10 Stress Management Tips for Introverts

Young woman being mindful
The right stress management techniques can make a world of difference for an introvert. Tony Anderson/Getty Images

Introverts tend to be misunderstood in our society. They don't dislike people, and they don't just want to be left alone. They do, however, experience stress in certain situations that are experienced as exciting for many extroverts. While these differences aren't absolute—they can range from barely noticeable to extreme, depending on where someone falls on the introvert-extrovert spectrum—they are important to understand for introverts and extroverts alike.

Differences Between Extroverts and Introverts

Extroverts tend to be confident, dominant, and have a high need for stimulation, whereas introverts are more understated, and need more "down time." While introverts often enjoy people as much as extroverts and are often very good friends to those they care about, they are drained by human interaction, while extroverts are energized by it. This means that introverts may more often shy away from making plans with others as they may not know in advance if they will have enough energy that day. They may also leave social events earlier and be less engaged while at an event; most introverts prefer to talk to one person or a small group rather than holding the attention of a crowd.

Introverts may be less likely to instigate plans than their extroverted counterparts, and they may be more likely to cancel plans with others, even if they enjoy other people’s company.

 They are more likely to thoroughly think things through before sharing their thoughts with others, where extroverts may process their thoughts and ideas aloud. They are often more affected by the moods of others, which can lead to “contagious” stress reactions. With all of this, introverts still love people, care deeply for their friends, and need connection as much as extroverts; they just may get more out of a quiet night in with a friend than a loud party with a big crowd.

And that’s OK.

Potential Pitfalls for Introverts

Unfortunately for introverts, there is an observed tendency for them to report lower levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Researchers who study the “Big Five” personality traits have found that those higher in introversion versus extroversion may have to work harder at stress management and happiness in general, where it may come more naturally to extroverts.

Why This Matters

Because introverts and extroverts may experience life somewhat differently (and our society tends to be more geared toward extroverts), introverts can benefit from some stress management strategies geared specifically to their more quiet nature. If you are an introvert (or if you love one), it’s important to understand some of the needs and traits that come with a more introverted nature. In fact, those higher in extroversion tend to be less stressed as parents. This could be because extroverts are more energized than drained by the group activity that comes with parenting, or it could be due to other factors.

Either way, less stressed parents may raise less stressed children, so it is important for introverts to find effective ways to manage stress.

What Can Be Done?

There are many strategies that can help introverts to manage the stress that comes with life in a way that works best for them. The following sections can help introverts counteract some of the sensitivities that come with being introverted, such as a decreased tendency to seek out human interaction, even though strong social support is associated with higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Finally, read the following sections to the end to learn some of the advantages of being an introvert—there are several!

Tips Specific to Introverts

Introverts can practice every stress management technique that extroverts practice, of course, but certain techniques may be more appealing to introverts. Other techniques are more suited to introverts. Finally, some strategies are important to counteract a natural tendency to miss out on some of the activities that may benefit you, that may come naturally to extroverts. Here are some ideas to consider.

