“Which way do I go? I’m not sure where to go! I can’t do this!” I yelled. An intense wave of panic shot up my spine. It was hard to breathe. I felt paralyzed as I sat in my vehicle surrounded by traffic and pedestrians.
“Ok. Pull over, and I’ll drive,” my boyfriend calmly said from the passenger side of the car. He is used to dealing with me in panic mode. His words felt like a fresh injection of instant relief.
The situation wasn’t particularly stressful. At least it wouldn’t look that way to a casual observer. We were on our way to see a movie. I’d had a rough day and wasn’t in the best mood. I offered to drive. I bought tickets at a theater we’d never been to and got lost after getting stuck in traffic from a college football game. The stress and anxiety I’d been feeling all day bubbled to the surface, and I was seconds away from a full-blown panic attack at a busy intersection.
I’m an INFJ personality type. I’m also a highly sensitive person with anxiety. Most of the time you wouldn’t know that I’m highly sensitive or have anxiety. I’m reasonably good at managing my sensitive emotions when needed. However, this repression often means anxiety comes out at inopportune times around those who care about me the most, like my boyfriend.
Highly Sensitive INFJs and Anxiety
Many INFJ personality types are highly sensitive. Highly sensitive people (HSP) feel emotions more strongly and are more impacted by their external environments than people who are not highly sensitive. Highly sensitive INFJs experience stress and anxiety more intensely than the average person.
Getting lost in traffic is something that is stressful for many people. However, the highly sensitive person feels this stress 10x more deeply. While the traffic may be what triggers the anxiety, it’s perpetuated by several other factors. These factors may include bright street lights, loud noises from traffic, the crowd of people on the sidewalk, the mood of the person or people in the car with us or the fact that we’re running late. For the highly sensitive INFJ, sensory overload heightens negative emotions.
Managing stress as a highly sensitive INFJ means learning to recognize what contributes to our stress and anxiety and what helps us deal with these emotions. Below are five ways to deal with stress and anxiety as a highly sensitive INFJ.
(Want more information about your personality type? Take the TypeFinder Personality Test.)
Introverts, especially those of us who are also highly sensitive, need less stimulation than extroverts. This is because we naturally have stronger reactions to sensory stimulation. Many of us rely on stimulants like caffeine and cigarettes (nicotine) to deal with stress and exhaustion. While stimulants and depressants, such as alcohol, have short-term stress relief effects, they contribute to stress and anxiety for highly sensitive people. If you regularly consume these things in high quantities, you may feel immune to the physical impacts, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune to the mental effects. Avoiding or limiting stimulants and alcohol will help improve how often you experience and how you handle stress and anxiety.
Create habits around activity
Too much spontaneity can be extremely stressful for a highly sensitive INFJ. It may sound like a contradiction, but structure and habits actually make us better equipped to deal with the unexpected. This is because habits give us a sense of control over our environment. When something doesn’t go according to plan, we are more capable of getting back on track and therefore lessening the amount of stress we experience.
INFJs should focus on building habits around activity since that’s not an area we’re naturally skilled at managing. If you feel like things are out of control, start small. You don’t have to start a new exercise routine, diet plan and financial budget all in one day — in fact, you shouldn’t even try to take on that much at once. Start with something like going to bed at the same time each night. Achieving small habits will gradually make it easier to achieve bigger ones. I highly recommend The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg for useful tips, and inspiring stories focused on building lifelong habits.
Talk about how you feel
As an INFJ, you are probably used to people talking to you about how they feel. However, you likely don’t open up to others half as much as they do to you. Talking about feelings is a huge stress relief for INFJs. Holding in negative emotions contributes to our stress and anxiety levels. That’s why we typically feel relief and satisfaction after a good cry or even a fight with our significant other. As Extraverted Feelers, we need to talk about things to feel like they are completely resolved. If you don’t have someone you feel comfortable opening up to, you can start by writing out your feelings in a journal or even talking about them out loud to a pet or inanimate object. This may sound strange, but merely expressing our feelings out loud and hearing our words can help INFJs find clarity and relief.
Take a break
INFJs feel a strong sense of emotional and social responsibility. We want to make the world a better place and help others deal with their problems. Helping others brings us satisfaction, but it can also lead to stress. When you start to feel anxiety as the result of doing too much, allow yourself to take a break. Remember you’re a highly sensitive introvert. You need alone time to recharge. Treat yourself to relaxing activities like taking a bubble bath or reading a book. If you find yourself continually fulfilling other people’s obligations, practice setting boundaries, limiting your availability and saying no.
Develop a lightly sensory-focused hobby
Extraverted Sensing, the function that focuses on what we’re experiencing in the present moment, is the Inferior function of the INFJ. INFJs enjoy pleasant sensory experiences, but too much can quickly lead to stress and anxiety. This is why so many INFJs are also HSP. However, hobbies that require a light sensory focus can be extremely stress-relieving for INFJs. Make sure that your hobby isn’t related to work and isn’t something you’re doing for anyone else. It’s best to choose something you can do in private, so you’re not worrying about living up to any external expectations. Remember, light sensory focus means you’re not jumping out of airplanes. Some ideas to consider include coloring, cooking, low-stress video or computer games, gardening or yoga.
Are you a highly sensitive INFJ? What are some ways you deal with stress and anxiety?
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