The Odd Things INFJs Do Under Stress

an INFJ is stressed

When INFJs get stressed, they might act in ways that are completely out of character.

Did you know that the MBTI Manual states that INFJs experience stress in more areas than any other personality type? Among the nine categories measured, INFJs rank highest in the most areas. This includes aspects like work, intimate relationships, and school.

But I don’t want this information to stress you out! Don’t worry, there’s help at the end of this article.

You’re not surprised, though, are you? INFJ traits are peculiar. This personality type is known to be idealistic and perfectionistic, often having very high standards.

(Are you an INFJ, the rarest Myers-Briggs personality type? Here are 16 signs that you’re an INFJ.)

Guess what? All these aspects we’ve talked about are related to behavior. And here’s what’s intriguing: You have the ability to change your behavior.

Your reaction to stress is also a behavior, meaning you don’t have to be a victim to the stress in your life. With regular practice, you can learn to identify your stress responses and actively work on managing them.

Now, let’s explore what typically causes everyday stress for an INFJ.

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What Causes Stress for an INFJ

The types of stressors you face as an INFJ can vary depending on your specific situation. Developing an awareness of when you are most likely to experience stress is a powerful tool. Anytime you are required to act outside your preferred nature — being Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Judging — you are likely to experience some amount of stress.

Take a look at these common everyday stressors for INFJs:

  • Having conflicts with others, or having someone upset with you (Feeling nature)
  • Being told of last-minute changes to plans (Judging nature)
  • Large group activities (Introverted nature)
  • Being criticized (Feeling nature)
  • Having to deal with too many projects at one time (Judging nature)

Stress is also likely if you are repeatedly required to draw on your less-developed functions throughout the day. These functions are Introverted Thinking and Extraverted Sensing. While these two functions, or mindsets, can be sources of fun and enjoyment in small amounts, they are not as natural and comfortable for you. This means that they will create stress when you are required to use them repeatedly.

Here are some examples of Thinking and Sensing activities that might cause stress for INFJs:

  • Being required to handle many details or detailed tasks
  • Being expected to use logic alone in decision-making
  • Having to check the accuracy of facts and data
  • Being required to focus only on practical realities and not consider the big picture
  • Being asked to do repetitive tasks or tasks that require you to be completely in the moment

Did you cringe while reading that list? I know it sent shivers down my spine just listing them. Yikes!

How INFJs Act Under Stress

So, what does your behavior look like under stress? As an INFJ, your most comfortable and best function is Introverted Intuition. Under stress, you’ll experience an exaggeration of this dominant function, which might lead you to do some strange, uncharacteristic things.

When you’re at your best, your intuition is a beautiful gift. It’s responsible for pattern recognition; you see connections between things. This ability makes you a great problem solver and gives you a vision for the future. At times, INFJs might even feel like prophets or psychics, although they don’t have a crystal ball. Rather than possessing a magical power, INFJs are typically highly sensitive people who pick up on subtle cues from their environment.

However, under stress, INFJs might act something like this:

  • Seeing patterns everywhere and insisting that everything is connected
  • Forcing collected data to fit into your ideas
  • Having outrageous and unrealistic visions
  • Withdrawing inward and refusing to ask for help
  • Being unwilling to compromise on your ideas and solutions to the point of arrogance
  • Ruminating or over-analyzing interactions with others
  • Avoiding confrontation
  • Cutting off contact with certain people, a.k.a. the INFJ door slam

Is it getting warm in here? Do you recognize any of those behaviors in yourself?

Let’s figure out what you can do about this. I wouldn’t leave you without a solution!

How INFJs Can Calm Stress

Since stress can come at an INFJ from multiple angles, it’s important for you to prepare for situations that are likely to overwhelm you. Take note of your behaviors when you’re an INFJ under stress. When you know you’ll encounter stressors, make sure to schedule in time to re-energize and deal with the stress.

For example:

What Happens to an INFJ Under Extreme Stress

There’s a tipping point when things swing to the other side of your cognitive function stack. This tipping point causes your inferior function, Extraverted Sensing (Se), to step up and say, “Hello! Remember me?”

Well, hello there, Se.

There are situations that cause your Se to wake up and say, “Hey! I want to play!” And by “play,” I mean take charge to start balancing things out. When this happens, it’s called being “in the grip” of your inferior function.

Being in the grip can happen when you face stressors that are more intense than your usual daily challenges. Situations like the end of a relationship, the death of someone close, sudden changes, or facing a significant deadline or crisis can trigger this response. Also, continuous everyday stress can prompt this reaction, activating your inferior Se function. This leads to atypical behavior for you, as your Se seeks to restore balance.

INFJs in the Grip of Stress

Your behavior will be completely out of character when in the grip of Se. You may become obsessed with details about the outside world. You might start overindulging in sensing activities, such as eating, drinking, or exercising excessively. You might try to control everything in your environment and make endless lists. Or you might walk through your home and become hyperaware of all the things that need fixing or that are out of place.

External blame often pops up for INFJs in the grip as well. If you stub your toe on your bed, you might immediately get mad at the bed for being there (or the person who put it there)!

Most personality types feel somewhat critical of themselves after being in the grip. INFJs are particularly critical of themselves after an episode because it’s seen as evidence of imperfection. It’s important to remember that you are human!

In her book, Was That Really Me?, Naomi Quenk explains that this process is completely natural and normal and helps bring you back to equilibrium. We all act out of character sometimes, regardless of our personality type, when we’re facing high levels of stress. Knowing what happens to you when you’re in the grip and recognizing when it happens makes you more self-aware. This self-awareness allows you to make more conscious decisions in your life.

Is the chaos of life overwhelming you as a highly sensitive person?

Sensitive people have certain brain differences that make them more susceptible to stress and anxiety. Thankfully, there is a way to train your brain so you can navigate the challenges of sensitivity, access your gifts, and thrive in life. Psychotherapist and sensitivity expert Julie Bjelland will show you how in her popular online course, HSP Brain Training. As an Introvert, Dear reader, you can take 50% off the registration fee using the code INTROVERTDEARClick here to learn more.

Returning to a Balanced State

You may need to experiment to find the right thing that helps bring you out of the grip experience. In general, though, time alone in a silent, low-stress environment is beneficial. (Here’s why the right environment is magic for introverts and sensitive people.) Removing as much external stimulation as possible is key. Lighten your load for a while and clear some things from your schedule.

You know it’s not very helpful when others try to help in these circumstances. It’s up to you to remember to be kind to yourself. You, too, are human!

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