Although the holidays are filled with sights and sounds of happiness and cheer, often, many of us are left feeling less than joyful around the holiday season that stretches from Thanksgiving to the New Year.

This common experience is often the compilation of spending more money gift giving, the stress of entertaining, and for some of us, spending time with family members that are not so pleasant to be around. Any one of these factors is enough to push someone feeling emotionally vulnerable over the edge.

Although the best solution seems to include indulging in a month long vacation to Tahiti, what are the rest of us to do when we can’t avoid this time of the year and all it brings?

Plan, Plan, Plan

Think about what was stressful about last year, and make adjustments. Create a budget for what you can spend and stick to it. Carve out days/times to shop, cook or clean. Plan out how you will manage that annoying relative. If your aunt seems to always criticize you, find a seat at the opposite end of the table. We can’t always control what people say or do, but we can try to set ourselves up for the best possible scenario. If she still manages to make a dig, manage your reaction, pull her aside and tell her how it makes you feel. Let her know what you would like to see happen instead, i.e. “If you have a concern about my boyfriend, will you bring it up after he leaves next time?” But most importantly, and if you can, plan to spend time with the people who make you happy.

Stick to Your Routine

Many of us abandon our routine of going to the gym, watching what we eat and getting a full nights rest around the holidays. This type of change is enough to throw us off balance. After all, exercise, nutrition and sleep are what keeps us energized, focused and prevents sickness, so we can be productive. We need all of these things working in our favor during the busy season.

Create a New Tradition

Just because you usually host holiday gatherings doesn’t meant that you have to be “Martha Stewart” again this year. Ask someone else in your family to host the holiday party. If that isn’t possible, ask relatives to bring a covered dish to cut down on costs and time in the kitchen cooking and cleaning.

Get Social

If you find yourself falling into a slump during the holidays, try to get out and be social. Being around our friends and loved ones can improve our mood drastically. Allowing yourself to stay isolated is a breading ground for more feelings of sadness and depression.cranberries

Lay off the Alcohol

Even though it may seem easier to deal with Uncle Bob with a couple glasses of eggnog in your system, it also makes you susceptible to more emotional distress. Alcohol by nature is a depressant, and for anyone who has experienced drinking too much, you know that it kick starts depressive symptoms and a cycle of more self-medicating behaviors.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

The holidays can stir up feelings of grief if you have lost a loved one. Naturally, some of us attempt to push these feelings away and try to avoid them altogether. However, these reactions are normal, and burying them will just create spill over and begin to impact your mood and behavior. Instead, acknowledge the way you feel. Just the act of stating how you feel can be therapeutic and may help you move through the various aspects of your grief.

Help Others

There is a reason people tend to give more during this time of the year, and believe it or not, it has more to do with feeling good personally than anything else. Research indicates that giving to others has a positive impact on how we feel about ourselves. And, giving time can be very valuable. We often have a lot to give and to be thankful for, and sometimes it takes helping others to recognize our blessings.

If you’re feeling sad or depressed for more than two weeks, and nothing is helping to make you feel better, don’t hesitate to get help. Click here to find help near you.