“Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow.”
– Pope Francis, a rumored ESFJ
ESFJs are known for their empathy, practicality, and hard-working nature. They use a combination of Extraverted Feeling (Fe) to empathize and relate to others, as well as Introverted Sensing (Si) to create inspiring sense-impressions of the world around them. They see patterns and details from the past and present and use those to create a more stable and secure future. They are understanding teachers, excellent motivators, and productive and helpful members of their communities. Some famous ESFJs include Pope Francis, Andrew Carnegie, Sam Walton, and Anne Hathaway.
But what stresses out these organized, thoughtful types? Let’s take a look!
ESFJs are very organized individuals who like to have a plan and know what to expect. Being in an environment that is disorganized, or having to live with a schedule that is often spontaneous can make them feel anxious and irritable.
Conflict and Criticism
ESFJs are very gentle-hearted individuals who do their best to create harmony in their outer worlds. Being in an environment that is rife with conflict can make them feel overwhelmed and stressed. They care so much about maintaining harmony that they may exhaust themselves trying to bring the environment back to a peaceful atmosphere. Because ESFJs are Extraverted Feelers, they easily pick up on the emotions and moods of others, and may literally “feel” the stress that others are experiencing. This makes being in conflict-ridden environments especially difficult for them.
Knowing what the future holds is very important to an ESFJ. They like to have things planned out and organized ahead of time, and they thrive on knowing what to expect. Having to deal with spontaneous changes or unexpected outcomes causes them an extreme amount of stress and agitation.
Inadequate Time to Complete Work to Their Standards
ESFJs have very high standards for the projects they work on, and they hate to feel rushed. They will usually start a project ahead of time so that they can complete it on schedule without having to feel rushed or pressured. When they aren’t given enough time to make their project right, they can push themselves too hard, work excessively, and be disappointed with the results.
Dealing too Long with Abstract or Theoretical Concepts
While ESFJs can enjoy the occasional theoretical conversation, they prefer to deal with things that have a practical, realistic application in their daily lives. Having to spend a long time focusing on abstract possibilities, theories, or ideas that can’t be proven through facts can make them feel bored and restless.
Situations that Don’t Align with Their Values
ESFJs are strong believers in living in accordance with their values. They have a strong set of morals that they consider before making any decision, and they hate to feel pressured into abandoning them. They strongly desire harmony so they can feel especially stressed when facing pressure to shift their values to align with the harmony of the group – but their values are so important to them that they will usually face conflict if it means they are standing up for what they believe in. This kind of experience can leave them very stressed out and anxious.
Mistrusting Someone They’re Close To
Trust is of paramount importance to an ESFJ. If they feel like they can’t count on or believe in someone close to them, this can push the ESFJ into a state of charged stress. ESFJs have a great memory for past details and can easily pick up on emotional cues from people, so it’s easier for them to tell if someone is lying or being inconsistent than it is for many other types.
ESFJs are very gentle when handing out criticism because they are very empathetic and conscientious of other people’s feelings. As dominant Feeling types, ESFJs have a hard time not taking criticism personally. They hate to know that they’ve failed in any way, or that they’ve let themselves or anyone else down.
ESFJs are very generous people who will go to great lengths to serve the people they care about and make sure their needs are met. Sometimes this can result in them being taken advantage of or taken for granted. If they are paired with more Thinking-oriented types, they may not get the affirmation or gratitude they’d expect or hope for. If they keep giving and giving without receiving any positive thanks or appreciation they may start to feel insecure, bitter, or agitated.
How the ESFJ Responds to Stress
In order to understand how the ESFJ responds to stress, we need to acknowledge the different types of stress they experience. There’s normal, everyday stress, and then “grip” stress. Both elicit completely different responses.
During everyday stress, the ESFJ will seem more exaggerated in their functions or “true to type”. What this means is that the ESFJ will rely even more heavily on their dominant function; Extraverted Feeling, and their other functions will become less accessible to them. They will want to determine a way to solve the problem while maintaining harmony for people outside themselves and re-establishing peace into the atmosphere. If this doesn’t help, they may turn to their auxiliary function, introverted sensing (Si). They’ll look at the details to determine if there’s any practical way to solve the problem. During this type of stress, the ESFJ may seem very sensitive, often imagining bad intentions where there weren’t any. They may seek security in the form of relationships or their community. They may feel low on energy, depressed, or pessimistic. They may seem uncharacteristically quiet and withdrawn.
