Ep #3: Understanding the introvert stress response
Introverts often judge themselves for feeling sensitive or stressed out by everyday situations. This can feed into larger stories about your self-worth and your capacity. But feeling stress is a normal part of being human and when you know how to think about it in an empowered way, it becomes less of a problem.
In this episode, we look at what’s happening physically, mentally and emotionally when you’re under stress as an introvert. We’ll explore the connection with self worth and you’ll learn how to think about stressful situations in a way that supports confidence and inner peace.
Hello, my beautiful introvert friend. Welcome to episode number three, where we are going to look at the introvert stress response. We will go through the four types of stress responses and what they mean for introverts, what’s going on with you and how we make it so much worse by what we do after. So you will leave this episode with a better understanding of what’s going on in your body, feeling more empowered and less off kilter when you have stressful, anxious introvert experiences.
So the terms stressed response describes what is going on in you, so physically, biologically, mentally, and emotionally. So essentially what it is is, and I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but it is our, the way that we respond to a perceived lack of safety to, to a threat, and our body goes into protective mode where our, you know, think, how do you feel when you are experiencing stress?
Like maybe your, your palms get a little bit sweaty. Your heart races, your face flushes. Maybe some, you feel your, your stomach drop. Um, so what’s going on is that in your body, you have your, your brain has decided that there is a threat out there. Whether it is actually a threat to life or not, doesn’t really matter.
It just sees, yes, it is a threat and then it. Creates a cascade effect of chemicals that signal to the body to change the way that they’re functioning to ensure your survival. So typically that looks like, um, moving resources from. More long-term systems like your digestion or your immune system and taking that, that energy and putting it into places that will help you to, to get away so you have more access to energy to run away, um, or to perceive like your, your senses change.
You get really focused on specific things and, um, like perceive additional. So that you can take care of your. So when our body is having this kind of experience, then we’ve got our mind on board, and our mind is is the meaning maker. So not only is it looking at what the perceived threat is, but it’s looking at the way that you feel and deciding from that whether something is a threat or not.
So, When your brain notices that you’re in a stress response, then, then it’s like, oh crap, I’m in an unsafe place here. And it creates this negative feedback loop. And this is, especi can be especially strong in introverts who have, are very, um, inwardly focused, who spend a lot of time thinking and analyzing this, uh, This mechanism can often get triggered.
It’s very sensitive, um, and it can get triggered and just like go into hyper, hyper movement very quickly. In Ayurveda, we call this being Vata aggravated, and Vata is. The, the elements of air in ether. So I like to think about it as like a hurricane happening in your brain where the thoughts are going a million miles an hour.
We’ve got the overwhelm and the anxiety dials turned on, and sometimes we even feel like our heads are floating or we’re like, our bodies are gonna like, float off into the hurricane. Kind of like Dorothy, um, in the tornado. So however it shows up for you, it’s probably uncomfortable and you probably don’t like it and you probably want it to go away, right?
Uh, nothing wrong there. The stress response, it is designed to keep us safe. It’s designed to give us information. So there are four types of stress responses that we have kind of agreed upon. Uh, and knowing that as always the human experience, we can have variation and you might experience kind of two or more at the same time.
But we tend to have standard, general ones that we, that we default to. So the four stress responses are, There are four stress response types, and as introverts we have a little different flavors on some of these. The way that they show up for us might be different from others. The first one you’ll probably be familiar with is the fight response.
So, uh, under stress there is a tendency to, to, for towards aggression, towards. For an introvert, it tends to be, More focused on criticism, on judgment of, uh, of other people of yourself, of really like getting into this ruminating circle where you’re blaming and maybe you’re even, um, venting with people with the fight response.
There can be emotions that come up that are, are more like anger. Frustration that tends to get bottled up or, um, find an outlet in numbing activity. So you just like remove yourself, like you remove yourself. You are removing yourself from the situation, but you’re actually like, Feeling more, um, agitated and combative, and then to calm that you might go smoke some weed or zone out on television.
Then there’s the flight response where. You’re, this is like the classic hide of, um, you don’t necessarily feel like angry or frustrated. You’re just like, oh my gosh, I just need to get away from here. Where you, you’re like, you’re, you are activated and you want to. Get deactivated as quickly as possible.
So you might just like check out, you leave a meeting without saying goodbye. You, um, don’t call back someone, you don’t email them back. You’re just avoid that feeling. Then there’s the freeze response. This is where you go blank, right? Where you move into the land of, I don’t know, where you lose access to your discernment, to your inner wisdom.
It’s the classic deer in the headlights where like all systems on freeze, I don’t have access to, um, greater decision making. I’m just kind of paralyzed here. This is a situation that like, like you can come, it can be momentarily, but it can also be, uh, over a longer period when we don’t access, we don’t create a way to access our creativity in our problem solving, and so we end up like not changing the situ.
