanks to our sensitivity, INFJs often experience this phenomenon, which can lead to heightened emotional distress.

For example, I can become deeply absorbed in my feelings just from watching strangers. Recently, I was in a store trying on clothes in the dressing room. When I stepped out to check myself in the mirror, I came across a gaggle of adolescent girls having a fashion show. Three of these girls were slim and fit the typical Instagram ideal; however, one was overweight and didn’t fit the conventional standard of beauty like the rest of the group.

While pretending to examine my reflection in the mirror, I observed and listened to their conversation. Most of their remarks were positive, as they complimented each other on their new outfits. Yet, I noticed a look of discomfort on the fourth girl’s face. Although she tried to appear relaxed and joined in her friends’ laughter, I sensed an underlying pain.

That’s when my mind started to wander. I found myself imagining her life – perhaps feeling less confident compared to the other girls and grappling with the harsh realities of middle school. Of course, I can’t know for sure what she was thinking or what her life entails. Yet, this uncertainty didn’t diminish my empathy. For the rest of the day, she remained in my thoughts. Although there was nothing I could do to improve her situation, it didn’t stop my heart from feeling empathy for her.

Sometimes, even when we’re away from the pressures of work and social interactions, it doesn’t mean we’re free from our emotions. For INFJs, this ongoing emotional engagement can be quite exhausting.

Want to get one-on-one help from a therapist?

We recommend BetterHelp. It’s private, affordable, and takes place in the comfort of your own home. Plus, you can talk to your therapist however you feel comfortable, whether through video, phone, or messaging. Introvert, Dear readers get 10% off their first month. Click here to learn more.

We receive compensation from BetterHelp when you use our referral link. We only recommend products when we believe in them.

How to Get Relief From INFJ Burnout

Dealing with INFJ burnout doesn’t have a straightforward solution. Turning off my feelings isn’t something that comes naturally to me, and even if it were possible, I’m not sure I would choose that path. My ability to manifest my dreams, to experience deep emotions, and to genuinely care about the world and those in it are, after all, some of the most precious gifts of being an INFJ.

Consider the many wonderful things we can achieve with our bittersweet abilities. We can chase our dreams, empathize deeply by stepping into another’s shoes, offer words of encouragement to those suffering souls with whom we momentarily connect, and make the world a better place through our ability to truly listen and understand another’s pain.

However, as INFJs, we have to take care of ourselves, too. If we neglect our own well-being, we won’t be able to fully utilize our abilities. We can’t be of help to others if we are burned out ourselves.

That’s where self-care can ease our INFJ burnout. For introverts and INFJs, it’s not just a nice thing we do for ourselves; it’s absolutely crucial. For example, you might indulge in quiet reading, take a peaceful walk in nature, play a video game, do bird watching or stargazing, learn a new skill like pottery… the list could go on and on.

(Here are ten more ideas for creative things sensitive people can do to process and calm their emotions.)

As an INFJ, don’t neglect to celebrate your sensitive nature. You have something unique to offer the world that others can’t. So, treat yourself — whether it’s with that manicure, a chocolate-covered sundae, a sparkling glass of wine, or simply some extra time alone. You are quite spectacular, and the universe needs what you have to give.

You might like: