I’m an INFJ. Does that mean I have anxiety?
Yes, it does—and here’s why.
The curse is this: I’m always anxious. I live at a high level of anxiety constantly. It’s like a buzzing noise that’s always in the background. It’s always there, ready to flare up and take over at any moment.
It’s an everyday thing
One of my friends asked me to go out to dinner a few weeks ago. I had just met her, but she’s an INFJ too and we’d talked over coffee for more than 4 hours the first time we met. As we’re making plans for dinner through text messages I’m getting super anxious. As much as I wanted to see her again, I also hate plans. I hate having to go somewhere new and all the stress that comes with that.
I feel the anxiety rising as we discuss where to go. My mind starts to flutter with little annoyances that I know could turn into big disasters.
Where am I going to park?
I’m vegetarian. Do they have anything that I can eat on their menu?
I know I have nothing to wear to a nice place… please don’t pick too nice of a place.
Do I have any money? Will I have money on this day? When am I getting paid? How much does this place cost?
Will I need to put gas in my car first? I like to go to one specific place, so I have to plan it in advance.
Are you SURE there’s parking? Do I have to parallel park… I’m not good at that, especially at night.
Is the neighborhood ok?
I’ll only have 5 hours to do nothing on Saturday if we go out Saturday night. I’ll have to cancel my plans for Sunday so I can recover.
All of this goes through my mind in a matter of seconds. I try to keep my hands from shaking even though there’s no one around to see them.
Going through this process I struggle with wanting to be polite and let her pick the restaurant, but also wanting to have control of the situation so that I can pick. I know that if it’s up to me I can pick a place that I’m comfortable with and ease my heightened anxiety, if only just a little bit.
You’re not alone
High anxiety is a common trait among INFJs. It’s a combination of our extroverted feeling and our powerful intuition. We can see things coming and we can feel what everyone around us can feel. It’s a wicked combination!
Every time I leave my house I’m bombarded with all kinds of sensations and feelings from every angle. As much as I love being an empath and having the ability to literally feel what other people are feeling, I also loathe the experience. I want the ability to turn it off. If I could just turn it off then I could go to the grocery store and just get groceries. I wouldn’t have to feel the frustration of the people waiting in line behind me or the tiredness of the cashier or the man yelling at his kids. I could just get my groceries and go.
This is why I don’t go out
When I went to dinner with my friend my anxiety was super high. Traffic on Saturday evening is always bad in Boston, where I live. Even though I took the specific way to avoid the highway, I was still stressed. People drive like maniacs here, so you have to be super aware, not only of what you’re doing, but of anyone around you. It takes all the concentration I have.
By the time I get to the restaurant I already feel tired, just from the stress of driving for 20 minutes. I’ve been worried for a week that I won’t be able to find a place to park, even though this restaurant has 2 parking lots. They’re both full, so I opt for a spot on the street a few blocks away. It’s a bit of a walk, but it was easy to park there so I’m ok with it. No backing up required.
I was also stressed about the whole process of meeting my friend. I hate being the first one there, but I also don’t want to make her wait. Of course, I’m early. When I get to the host he asks me if I want to wait in the waiting area or if I’d like to wait at a table. It sounds like such a simple question, but my mind is running through all of the possibilities, trying to pick the best, easiest, right option. Meanwhile, the host is looking at me like I’m an idiot. So much stress over something so simple. I’m stressed by the decision and also by my inability to make the decision quickly enough to avoid his irritated look.
As I sit down at the table I can’t help but think, “This is why I don’t go out.”
My friend finally arrived and found our table easily enough. But there was more. At the table next to us there were five screaming kids. There’s TV screens in the restaurant and it’s completely packed. All of this combined with the level of noise in the restaurant was enough to make me dizzy. It was all I could do to focus on the conversation, because I could barely hear myself talk, let alone my friend.
I left feeling completely exhausted.
We’re all anxious here
Most, if not all, INFJs feel the same way. When we’re not anxious, we’re so high up in our heads and hearts that the world looks like a fuzzy nightmare below us. But when we are anxious, the world becomes a terrifying reality show of sharp edges and painful moments.
And then there’s “the fog.” That feeling of being disconnected from everything around you because your brain is too busy trying to figure out what just happened or what will happen next; those days where you feel like nothing can make sense and nothing matters anymore because all you know is that something feels wrong. You feel like there’s something terribly wrong with you, but you don’t want to say anything for fear that they’ll lock you up and throw away the key.
I don’t discuss this level of my anxiety with anyone. I don’t want them to know that having to find a parking spot is something that stresses me out for a week. I don’t want them to know that I spend hours on Google Maps looking for the best options and using the walk-around feature so that I’m familiar with some place new before I go there. It just feels weird. It feels like too much to discuss with anyone.
The only relief comes when you start to realize that we all do this. We all have this same level of anxiety, but no one wants to admit it or say it out loud. It may not be “normal” for most of the people in the world, but for INFJs it’s completely and totally normal. It’s something that we all live with every single day. No one is going to lock you up. There’s no need for that.
Take the pain away
The real struggle is figuring out how to ease this anxiety. I’ve been on anxiety medication more than once in my life and I found that it really didn’t help me at all. It’s not a problem with my brain, it’s just how my brain works. So I have to find other ways to manage this anxiety.
For me, just knowing that it’s normal and not something to worry about takes away about 50% of it. I’m not worried about worrying anymore. I can just focus on finding a parking spot for my dinner next week.
I’ve also found that the more prepared I am, the less anxious I am. If spending an hour looking at a new place on Google Maps before I go helps, then that’s what I’ll do.
I’ve also stopped beating myself up for minor things, like being late, missing an exit, having to turn around and not being able to find a place to park right away. It feels like a big deal to me in the moment, but in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter that much.
The most important thing that has helped me is actually noticing my anxiety level. I operate at such a high level all of the time that I really don’t even notice it that much. I try to focus on other things, but then wonder why my hands are numb during dinner. Just the act of noticing that I’ve been clenching them so hard that they’ve turned white and are going numb is a huge step for me. Noticing that I’m anxious. Noticing that the baby is crying and the mom looks stressed. Noticing that it’s loud and it’s making me feel bombarded. Noticing that there’s a lot going on at once.
When you’re able to notice it in the moment it’s easier to let it go rather than absorb it and hold onto it.
It sounds like such an easy thing, but as INFJs it takes some practice. We are wired to soak up everything and carry it with us. That’s our first response. It takes work to notice this process and actively do something else.
You’re not alone
All INFJs live with a high level of anxiety. It’s completely normal and you’re not alone in your feelings, but it can feel that way sometimes. In times of greatest anxiety just remembering that you’re not alone can help so much.
Have you felt the same way? Do you have any additional tips to manage anxiety? I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments.