Christmas  is a few days away and the extra activities, demands, and social interactions are beginning to wear on people. Fuses are short and patience is at a premium. The needle on the joy meter is quivering. All the more reason to make time to consciously focus on the fourth gift of Advent: the gift of Love.

Love and joy go hand in hand. I find I am most joyful when I am loving and vice versa. If my joy tank is low, chances are my love tank is as well. Stress tends to deplete our joy if we allow it. An unexpected bad news phone call, someone running late, a harsh word spoken can all steal the joy from a wonderful day.

So how can we be more loving during times of peak stress? Here are a few tips on loving myself and others I’ve learned over the years that help me keep my joy level up and my stress level down.

1. Learn to say that two-letter word “NO”. I only accept offers and invitations my heart is into. Say NO to everything else.

2.  Ditch the guilt.  When I say NO, I am being loving by being true to my values. I don’t need to feel guilty for declining an invitation, not sending Christmas cards or not baking a gazillion cookies. If I feel stressed doing something, it’s just not worth it.

3.  Look at the big picture. I ask myself this question “What’s really important here?” When the stress level rises, it is easy to get bent out of shape over trivial things. Our logical brains go haywire and we can’t think straight. By keeping my focus on the big picture, I can find joy in any situation and act in a loving manner.

4. Overlook people’s mistakes. We are all human. We won’t always be on time, say the right thing, or give the right gift. Let things go quickly and don’t dwell on what someone said or did that really won’t matter tomorrow anyway. Focus on the positives of your friends and relatives.

5.  Learn to lighten up. Make people laugh. Tell a funny story and a joke that doesn’t offend anyone. Laughter raises the joy level. When tensions rise, saying those three little words “I love you”  can go a long way towards restoring peace and harmony in a relationship.

We need to be alert and on guard  so we don’t allow stress to get the better of us especially during stressful times. I’ve shared some tips I use to maintain joy and feel more loving. What techniques do you have to maintain your joy during stressful times?

Until next time, keep the focus this week on the true gifts of Christmas and share the joy and the love!

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