It’s the most wonderful time of the year… right?

woman gazing over food not eating - symptoms of the holiday bluesNot so fast. For a lot of us, the typical activities this time of year can stir up the holiday blues. And for those already struggling with issues such as depression or anxiety, holiday pressure can make things worse. Feeling overwhelmed by the to-do list, worrying about strained relationships playing out across the holiday table, stressing about money, missing loved ones, or lacking sunshine can all conspire to make even the most jovial person wish for January to get here fast.

If this describes you, take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone, and there are steps you can take to feel better.

Set realistic expectations for yourself and others.

Not everyone has to have a Pinterest-worthy holiday. It’s okay to pick a couple of things that are especially meaningful to you and view everything else as gravy. If you are used to carrying the weight of the holiday on your shoulders, consider delegating. It will alleviate the pressure on you and give you the chance to share preparations with people you love.

Remember that the past is in the past.

Trying to recreate holidays from years gone by will not likely be successful. Children grow up and have families of their own. Parents grow old and find it difficult to travel. Life is constantly changing – acknowledging this fact will help you embrace the holidays as they are, not how you wish they still were.

Don’t over-indulge.

This goes for food, drink, and spending, too! These are common ways to self-medicate at this time of year, but they almost always make us feel worse after the fact. Stick to a plan that lets you enjoy the festivities and feel good about them the next day.

Try something new.

Volunteering is a good way to get out of the doldrums and make yourself and others feel better. Try a tradition from another culture, or create a new tradition with people who reduce the stress in your life.

Remember that help is available if things feel too overwhelming. If you feel sad or hopeless it may be more than the holiday blues. It can cause changes in your sleeping patterns, appetite, daily activities, ability to concentrate, or self-esteem. Such symptoms can be a sign of depression or even seasonal affective disorder (SAD) brought on by decreased daylight in the winter months. These disorders can cause you to feel guilty or worthless, to gain or lose weight, or to fail to take care of your usual responsibilities.  Call your health care provider to discuss these issues and take steps toward feeling better before things get too overwhelming.

Finally, if you have any thoughts of suicide,  please visit your nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) to talk to caring, trained volunteers who will listen and direct you to the help you need any time of year.