How do you know when you’re stressed out, fellow INFJ?

Jane was overwhelmed. She was wasting hours on her computer getting sucked down YouTube rabbit trails every day after work while spending almost no time with friends and family. Deep down inside, she was entertaining dark, discouraging thoughts but let no one know about them. Jane wondered if the world really even needed her at all. Though she didn’t realize it, she was stressed out – big time.

Fellow INFJ, how can you tell when you’re stressed out and what can you do about it?

Are you stressed out, fellow INFJ? What does an INFJ look like when she's stressed and what can she do about it? Read this to find out!

Two Levels of Stress

There are two levels of stress you need to be aware of: 1) your exaggerated state and 2) the “In the Grip” experience. Each shows up in slightly different ways.

Exaggerated State

The first state is called the exaggerated state. When you’re in it, you may have tunnel vision and use your introverted intuition (Ni) exclusively. You start to think that everything is connected, have unrealistic visions, try to make data fit the patterns you see, and shut yourself off from people. This is the first level of stress, where you lose balance and start to disconnect with extroverted feeling, introverted thinking, and extroverted sensing.

(For a background on your four INFJ mindsets – introverted intuition, extroverted feeling, introverted thinking, and extroverted sensing – click here to grab a free copy of my recent book, The INFJ Personality Guide.)

I know that I’m caught in an exaggerated state when I start shutting others out and only spending time by myself. While I enjoy and need long periods of alone time where I can research, work, and recharge, I also need time with people. So if I’m feeling discouraged and not letting anyone else into my life, that’s a sign to me that I’m under stress. Take note when you start to feel this way.

In the Grip

The second level of stress for an INFJ is being caught “In the Grip of the Inferior.” The “inferior” refers to your inferior function or fourth mindset – extroverted sensing. (You can learn more about it in the personality guide.) Now, instead of having tunnel vision, you slip into unhealthy habits and activities. You may watch excessive TV or spend too long on your computer watching videos. You might work out too much or not exercise at all. If you drink, you might get drunk, and you may also overeat – or not eat at all. Whenever you’re regularly spending excessive time indulging your pleasures, that’s a good sign that you’re “In the Grip.”

What to do about it…

When you’re under stress as an INFJ, there are ways out.

1) Recognize that you’re not yourself.

Start by recognizing that you’re not your normal self. Your mood will likely be one of discouragement and you’ll be acting in ways that aren’t in line with what’s normal for you. When

2) Talk to someone you trust. Once you realize

Once you realize you’re stressed, talk to someone you trust. As an INFJ, you need to talk to others to work through your thoughts and feelings. You pick up on the emotions of others and have trouble figuring out which emotions are yours and which ones belong to someone else. Talking to a close friend, family member, or a counselor will help you decompress and clarify your thinking.

3) Determine the cause.

Some life situations are for a season. When a loved one dies unexpectedly or you lose your job due to changes in the marketplace, the cause of your stress will eventually go away. Bad relationships and overstimulating jobs, however, need to be dealt with. Try to figure out what’s causing the stress in your life and whether or not you can do anything to cut it off at the source.

4) Be proactive.

Finally, if you know loud environments, your work, or certain relationships, for example, send you into a stressed state, plan ways to avoid them. Should you be pursuing different work? Do you need to set up boundaries with loved ones? Harness your ability to see the future and think about what you can do today that will make your life better tomorrow.


Every INFJ slips into an exaggerated state or gets caught “In the Grip” from time to time. The good news is that you don’t have to stay there and you can learn to avoid it.

How do you know when you’re stressed? How do you deal with it?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Arissa Thompson

    This is awesome! Thanks for sharing this!
    I know when I’m stressed when I start randomly eating junk food in the middle of the day when I am obviously not hungry. Thinking about work or school will stress me out and turn into a panic attack. I usually waste time on my phone or staring into space, even though I know I have a deadline.
    I deal with my stress by identifying it. “Oh look I keep eating sugary foods in the middle of the day. I must be stressed.” Then I take a deep breath, look at the work in front of me, and plan in a logical manner. If I let emotions barge in at this point, I will fall down a spiral of overanalyzing. I say, “What is most important? What can I finish first? Am I spending time working on something I don’t necessarily have to be working on?”
    Then I list the things I will do. Even give time frames. “You have two hours to work on this, and then you have to go on to this.”
    I limit my distractions, wash my hands, (they sweat a lot) get a drink of water, maybe do a few jumping jacks, and sit down and get things done. I do not allow my emotions to take part and instead rely on the logical side of my brain to take over and get me through.
    That’s usually how I deal with stress. Once I recognize it.

    • Bo Miller

      Those are excellent strategies, Arissa. Thanks for sharing! Learning to prioritize tasks and get started, as you’ve described, has helped me significantly – and many of the breakthroughs came when I started handling tasks in a more logical fashion. I love Stephen Covey’s time management matrix ( for figuring out what tasks are most important. Great stuff.
      I think it also helps to clarify what stressors can be controlled (school work, project management, etc.) and which ones need to be avoided (poor job situation, bad relationships, etc.).

  • Gina Jarasitis

    You both have great insights and strategies. Thanks for sharing them. I relate to feeling like I’m spinning my wheels when I’m stressed, and getting organized and beginning to work on the problem helps me too.

    As I see it, stress or anxiety is a perception of our inner landscape that is showing us that the way forward is blocked or hard to identify. Getting organized and prioritizing tasks is like blazing a trail, then we feel better; we see the way is clear so we can go ahead.

    Thanks for another great topic, Bo!

    • Bo Miller

      Great synopsis, Gina! Thanks for sharing! You’re welcome. 🙂

  • K. L.

    For me it seems that extroverted feeling takes over and runs the show which does not help matters and makes it even more difficult to get things done. It can help me to set it all aside and do something active(a walk, vacuum, etc) which helps me think straight. I can get it under control by going for a walk with my husband who will listen and help me come up with a plan.

    • Bo Miller

      That’s a great combo, K.L.! Getting active and talking it out with a good listener can really help you work through the stress of the moment so that you can figure out next steps. Thanks for sharing!

  • Rolina Painter

    Hi all, I identify most with KL. I become emotionally reactive when stress comes on. I feel I just can’t deal with anything so I back off on things further on the periphery of my values. If it goes on too long I get caught in the grip (I’m better at setting boundaries in my life to prevent some of this). i usually start with telling my husband what’s wrong. Then, if it’s tasks to get done, I get organized and focus on priorities one-by-one. If it’s stress over relationships, I search my feelings and pray. I ask God for wisdom and forgiveness where necessary. I meditate on Psalms. What one fellow INFJ offered me almost 17 years ago, that still works greatly, is Psalm 131, “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty. I do not concern myself with great matters. Or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother. Like a weaned child I am content [ . . . ] Put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore” (NIV). Hope that helps.

    • Bo Miller

      Thanks for breaking how you handle stress into categories, Rolina. These are great suggestions!
      (Psalm 131 has been a huge help to me for several years. 🙂