The opposite of joy might not be what you’d expect…

If I asked you what’s the opposite of joy, what would you say?

Here’s what Word Hippo came up with when I did a search…

Misery… agony… anguish… cheerlessness… dejection… despondency… disheartenment… dispiritedness… doldrums… downheartedness… gloom… gloominess… unhappiness… woefulness… calamity… despair… sadness… wretchedness… grief… sorrow… tribulation… depression… joylessness… melancholy… mourning…

Kind of what you’d expect, right?

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When we were asked this question at Brendan Burchard’s High Performance Academy a few years ago, most people answered as above.

But Brendan Burchard’s answer to ‘What’s the opposite of joy?’ was…


I don’t know if it’s the opposite of joy exactly, but as I sat reflecting on this I could see the wisdom.

What I’ve experienced to be true is that while it is possible to maintain an underlying sense of joy, even while experiencing waves of ‘negative’ emotions like sadness, sorrow and grief, it’s impossible to hold both joy and overwhelm at the same time.

The intense emotions of overwhelm and the accompanying incessant thoughts that rush around your brain pulling your attention in too many different directions affect your ability to properly focus, and frustratingly, it is the killer of productivity, which, when you’ve got so much to do, just piles on the stress.

When you’re in overwhelm your sympathetic nervous system goes into over-drive and triggers a series of survival reactions throughout the body which can block your resourcefulness and stops you being able to learn, find creative solutions, or to think and act rationally.

It makes you feel powerless, it can prevent you from performing daily tasks, causes sleep problems, and unless you catch it, it’s easy to slide down a negative spiral that can impact your health.

Think of it as the mental equivalent of having too many apps open on your computer. Unless you start managing your time, energy and focus, you’re going to freeze or crash, and you won’t be able to operate.

Emotional overwhelm may be caused by stress, traumatic life experiences, relationship issues, and many other factors. The significant thing about it is that it will put you in your head and steal away the present moment.

The present moment is where you will rediscover your joy.

Overwhelm is a joy-killer

Move out of overwhelm and restore your joy

Taking the time to do mindfulness practices that reconnect you with your body rather than your head, and cultivating present-moment awareness through meditation or similar is one of the keys to moving out of overwhelm. Doing so will activate the parasympathetic nervous system that restores the body’s state of calm.

There’s no magic bullet to getting back to joy from a state of overwhelm. It requires some major lifestyle adjustments, but if you’re committed, then of course it can be done.


Things that can help you on your journey back to harmony and joy are to:

  • Pinpoint the source of your stress and make a plan to move out of it.
  • Communicate honestly about your situation with people who need to know or who can support you.
  • Be your own advocate and make self-care an essential part of daily life.
  • Say NO more often and set boundaries.
  • Prioritise activities that will give you energy rather than drain you.
  • Schedule time out doing nothing at all – just be in the space with no agenda.
  • Practice present moment awareness and embodiment – download a FREE Body Scan Meditation by entering your details below.
  • Express all the thoughts in your head by emptying them out onto paper by journalling or Morning Pages.
  • Breathe mindfully.



Can you now see how overwhelm might be the joy-killer in your own life?

Let me know in the comments below.

I thought it was a genius insight, and ever since then I’ve noticed that when I get too busy, take too much on or feel overloaded by things I think I ‘should’ do’ my joy goes down and things get harder in lots of ways.

It’s a useful reminder to me to prioritise creating inner space and upping my self-care or I know things won’t change.

If you feel emotionally overwhelmed for an extended period of time, you may benefit from getting some support. If you feel you could benefit from my help to unpack all the thoughts and emotions that you’re holding onto, do reach out. 

Transformational coaching sessions help you to create space to be able to listen to what your inner being wants and needs, and allows the Universe to show you the pathway out of overwhelm and back to joy with much more ease.

Feel free to book a no-pressure possibility call with me to discuss how transformational coaching could work for you.

Wishing you joy!

Love, Cathy x


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Cathy portraitHi, I’m Cathy!
I’m an intuitive transformational coach, healer and women’s circle facilitator based in the UK. I support women to move beyond burnout, overwhelm and staying trapped in conditioned ways of being that hold them back or stop them from following their true path. I’m passionate about empowering women to live more authentically, more abundantly and more from their inner power so that they can live a life they love aligned with their highest purpose.


Clients can work with me in person and online globally, through 1-2-1 mentoring programmes, channelled sessions, Transformational Tarot sessions, group programmes, VIP days, workshops, wellbeing days and online courses.

Find out more at my website:


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