Ten Ways to Make It Through the Holidays Without Having a Breakdown

For the good, and the bad, the holiday season is here. The parties, the cooking, the endless shopping and, of course, all those family functions. And while many people look forward to these events all year, others can't wait for the festivities to be over.

For those people, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's can be downright dreadful and depressing.

"We hold people to an unreasonably high standard during the holidays, said Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist in private practice and Fox News contributor. "When you don't measure up, that can make you judge yourself harshly and become even more dispirited."

To counter this, Ablow suggested being straight with people about your limitations.

"Put people on notice that you don't expect that everything is going to be perfect," he said. "Because that's life and that's family. Most times people are fine with that, and if they're not and they're upset, then those are their own emotions not yours."

Another reason people may have the blues, is the simple changing of the seasons.

"I think there are a couple reasons people get depressed," said Ablow. "These winter months are very difficult for people mood-wise. With winter comes shorter days, less sunlight and this contributes to a lot of mood problems."

In severe cases, these mood changes may be a result of winter depression, or seasonal affective disorder. It's estimated SAD affects as many as 13 million Americans each year. People who suffer from this condition often experience difficulty sleeping, chronic fatigue, irritability and feelings of loneliness or sadness. The good news is there are several treatments out there to help.

According to the Mayo Clinic, it's possible to successfully manage SAD through medication, light therapy and, in milder cases, you may be able to make improvements on your own. Experts suggest spending more time outdoors or sitting closer to bright windows while you're at home or in the office.

Regular exercise is also a good mood booster, noted Ablow.

"Make sure that you pay special attention to maintaining a reasonable exercise level during the holiday season," he said. "Because your mood can slip due to the season itself and exercise can help."

If exercise isn't enough, Ablow ran down a list of things you can do to make it through the holidays without having a breakdown.

Ten Ways to Survive the Holidays

1. Acknowledge that you won't be perfect for the holidays and neither will the events you host or the gifts you buy.

2. Set Structure. No one will be offended if you're up front with them. For example, instead of hosting a dinner party, just have a cocktail party. This will relieve a lot of stress.

3. Again, make sure you keep a regular exercise routine.

4. Have a practical point of view of what you can bear financially. Set a budget and stick to it! It's much better than the fallout of not living within your means.

5. Take a break from trying to right the wrongs of the past with family members at any family event.

6. We all miss loved ones who are not with us anymore during the holidays — but instead of living in the past, give yourself some quiet time to think about the people you miss. This way, the memories will not be preying on you throughout the holiday celebrations.

7. Drink in moderation or not at all. Remember, alcohol is a depressant.

8. Feel free to express your misgivings about the momentum of the holiday season. You have a right to complain. If you don't feel like celebrating, it's O.K. to say that.

9. A lot of stress comes with family and romantic relationships. It's really related to performance anxiety. Tell yourself you don't have to be perfect. It will make things a little easier to handle.

10. Reserve something special for yourself. Buy yourself a gift that you will enjoy. After all, you deserve it.