The end of the year is upon us and Christmas is less than two weeks away. Many are hustling and bustling about with parties, shopping and wrapping up not only gifts, but the year at the office as well. Others may be dealing with a health issue, a job loss or a difficult relationship. Where is Joy amidst my circumstances you may ask?

Perhaps Mary asked the same question so many years ago when she, bursting with the child of God within her womb, sat upon a donkey and made the long, strenuous journey to Bethlehem to fulfill the census. Tired, in pain, and uncertain about the future she obeyed the angel of the Lord and submitted to God’s plan for her life. Sometimes life involves circumstances that try to steel our joy, but the good news is: we don’t have to let them.

This week I’m sharing on some techniques I use to maintain my joy. When things are most challenging, it’s easy to lose track of what’s really important and to keep my focus where it should be, I start each week in Advent with the lighting of the Advent candle and meditate on the gift of Christ for that week. This week the focus is on Joy.

So how can we be more joyful during times of peak stress? Here are a few tips 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 stepping back and refocusing 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. People won’t always be on time, say the right thing, or give the perfect 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, making someone laugh is a good way to diffuse the situation.

With a little forethought, it is possible to keep our joy during peak seasons. I’ve shared some tips I hope will help you keep your joy not only during the holidays but every day. Write me and share the techniques you use to maintain your joy.

Until next time, keep your focus on the true gifts of Christmas. Share the joy and above all, keep looking up!

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