If you’re an introvert, your contemplative nature can make you prone to stress. Coping is possible by keeping your strengths in mind.
Personality traits, like introversion and extroversion, can influence how you experience and manage stress levels.
“Introverts may internalize stress to the point where those around them may not even know that they are feeling stressed,” says Heidi McBain, an online licensed therapist in Texas.
As an introvert, you may have to work harder at reaching out for help, says McBain, because you may not inherently share your emotions and thoughts with others.
Often, avoiding specific situations is how introverts handle stress. Not doing so can result in overwhelm.
Stress management is essential and possible if you’re an introvert. You could begin by identifying the greatest sources of stress for you.
What causes an introvert to stress may be the same things that cause anyone stress. But these three scenarios may be the greatest stressors when you live with introversion:
1. Lack of opportunity for quiet time
A 2015 study found that introverts have larger gray matter in the prefrontal area of the brain. This area involves thinking functions such as thought processing, decision making, planning, and other processes.
The larger size is a result of introverts spending more time engaged in these activities, according to the study. In other words, introverts spend a lot of time planning, evaluating, and just thinking in general. They use this part of the brain more often.
This may be one of the reasons introverts need more quiet, alone time. This allows them to think things through and plan.
Not finding the time or opportunity to engage in thought and mentally cope with everyday stressors on your own may increase your stress levels.
2. Not being able to avoid overstimulation
A 2005 study found that the brains of people who rated high in extraversion had a higher response to dopamine. Dopamine is a natural chemical produced by the body when you experience pleasure.
A 2007 study later concluded that extroverts seek “novelty” or new situations to experience the thrill of dopamine release. Introverts, on the other hand, were highly sensitive to dopamine, so tended to avoid situations that increased it.
This means that as an introvert, you may rarely feel the need to seek novelty or thrilling experiences. You may even avoid these situations. Novelty can actually lead you to feelings of overwhelm.
This could explain the tendency of introverts to
Overstimulating situations, in general, may lead introverts to experience high levels of stress.
3. Not managing anxiety symptoms
Evidence points to overlapping pathways between stress and anxiety in the brain. In other words, stress and anxiety activate the same brain regions.
Introverts tend to
Anxiety typically means your stress response is constantly activated, even if there’s no clear cause for it.
Not treating your anxiety symptoms can mean your stress levels are typically high.
Introverts vs. extroverts
The new, unpredictable situations that extroverts long for are the very situations that may lead introverts into avoidance mode.
Being asked to speak during a meeting, a surprise party or trip, or unexpectedly running into an acquaintance at the store can feel overwhelming to an introvert.
Introverts may also experience more stress when they don’t have time to decompress or recharge themselves with some alone time.
Time alone, time to prepare for social situations, and following a plan are all ways an introvert deals with stress.
In contrast, extroverts may find too much alone time stressful because they can’t talk through their thoughts and feelings, which is how they process and manage stress.
1. Try meditation
Meditation can be a perfect tool for introverts because it allows quiet and alone time.
Meditation can help you
With time and practice, meditation can also improve emotional regulation and reduce the physical and mental negative effects of stress.
2. Consider starting a journal
“Having an outlet for stress can also be very important, be that exercise or journaling or something else completely,” suggests McBain.
When you experience stress as an introvert, talking to other people isn’t typically your first option. This might mean you tend to keep things to yourself and overthink.
A journal can provide a place and time to express how you feel and privately work through your thoughts.
3. Saving time and space for self-care can help
“Creating time and space for self-care is very important for introverts when they internalize stress,” says McBain. Alone time gives introverts a way to relax after a stimulating day of interacting with others.
Having alone time isn’t always possible, particularly if you don’t live by yourself.
It may take more effort on your part, but try to create a relaxing space where you can be alone at the end of the day, even if for a few minutes. For example:
- a bath or shower
- listening to music on earphones while you cook
- walking a pet
Consider practicing meditation or reading a book to quiet your mind during these times.
4. Try to balance social life with boundaries
You may feel a strong pull to keep step with your extroverted friends socially and conversationally. There’s no need to put that kind of pressure on yourself.
It may be important to nurture your bonds, but you’ll also want to respect limits.
A coffee with a couple of friends once or twice a week may help you feel supported. But try not to feel guilty for saying no to a weekend trip with a large group of people or skipping a couple of weeks of social contact.
Setting boundaries may be a great stress management tool for introverts.
5. Consider therapy
“Therapy can be a great place to talk about stress in a safe environment,” recommends McBain. Sometimes, a person outside your social circle can provide the objective perspective and support you need.
6. Remembering your strengths is a good idea
It’s natural to feel uncomfortable or even defeated at work or school if your innate tendency isn’t networking or speaking up during meetings.
Your ability to listen actively and think through your answers can be some of your greatest strengths, though.
Try to be compassionate with yourself. This may start by not putting yourself down.
Novelty, not enough alone time, and not managing symptoms of anxiety can be major stressors for you as an introvert.
But handling stress is possible if you focus on your strengths, engage in self-care, set boundaries, and find alternative ways to express how you feel.