Introverts are More Vulnerable to Stress: Self-care is Vital

Introverts! You’re likely at greater risk of distress and burnout. Self-care is vitally important for everyone but introverts may have an even greater need than extraverts. A study by Bughi et al. (2017) found that, in high-stress situations, introverts had lower indicators of general well-being and higher indicators of distress/burnout risk. In this study, stressed introverts had higher rates of exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced personal efficacy. Give yourself permission for quality time alone and proper self-care; it’s good for you and for your work. In this post, we glean actionable insights from Using a Personality Inventory to Identify Risk of Distress and Burnout among Early Stage Medical Students (Bughi et al. 2017) and related studies.

The Research

The call for self-care to promote healthy lifestyles and combat stress is pervasive in today’s popular media. There is reason to expect that introverts may have a greater vulnerability to stress than extraverts and, consequently, have particularly high need for self-care. Bughi et al. (2017) examined the relationship between Myers-Briggs personality type indicators and distress and burnout in first-year medical students.  

The students completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) preferences test  and two commonly used surveys of general well-being and burnout. The well-being survey measured subjective wellness based on anxiety, depression, positive well-being, self-control, vitality, and general health experienced within the past month. The burnout survey included measures of exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy and indicated burnout for subjects with low scores on professional efficacy and high scores on both exhaustion and cynicism. 

Under the stressful conditions of medical school and compared to their extraverted counterparts, introverted students tended to have significantly higher scores for depression and lower scores for well-being and self-control. Introverts also indicated higher scores for exhaustion and cynicism and lower scores for professional efficacy. Bughi et al. (2017) conclude that “administering the MBTI early in medical training may help students self-asses their potential risk [associated with introversion] for distress and burnout.  Once students self-identify their risk, stress management interventions may be offered earlier.”

Putting it into Action

Your life might not be as stressful as that of a medical student but likely has an ample amount of stress. The study by Bughi et al. (2017) highlights the vulnerability of introverts to stress. Effective stress management programs emphasize self-care. You already know that you need take care of yourself. Use the knowledge that, as an introvert, you’re more vulnerable to stress as a motivator to take positive steps. Managing stress through effective self-care will help you feel better, avoid depression and cynicism, and be more personally effective.

There is an abundance of sources for self-care information and I encourage you to do your own assessment of what might work for you. However, some components of a robust self-care practice could include: 

  1. Preserving regular quality time alone to recharge [introverts need this]
  2. Practicing meditation or journaling
  3. Engaging in regular exercise
  4. Maintaining a healthy diet
  5. Avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and drugs
  6. Making time for pleasurable activities
  7. Spending time with supportive people [just not too many at once]
  8. Addressing problems in your life

Take care of yourself. Please share your experiences with other readers of this blog.

References

Bughi, Stephanie A., Desiree A. Lie, Stephanie K. Zia, and Jane Rosenthal. 2017. “Using a Personality Inventory to Identify Risk of Distress and Burnout among Early Stage Medical Students.” Education for Health: Change in Learning and Practice 30 (1):26–30.

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