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. 🙂

  • rick amos

    Hi folks, I’m new here. Actually new to the whole subject. I believe that I am INFJ.
    But an unhealthy one. I am totally surrounded by people who don’t get me, and see me in large part as a resource, or tool. And because most people are not even self sufficient, and I am for the most part self sufficient, it’s rare that anyone can offer much in return for the favors they ask of me. While it’s nice to be needed, it often leaves me feeling used and abused. I have endured many traumatic events in life, the most recent being two years ago, when we were robbed which led to my helpful friend and neighbor getting shot and barely keeping his life, then two months to day I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer, which led to the total failure of my family. My wife and i we’re homeless for a few months, then moved in a house in need of total renovation. I run my own business, and have a hard time finding and keeping good help.
    I am constantly stressed, depressed. So I found this site in search for answers.
    While it is very helpful reading, does anyone have advice for a possible INFJ that is buried a mile deep in his own mind, constantly doubting everything around him, covering himself up in projects to avoid the world. I can’t shed th tasks I have ahead, ie renovation, running my business. But I am in severe need of some good coping mechanisms. Sorry for the boo hoo blather, and thanks for any suggestions.

    • Hi Rick,

      I’m sorry for all that you’ve had to go through and are currently dealing with. I think you’re smart to connect with others and share what’s on your mind. That’s a big part of wrestling with/through thoughts and feelings. Also, you might find this article helpful:
      While it’s targeted at INFJs wrestling with depression, the ideas are helpful to anyone who’s dealing with stress too.

      • rick amos

        Thanks for the read, that is helpful. As I said I am new to this. Im still trying to decide if i am infj or intj, or possibly something else. My thinking at this point is that i was born infj, and through life experiences ( traumatic events, emotional abuse from family and partners growing up) I have developed my thinking side to protect my emotions. Does that make any sense. As a teen I wrote songs and poems endlessly, effortlessly. Now I love to listen to music, but no longer have an urge to write, or if I decide to try I cannot find the inspiration. And I can timeline that change directly with emotional traumatic events.
        Is it possible for an INTJ to write songs that display his emotions, Is it possible for INFJ to have a highly technical job. I am a HVAC contractor who has only one employee. So I do it all from answering the phone to designing electrical solutions. I feel even more like a walking contradiction than i did before i took my first personality test. Also its very possible that im just not making sense of the plethora of info ive read on it in the last few days.

        • Glad you found the article helpful, Rick. It’s absolutely possible for an INFJ to have a technical job and do it well. Some INFJs write computer code for a living. I don’t think it’s impossible for an INTJ to write songs that display his emotions, but it’s far more likely that INFJ would be a poetic writer.
          Have you ever thought about nurturing your creative side to relieve some stress? Recently, I’ve read about INFJs getting sick because they weren’t able to use their creative side. I think that was the case with me, and I wonder if it wouldn’t help you feel better. Just an idea…

          • rick amos

            Bo, thank you for the help in distinguishing types. I find it funny though, I believe myself to be INFJ due to the reading I have done.
            Yet I do not get INFJ as a result on personality test. I have taken a few now, but I suspect the reason is that there are many questions that I get stuck on, I find confusing, want to say both answers sound good.
            I also suspect that I answer some contrary to reality as a product of protecting my feeler side. Deny it exists and keep it safe in my dungeon. I think you may be on to something, I trick myself into thinking I’m being creative when I build a barn with cutely arranged siding, but I’m seeing now that there is no emotional release in that.
            So I’m going to take a stab at it. Any suggestions on how to put my gatekeeper to sleep long enough for my prisoner to sneak out a while.
            If that makes any sense.
            I do appreciate the friendly ear.

          • Rick, I had the same experience with personality tests. When I got certified as an MBTI practitioner, I learned that ultimately YOU decide on your personality type after taking a test AND gaining a better understanding of your preferences (E/I, N/S, etc.).

            That makes sense that you’d hide part of you. I’ve done that too. To “release the captive,” I’d recommend investing some time in a hobby or interest. Do you have any avocations or things you’ve been putting off that you’d like to explore further?

          • rick amos

            Bo, well yes and no. I have a multitude of vocations. Through the years I have been in a variety of positions to learn from very talented people. I started out in plmg hvac around 12, then lawnmower mechanic at 15, then home building framing and trim 18, then for a few years I recycled those trades and honed them, then I went to work for a company that builds display trailers for big corporations, learned welding fab, electrical, and many other things there, and ultimately ended up starting my own business. But I do spend a lot of time on projects like, fence building, barn building, home renovation, vehicle maintenance,
            Arborist / land clearing, tried drilling my own well. It’s almost endless the myriad of rabbit holes I go down to further my knowledge of a subject. These time are when I’m most at peace. But of course I don’t have to tell you, there are times of total disconnect in between. And that is when my mind unfailingly returns to my broken family, my lost father, my friend who still is recovering from 4 bullet wounds, and it turns disconnect into depression, procrastination, and withdrawal.
            What I’d like to be able to do is gain interest in music again.
            Would you believe that I tell myself every time that it’s too hard, and non productive, walk away and focus on tangible tasks, or nothing at all and watch tv for a whole weekend. Thanks for listening, gotta run for now.

          • Thanks for sharing your experience, Rick. I believe that. Absolutely. I still think you should give it a go. 🙂

  • Daniela Galidor

    I over procrastinate, to the point of not doing neither of my projects or plans. But I have learned to get back on track by talking to my psychiatrist, or my only close friend.

    • Bo Miller

      Excellent! Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned, Daniela. I’m sure others will find it helpful too!