One of the difficult things that ESFJs face when dealing with stress is that their dominant feeling function is Extraverted. Extraverted Feeling focuses primarily on other’s emotions and moods and is less aware of one’s own emotions and moods. Fe-dominant types, like the ESFJ, often need to sort out their emotions out loud by venting or externalizing their emotions; that way they can hear their emotions and absorb them through Fe which helps them to understand them better. While other people see this process as possibly an over-reaction or pointless, it’s an essential way for the ESFJ to sort through their emotions and make sense of them.
Grip stress occurs when the ESFJ has been experiencing chronic or extreme stress, or is suffering some kind of illness that is making them worn out. If the ESFJ has worn out their dominant Feeling function by relying on it too heavily they can also experience a grip-related stress response. Another way ESFJs can experience grip stress is if their inferior function, Introverted Thinking, is “triggered” too often by having to deal with impersonal facts or having to make impersonal judgments that they are concerned will affect overall harmony.
During grip related stress, ESFJs can seem very unlike their normal selves. They can become quite dramatic, finding fault with almost everyone and everything, including themselves. They can feel drained and weary and exhausted. They may see nothing but their own flaws and can experience very low self-esteem. They may become obsessed with logic and irrelevant data, searching endlessly for the reason for their stress and to find a logical way out. They may feel lost and confused because they can’t access their normally dependable feeling and sensing functions.
10 Stress-Busting Tips for ESFJs
Get a Change of Scenery
Getting away from the situation or environment that is causing the ESFJ stress is a great way for them to find a new perspective and separate themselves from the charged emotions, conflict, or stressors of the current situation. While it’s not always possible to escape a stressful situation, if it’s appropriate to do it, it’s a very effective choice. Many ESFJs find just going to a different room or a different location can help them to get a better handle on what is bothering them.
Spend Time With a Good Friend
While some ESFJs need a little alone time when they experience stress, many of them prefer to have a good friend to listen to and talk to. ESFJs are very relationship-oriented and can often understand their moods and emotions better if they can “talk them out” with someone they trust. It’s important that their friend be conscientious and not judge them for their stressed state. ESFJs want to be listened to, acknowledged, and related to. They can be encouraged if their friend reminds them of their strengths and contributions.
ESFJs love the beauty and tranquility of the outdoors and find that being immersed in mother nature helps them to feel calmer and more relaxed. Getting outside and taking in the sights and sounds can help them to access their auxiliary Sensing function, pulling them away from an overused dominant function or an out-of-control inferior function response.
Have a Laugh!
Most ESFJs report that humor helps them to relieve stress and find balance and perspective again. Watching a lighthearted comedy or talking to a friend who knows how to lighten the mood can be a huge encouragement to a worn-down ESFJ.
Exercise is a great way for ESFJs to find focus and balance in their lives. Exercise enables the ESFJ to access their Sensing function, pulling them out of a grip-related stress response. Exercise also promotes stress-relieving endorphins in the brain!
Enjoy Some Light-hearted Entertainment
For the ESFJ, watching a funny movie, a romance, or an exciting adventure can all help to pull them out of stress and anxiety. Being able to get away from the problem for an hour or two can help them to calm down, and then to re-assess the situation in a more balanced mental state.
Take on a Calming, Detailed Project
ESFJs find that taking on a long-term, sensory project can help them to find joy and motivation to continue. For some ESFJs, crafts like knitting, sewing, and scrapbooking help them to find tranquility. Other ESFJs enjoy writing letters to friends or making gifts. Some enjoy gardening, others enjoy singing or joining a community theater. Whatever the case, igniting their passion and getting started on a project can help the ESFJ to feel refreshed and able to take on the challenges that are bothering them.
Clean An Area of Your House (Even if It’s Small)
While this may not work for handling “grip” stress, many ESFJs report that they feel better if they can be in a clean, neat, organized environment. An orderly, clean outer world makes the ESFJ feel a little more orderly and on top of things in the inner world as well.
Spend Time with Pets!
Multiple studies have shown that spending time with pets relieves stress, lowers blood pressure and even hormones like cortisol, which is associated with depression and anxiety. Having quality time with pets also elevates beneficial hormones like oxytocin, which is linked to happiness and relaxation.
ESFJs who journal their feelings often feel better able to manage them. Journaling emotions and thoughts and then reading them back again can help ESFJs to process their feelings through Fe and understand them better. It can also be a good way to “vent” if they don’t feel like bringing their troubles to anyone they know.
Have Any Thoughts to Add?
Let me (and other readers) know in the comments!
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