Depression and anxiety happen at any time of the year, but the stress of the holiday season, difficult family relationships and high expectations can make anyone feel sad and anxious. Holiday depression is not a clinical diagnosis, however many people suffer through the holidays. The short days, lack of adequate sunshine (vitamin D), poor eating habits, drinking too much, spending too much and of course the expectations that all will be merry and bright can make anyone feel like crawling under the covers until the New Year.

Turn on the TV and you’ll see constant reminders that your holiday doesn’t measure up. So what can you do to avoid feeling as if you’ve failed the holiday season?

It’s Not Real – Remind yourself that what you see on TV, social media, advertisements etc isn’t real. Most people don’t live in a Normal Rockwell painting. Most people have the same or similar holidays that you have. Don’t compare yourself or your family to the ones that have been crafted for the media. They’ve been created to sell a product or service, they are not real.

Don’t Compare Your Worst to Their Best – What you see on Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc isn’t really real either. It certainly isn’t worth comparing your worst day to their best. Status updates are crafted to present the best of the poster. That photo of the happy family in front of the Christmas tree smiling and wearing matching holiday sweaters was probably taken in July, took more than 10 shots to capture just the perfect look and was not even remotely spontaneous. Don’t compare your life with others. If it makes you happy to dress up your dogs and take a picture, go for it, but do it because it makes you happy, as it should, dogs are awesome.

Call for Help – If you feel like you’re slipping into a depression, call for help. Talk to a therapist, counselor or psychologist as soon as possible. The act of talking to another person, especially a professional can be most therapeutic and cathartic. Knowing you have someone in your corner to help you through the darkness that envelopes some of us during the holidays can be just what you need to survive the season.

Take Care of Yourself – Don’t spread yourself too thin. If you’re one of those people who takes it all on – shopping, cooking, wrapping, planning and entertaining – take a step back and decide which activities you really want to do and which you can do without. Don’t burn the candle at both ends this holiday season. Take some time to unwind each day so you can face the new day with vigor and enthusiasm.

Set Realistic Expectations – Families are complicated. There are no perfect families so stop thinking there are, but you just didn’t get one. Set realistic expectations about gathering with family. Try to steer clear of discussions that can become heating – usually politics. If you find yourself becoming upset excuse yourself from the discussion and focus on something else. Take a few deep breaths and change the subject. Accept that things will go wrong this holiday season and laugh if you can. A pie will get burned, someone won’t like the potatoes and you’ll never make everyone happy at the same time. Do your best, and assume everyone is doing their best, and you’ll manage the holidays better.

If you are unable to manage your holiday depression and feel like you might harm yourself call 911 or the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.