As an INFJ, how do you deal with stress?

Do you avoid the stress triggers completely?

Or do you find yourself seeking comfort in sensory pleasures such as food and TV program to distract your thoughts?

Stress can bring out INFJ’s dark sides.

INFJs are normally peaceful (or at least peace is what we value). But if an INFJ is under too much stress, we might be prone to anxiety, depression or even display intense rage on other people and things.

In a world that focuses on extroversion and sensory comforts and pleasures, it is almost impossible for INFJs to avoid stress. However, understanding what stresses you out can help you understand to respond to stress and be mindful of your behaviors.

Below are four common causes of INFJ stress. In this post, I often use INFJ’s cognitive functions to explain my insights. If you don’t know what cognitive functions are, you can read this post. It will help you understand this post better.

What Causes INFJ Stress?

1. Information overload.

INFJs have a low capacity for details and information. Some INFJs might think that they cannot handle too much information, but that is not entirely true. INFJs can deal with details. It’s just that we need time to process the information slowly.

INFJ’s dominant function is introverted intuition (Ni). If you understand how this function works best, you’ll know that the mind needs an incubation period to process the information subconsciously before we can receive the insights. It’s not something we can consciously force our brains to do. We can only provide a quiet environment to induce the insights.

The problem is not with the amount of information.

The problem is with the speed of information. When we are receiving information faster than our introverted intuition (Ni) function can cope, it has to rely on our tertiary function, introverted thinking (Ti), to sort the information and share the workload. This function is much weaker and we sometimes get into the infamous Ni-Ti loop. In other words, overthinking.

We feel stressed only when the information we receive is unorganized and we have to form a conclusion within a short period of time using this information. If the information is organized and we are given enough time to process them, details will not be so much of an issue for an INFJ.

2. Spending too much time in the external world.

Extroverted Feeling (Fe) and extroverted sensing (Se) are the two extraverted functions of an INFJ. An INFJ personality type interacts with the external world by being empathetic to others and appreciating the sensory beauty around them.

However, these two functions are not the preferred functions of an INFJ person. They tend to be more under-developed than the introverted intuition (Ni) function and we have a lower threshold for them. Especially when it comes to our extroverted sensing (Se), we get drained easily when we have to deal with noise, crowds or smell. That’s why most INFJs are highly sensitive people (HSP) too.

INFJs get easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input. 

I remember when I was a kid, my mom brought me to pray in a temple. There were a lot of smoke and many people were walking in different directions and I ended up having a headache and feeling nausea.

Even though most INFJs are empathetic and want to share other people’s pain, we can only listen to so many problems a day. We also get tired easily when people tell us unimportant details like what they eat for lunch or provide us with too many details and not getting straight to the point.

3. Unexpected events and interruptions.

INFJs love to make plans, but hate to have their plans be disrupted. We are so fixated to our vision that we find it hard to be spontaneous sometimes.

When I was young, I got easily frustrated whenever my mom interrupted my schedule or instructed me to do something without telling me in advance. For example, if we needed to go somewhere for a visit and I already had plans to do my own things, I would feel rather unhappy and even angry.

When something unexpected arises, INFJs might not know how to handle it.

INFJs are not very good at dealing with last minute changes too. As a tutor, I usually prepare what I want to teach in the lesson beforehand. Sometimes, my students would request me to teach something else and I would panic, especially if it’s a topic that I hadn’t been revising for some time. My mind would start racing and going into several directions, trying to find the answers.

Other personality types that live on the edge would love the adrenaline, but for an INFJ, we would rather not experience this. It makes us very anxious and nervous. We don’t like the feeling of being out of control.

4. Dealing with conflicts.

It’s no secret that the INFJ doesn’t like conflict. INFJs value harmony and peace. We tend to avoid or move away from anything that disrupts our peace. Sometimes, we might even cut people out of our lives to maintain the inner peace.

Other people’s moods influence our emotions.

