What INFJs Do When They Get Stressed Out

INFJ personality stress

Did you know that, according to the MBTI Manual, INFJs experience stress in more areas than all other types? Of nine categories measured, INFJs rank at the top in more areas than any other personality type. These include work, intimate relationships, and school. 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? INFJs are idealistic and perfectionistic, and they live with very high expectations.

(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)

But guess what? Those are all behaviors. What’s interesting about this? You have the power to change your behavior.

Your response to stress is also a behavior. You don’t have to be at the mercy of the stress in your life. With practice, you can begin to recognize your stress response and take steps to address it.

First, let’s look at what causes everyday stress for an INFJ.

What Causes Stress for an INFJ

The types of stressors you face as an INFJ vary depending on your situation. Developing an awareness of when you’re most likely to experience stress is a powerful tool. Anytime you’re required to act outside your preferred nature (introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging) is likely to cause 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 (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’re repeatedly required to draw on your less-developed functions throughout the day. These functions are your Introverted Thinking (tertiary) and Extraverted Sensing (inferior). While these two functions can be a source of fun and enjoyment in small amounts, they’re not as natural and comfortable. This means they’ll create stress when you’re required to use them over and over.

Here are some examples of thinking and sensing activities that can cause stress:

  • being required to handle many details or detailed tasks
  • being expected to use logic alone in decision-making
  • having to check accuracy of facts and data
  • being required to focus only on 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 Look Under Everyday Stress

So what does your behavior look like under everyday stress? As an INFJ, your most comfortable and best function is your Introverted Intuition. Under everyday stress, you’ll experience an exaggeration of this dominant function.

When you’re at your best, your intuition is a beautiful gift. It’s responsible for pattern recognition. You see connections between things. It makes you a great problem-solver. It gives you a vision for the future.

However, when those things are in an exaggerated state, it could look 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
  • an unwillingness to compromise on your ideas and solutions to the point of arrogance
  • ruminating or over-analyzing interactions with others
  • avoiding confrontation

Is it getting warm in here? Do you recognize any of those behaviors throughout your life?

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

How INFJs Can Combat Stress

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

  • Arrange for alone time.
  • Do something just for yourself. Consider doing something artistic or creative.
  • Talk with an understanding friend.
  • Switch gears and do a totally different activity.
  • Journal how you’re feeling and how you’d really like to respond to the situation.
  • Consider your values and take steps to assure your behavior and decisions are in alignment with those.

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 of Extraverted Sensing (Se) to step up and say, “Hellllloooooo! 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, we say you’re “in the grip” of your inferior function. This can happen when you experience something greater than everyday stress. Examples include the loss of a loved one through a broken relationship or death, unexpected events, or a major deadline or exam. Continuous everyday stress also triggers your inferior Se.

INFJs in the Grip

Your behavior will be completely out of character in the grip of Se. You may become obsessed with details about the outside world. You might start overdoing sensing activities, such as eating, drinking, or exercising too much. You try to control everything in your environment and make endless lists. You may walk through your house 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, too. If you stub your toe on your bed, you may 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 very 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 brings you back to equilibrium. 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.

Returning to a Balanced State

You may have to experiment to find the right thing to help bring you out of the grip experience. In general, though, time alone in a silent, low-stress environment helps. Removing as much external stimulation as possible is key. Lighten your load for a bit and clear some things from your schedule.

You know it’s not super helpful to you 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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Leslie is MBTI® certified and coaches INFJ women to develop confidence, self-love, and understanding in who they are; she also helps them identify and work through what holds them back so they can achieve their goals. Through her unique combination of creative skills and experience, Leslie brings a multi-perspective approach in helping others gain the accountability and support they need to find a way forward. Her non-linear career path — which includes teaching, creative services, and nonprofit communications — has always centered on her deep love of sharing hope. Leslie encourages other INFJ women through individual coaching and her weekly email, The INFJ Life.