  1. Practice Meditation. Meditation can boost your resilience toward stress when practiced long-term, and can help you to feel more relaxed in the short-term as well. There are many ways to practice meditation, but overall, it is a quiet practice. This allows you to increase your ability to get centered when you feel thrown off by the stress of your environment, or of the people around you.  
  2. Get Into Journaling. Writing in a journal is a great way to process your emotions or train your mind to focus on the positive. Journaling brings several health and stress management benefits that are proven by research. Maintaining an emotion-processing journal, a coincidence journal, or a gratitude journal are just a few ways to use writing as a way to process, to take what's in your mind and get it out. Journaling can bring great stress relief for just about anyone, but it's particularly suited to introverts.
  3. Examine Your Thoughts. Negative thoughts can increase your experience of stress. Extroverts tend to be more positive in their thinking, but positive thought patterns can be developed. Here are some stress-reducing ways to change your self-talk and build your resilience to toward stress.
  4. Actively Cultivate Good Moods. Research has found that positive affect—the experience of being in a good mood—is related to happiness as well as resiliency. Unfortunately, introverts tend to experience less positive effects in their daily lives, but this, too, can be changed. Learn more about how your levels of positive affect can influence your experience of stress, and find ways to cultivate positive effect in your daily life. It's easier than you may think, once you actively focus on it.
  5. Organize Your Space. Introverts love having a space of their own, a place to go and recharge. If your space is chaotic, this becomes more difficult. While cleaning may not be the most enjoyable activity you can engage in, maintaining a "happy place" for yourself can be great for stress management, so it is entirely worth it to think of cleaning as a stress reliever and maintain a peaceful space of your own.  
  6. Express Your Gratitude. While extroverts may automatically express their thanks to those they care about (and even those they may just meet casually), introverts may find these expressions to come less naturally. Expressing gratitude for the people in your life—to the people in your life—can bring benefits of increasing your life satisfaction and strengthening your relationship satisfaction. (People love feeling appreciated, and this can build a tendency for others to express their appreciation for you, too.)  So let people know when you appreciate them, and why. You can also maintain a gratitude journal to expand your tendency to notice these things.
  7. Develop Optimism. Extroverts have been found to be more often optimistic and tend to appraise challenges more positively. This provides an advantage. Those who look at life's difficulties as a "challenge" instead of a "threat" tend to be less stressed and more proactive in dealing with them. Those who are realistically optimistic tend to be more successful as well. Fortunately, optimism can be developed, to an extent. If you are an introvert, you can give yourself an advantage in stress management and in life by actively building your tendency toward optimism.
  8. Know Your Limits and Respect Them. Many introverts feel the need to keep up with their extroverted friends in an attempt to appear more friendly. If you can push yourself to be more extroverted than you naturally would, this isn't a bad thing—studies show that when introverts "act extroverted," they experience an increase in feelings of happiness. However, it's also important to know your limits and choose your activities so you don't push yourself too far. It's OK to recharge.
  9. Push Yourself to Be More Extroverted When It Works for You. As mentioned, research shows that introverts are found to get a boost of positive mood when they "act extroverted" on purpose. This same research found that introverts underestimate the amount of positive emotion they'll experience when they do this. So, once you are aware of our boundaries and limitations as far as how much "social time" you can handle before you're exhausted, it's a great idea to push yourself a little extra to be more friendly with people. You may be surprised by how much you enjoy it!
  10. Practice Self-Compassion. Because the world sometimes seems set-up for extroverts, and often people will judge introverts unfairly, it is important what it means to be more of an introvert, and embrace your differences. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and if you can explain to people that you love them but may have a greater need for "down time," they may be more accepting of who you are as well. The most important thing to remember is that self-compassion is valuable. Being gentle with yourself as well as with others, and building compassion with practices like the loving-kindness meditation can really help.

The Good News

Introverts are less prone to hide negative emotions—and less stressed because of it. One study examined 404 Israeli participants and their patterns with faking and hiding their emotions. This study examined the effects of hiding negative emotions and faking positive ones, noting the effects on both relationship satisfaction and physical health, and found that introverts were less likely to hide negative emotions in their relationships  and less likely to suffer as a result. 

Extroverts were both more likely to hide negative emotions in their relationships, and more likely to experience lower relationship satisfaction and negative effects on their health, and this effect was more pronounced than the consequences for faking positive emotions. 

In fact, faking positive emotions did not bring the same negative consequences at all, demonstrating that the “fake it until you make it” approach to happiness in relationships may be a better approach than holding in frustrations rather than talking them out. This in itself is important to know, but it’s also nice for introverts to know that their natural tendency to talk things out brings health benefits and a more satisfying relationship in the long run.  

There are many other benefits to introversion, so in focusing on your strengths instead of your weaknesses, and balancing things out with the right stress management techniques, introverts can be quiet, resilient, and very happy.

Sources:

Astin JA, Shapiro SL, Eisenberg DM, Forys KL. Mind-Body Medicine: State of the Science, Implications for Practice. The Journal of the American Board of Family Practice March / April 2003.

Fredrickson BL.The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, Vol 56(3), March 2001 pp. 218-226.

Garland EL. Fredrickson, Barbara; Kring, Ann M.; Johnson, David P.; Meyer, Piper S.; Penn, David L. Upward spirals of positive emotions counter downward spirals of negativity: Insights from the broaden-and-build theory and affective neuroscience on the treatment of emotion dysfunctions and deficits in psychopathology. Positive Clinical Psychology Clinical Psychology Review. 2010 30(7):849-864.

Rantanen J, et al.  (2015). Longitudinal study on reciprocity between personality traits and parenting stress. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 39(1), 65-76.

Seger-Guttmann T and Medler-Iiraz H.  (2016). The cost of hiding and faking emotions: The case of extroverts and introverts.  Journal of Psychology, vol 150(3), pp.342.

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