Most INFJs are empaths and we understand other people’s emotions well. However, if we are not careful, we might rub off other people’s emotions and treat them as our own. For example, an INFJ might feel a sense of irritation and even anger if they were to live or work in an environment that is full of conflicts and disagreements.

To end the conflicts or stop the confrontations, most INFJs would try to appease the other party by giving in to their needs. But in the long run, INFJs might feel that obligated as though pleasing others is the only way for us to maintain harmony. This might be at odds with our desires and ideas.

How Does an INFJ React under Stress?

An INFJ responds to stress similarly to the INTJ. Both of these personality types have the same dominant and interior functions (i.e. introverted intuition Ni and extraverted sensing Se).

Depending on how intense our stress is, we might respond differently.

Moderate Stress

When INFJs first met stress, we instinctively use our dominant function (introverted intuition, Ni) to solve the problem. We try to find patterns and form conclusions with the information given. The introverted intuition function gives us the closure and clear direction we need.

Our minds automatically shut off after we reached our extroversion quota.

When we receive more than enough information our dominant function can handle or when we have too much interaction with other people, our minds naturally shut off. We are still physically there, but our minds have wandered to somewhere else. They have drifted back into the inner world. This is to prevent ourselves from receiving more details and overwork our introverted intuition (Ni) function.

Furthermore, when our minds are processing the information internally, we find it hard to be present both in the external and internal worlds. Therefore, INFJs often need quiet time alone to recharge. It’s tough to get any insights without withdrawing from others.

Intense Stress

As mentioned previously, when our introverted intuition (Ni) can’t cope with the stress, we rely on our introverted thinking (Ti) function for help. Even though it’s the third function, it’s an introverted function, so we can easily access it when we are withdrawn.

When both of these functions failed to resolve the stress or when the stress is too intense, we INFJs might lose control of our behaviors and be in the grip. “In the grip” means that we are using our weakest function (extraverted sensing, Se) unconsciously.

INFJs indulge in sensory activities when they are in the grip.  

To reduce stress, INFJs might be impulsive and perform sensory activities recklessly. For example, one might binge-eat, spend money on redundant things or watch TV programs excessively. This helps us to escape from the stress and problem at hand. It also gives our stressed-out dominant function a break.

Some of us might get obsessed with details and research too, thinking we can find the solution once we have more information. These sensory activities are unhealthy because we overindulge and do them unconsciously. INFJs don’t identify with our sensory side and when we realize that we are in the grip, our inner critic will punish us for being out of control.

In the end, we might feel angry with ourselves or other people and feel guilty about what we have done. This is INFJ at their worse.

How Can an INFJ Relieve Stress and Be Happy?

1. Learn how to stop.

Recently, my brother introduced me to this treasure hunt game in Singapore. I felt stressed out because the organizer gives a lot of ambiguous clues —those that get you thinking about the hiding spot but not enough information to derive a conclusion.

There were times my mind just went nuts trying to figure out the location. I was so obsessed with doing research and my mind couldn’t stop analyzing the hints. When I was aware of what the game was doing to my mind, I knew I had to stop everything I was doing and just meditate for a while.

Let your introverted intuition (Ni) take a break.

When the INFJ is under stress, most of the time is because we have overworked our introverted intuition (Ni) function. You need to give your dominant function a break before it can work effectively again. Quiet time alone without thinking about any problem works best for an INFJ.

Sometimes, the fault doesn’t lie in the capability of our introverted intuition (Ni) function. Some people think that the INFJ is a psychic, but we are not. INFJs’ insights are based on the information we have gathered. In my example, I’ll never be going to locate the hiding spot no matter how hard I try because the information is designed in such a way that a conclusion cannot be made.

There is no point to interpret the information further because it will only cause rumination. We need to learn when and how to stop our introverted intuition (Ni) function from overextending itself.

2. Prepare healthy sensory activities in advance.

Part of INFJ development is to learn how to deal with their sensing function. Even though we don’t identify with our extraverted sensing (Se) function, it is the most important for our self-growth and development. Knowing how to use it effectively and when to use it will keep our minds balanced.