The fourth stress response is the fawn response, so fawning in the sense of like, um, adoration or just focusing on another person. So creating safety by taking the focus off of you and putting it onto pleasing someone else so that that person can then, Like, if they’re happy, then the situation is defused and feels and feels better to you, but it’s at the expense of your ideas of what you really want.
So this can look like people pleasing loose boundaries. Not saying no overworking, uh, just listening instead of sharing idea. And this is different than just being an introvert and just lis like listening and, and taking in information because underneath it there’s a certain stress level that is fueling it.
While I just described some negative aspects of the stress responses, um, I want to really, really emphasize that stress. It’s a natural thing, like nothing has gone wrong. There is nothing wrong with you if you go into one of these stress responses and behave in these ways. Like this is just your programming, your safety programming, and the way that it plays.
In your particular version of being human, that said, the way you respond to stress, it’s often feels very automatic. And as such, you can feel like you don’t have control over it, but you actually do. You can change how you respond to stress, and the reactivity of your nervous system is malle. So your nervous system, that is what takes in information from the outside world and then takes it to the brain where it perceives it as threat and then transmits that threat to the rest of your body.
And N and introverts, they tend to have more, more easily reactive nervous systems. And again, nothing is wrong with that. But we can learn how to decrease the reactivity and build your resilience so that when stressful things happen, you don’t respond as strongly. And um, then it becomes just less stressful overall.
So there are things you can do before in the middle and after a stress. Experience, and we’re gonna focus our next episode on looking at ways to build resilience and to handle that. But right now I wanna really focus on what happens after you experience a stressful situation, because this is pivotal in.
In the level, in the overall amount of stress that you create, cuz the way that you look at the story that you have about your stress will either create more stress or create less stress. So what you make your stress and how you respond, what you make it mean about. Really matters. So for example, if you are feeling anxious in a situation like, um, you’re feeling angry, you’re in your fight response that your colleagues spoke over for over you, you might make that mean that you don’t belong in that work anymore, that you can’t work with that person.
It’s not for you.
Say you don’t know what to say when you’re at a family dinner and your uncle asks you about your work, you go go into the freeze response. You know, he just asked you a question and then your whole family gets quiet and looks at you and you’re like, uh, nothing’s coming. So you might make that mean I can’t handle family dinner.
Or that final FAW version, your friend might invite you to a party and you feel like, oh my gosh, like they’re inviting me to a party. I don’t really wanna go. I really need time alone. You, you get, you feel anxious. You go into a fawn response and you say, yes. Right. You say Yes, and then they’re all happy, and then it makes that situation just for that moment it feels okay, right?
But then afterwards you’re thinking about it and you’re like, oh my gosh, like I’m not gonna go. I’m not good at saying no, it’s better for me to just avoid people in general, right? So each event. Example of feeling stress of being in a stress response. Like is just one moment, but then afterwards what you make it mean turns it into something so much bigger that can create so much more stress for you.
And not just stress, but shame. Feeling of not enoughness isolation, like it really feeds into bigger habits and ways that you see yourself into the, the ways that what you see is possible for you and how you are as a person. Like it, it just explodes when really all that’s happening is that you are an introvert and in that moment you experienced stress and you responded a certain.
That’s it. Period. Done. So what I want you to start doing, Separating out the momentary stress response from the bigger story of what you’re making it mean. And you can do this by just noticing like, Hey, I had, you know, this meeting yesterday and I had a stress response. I, I, I did like, I, I didn’t like how I behaved.
You can look at that and say, Hey, I’m an introvert and I had a stress response. That’s all that is happening. So, and there is one caveat here. You cannot use this against yourself. What do I mean by that? So often I see people who define themselves as introverts or having a D H D or having something else, and they make that definition, define what is possible for.
It’s like, well, because I am in an introvert, um, I should avoid speaking up at meetings because I am an introvert and I get anxious easily that X, Y, Z is not for me. And I wanna offer that there are no limitations you can do and try everything like you can resource yourself If you want to be a public speaker and travel the world, public speaking, you can learn the skills, not just to speak, but to be an introvert, to be someone who feels anxious and speak right.
It’s probably going to look different than someone who is an extrovert and does not feel the same kind of. There are things that you can do to support yourself so you don’t have to feel held back. You don’t have to use your definition of yourself as a, um, as a box, but more as information to help you know that, hey, like this is something I need to take care of.
This is something I need to include. This is something that is, this is a part of me. I am an an introvert, so I need to do things my. So you are not your introversion. You are not your stress. You are not your anxiety. You are a human being that experiences anxiety. You are a human being that has introvert tendencies.
They’re not a problem. Thank you so much for being here, and I’ll see you next time.