We can use our extraverted sensing function consciously.

The reason why in the grip hurts us so much is that we feel out of control and we do things we don’t normally do in an unconscious way. If we have planned some healthy sensory activities in advance and do them consciously whenever we feel stressed, we won’t feel out of control.

Before you even get stressed, you can prepare a music playlist of all your favorite songs, identify the places to go for a walk, compile a few recipes of dishes you want to cook and etc. The key is having a variety of activities you can choose from while allowing yourself to be spontaneous when you are stressed.

In the grip is just the mind’s way of saying that your dominant function needs a break and you are not giving it the break it deserves. So the mind decides to force a break by utilizing your inferior function. A better way of relieving your INFJ stress is to do it intentionally.

3. Organize the environment regularly.

When you are flooded with information or feeling confused, there are two ways of sorting out your thoughts. One way is to organize your thoughts internally, the other way is to organize the exterior environment. Decluttering works both ways. It doesn’t matter if it’s inside-out or outside-in. Your immediate, physical environment affects the clarity of your mind.

Cleaning the house can be therapeutic as long as you are not obsessed with it.

Like most INFJs, I love to clean my house when I’m stressed. It’s not a bad thing actually. Usually, I leave ideas and scribbles in folders but they are all over the place. And when they accumulate, it starts to get really messy. Going through the notes, organizing them and getting rid of unneeded information provide me with clarity and a sense of calmness. 

Just that we have to be careful not to get too obsessed with it. When you organizing your stuff, you are not striving for perfection. Everything doesn’t have to be in place and sorted out. I usually stop when I had a clearer direction of where I want to go. You can always leave the clutter for the next time. It’s better to do it regularly instead of organizing everything at once.

4. Let go of the outcome.

The reason why INFJs find it stressful to deal with unexpected events is that we are married to our visions and ideals. We try to control the outcome and have difficulties accepting something that is contrary.

But it’s impossible to control everything, we need to learn how to accept changes and surprises, especially when people are involved. You can’t control other people. They don’t always do what they say they would do. I learned this the hard way. The depression I had two years ago is a result of my inability to accept a broken promise. I had everything planned according to what was promised to me that I couldn’t see other alternatives.

Continue to have a vision, but go with the flow.

When I first became a tutor, I find it tough to accept the constant changes too. Parents would tell me they need to change their schedule, sometimes even just one or two hours before the lesson. Now, I have learned to not have any expectation and just go with the flow. I still schedule my day as per normal but I know it can be changed anytime during the day.

The same applies to my vision. As an INFJ, I am idealistic, but I know that my ideas are not always going to be the reality. So I have learned to surrender and be open that my vision might change along the way.

5. Realize that stress is not life-threatening.

Stress can bring out INFJ’s negative traits and emotions such as rage and anxiety because it threatens our identities. We INFJs usually attached our sense of self to our visions and peace. Without them, we feel lost and restless. And if we sense any threat to them, it activates our “flight or fight” mechanisms.

But stress isn’t a threat, even though we react as though it is.

Even though it feels uncomfortable for us to be in the middle of a conflict, it doesn’t pose an immediate threat to our lives. Even though we might feel unfulfilled with our lives when our ideas aren’t implemented, it doesn’t take away the aliveness that we are. We are still breathing and surviving!

In ancient times, people only activate their flight or fight mechanism when they met something that threatens their survival. For example, when they saw a tiger in the forest. Nowadays, people (not just INFJs) care so much about their identities that they react to anything that challenges their identities as though it is a threat. They either run away from it or defend their identities aggressively.

To relieve stress and be happy, know that your stress is normal. It comes and it goes. If you relax and let it be with you for a while even when it’s uncomfortable, you will soon notice that it doesn’t cause as much harm as you imagine.


If you want to find out more on how to love yourself as an INFJ, be sure to download my free eBook called Self-Acceptance for INFJs.

Featured Photo Credit: express yourself / amanda tipton

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