The holiday season is in full swing. Anything that can hold a strand of lights is lit up. Christmas tunes are playing in the elevators. And your inbox is full of emails from retailers reminding you of all the gifts you need to buy.

It’s the time of year that also comes with an underlying message that you should be happy, merry and grateful.

But for many people, the holiday season is actually a difficult time of year and brings on the holiday blues.

There are plenty of things that can make you dread the holiday season. The grief over the loss of someone special. Painful memories of past holidays with a family that was far from the one featured in the Norman Rockwell paintings. Or simply feeling that your life and your holiday will never measure up to all those friends of yours on Facebook.

Depression, stress and anxiety are often elevated at this time of the year (you can read more about how to deal with anxiety and panic attacks here). Are you wondering how to beat stress and stop the holiday blues?

Take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. Try these tips I’ve put together tips for coping with and overcoming the blues.

Share how you’re feeling with someone who cares.

I know it can be difficult to share painful emotions because it creates a feeling of vulnerability. However, simply saying out loud how you feel often helps you feel a little bit better. And telling someone you’re in pain allows you to get the love and support you deserve and need. This is definitely the Wise Mind thing to do!

In fact, research shows that expressing your emotions improves relationships, and makes people feel more connected and less alone.

You may be worried that you’ll ruin everyone else’s happy holiday mood, but don’t be. When I suggest trying this to my patients, many of them have found that the response they often get is, “Wow, I feel that way too. I thought I was the only one!”

Create a new tradition.

Instead of recreating the same old celebration that causes you holiday stress and anxiety, why not “reclaim” the holiday for yourself and do something that feels meaningful or pleasurable.

Have you always wanted to skip the uncomfortable, tension-filled family dinner and go to a movie instead? Maybe this is the year you go see The Theory of Everything or The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and stop by to see your family afterwards for dessert.

If you’re grieving a loss, you might want to create a new tradition to remember the person who has died. Making a toast in his or her honor, or hanging a stocking for them keeps them a part of your tradition. Plus it’s a signal to everyone around you that you’re okay with – and even welcome – talking about your loved one.

Feel your distressing emotions and take care of yourself.

Trying to push away your feelings and “hold it all together” often ends up making you feel worse, and can lead to other problems like overindulging with food, alcohol or drugs.

When your feelings are justified, it’s important to allow yourself the time and space to cry, reminisce, and feel your distressing emotions (you can read about the eight emotion families here). You’re going to feel these distressing emotions anyway, so why not set aside time when you don’t have to do anything or be anywhere else and allow yourself to feel bad?

Then, be prepared with what you’re going to do afterwards to self soothe. Call a supportive friend, take a hot bath with a few drops of lavender oil, listen to music you love or watch a movie that you know will make you laugh.

Of course there will be times when you have to keep on going while you’re feeling blue, and sometimes doing the opposite of what you’re feeling can be helpful (you can read my post on opposite actions here).

But if you find that this is all you’re doing, it’s super important that you consciously set aside time for yourself. Even just a few minutes of acknowledging your distressing emotions and practicing self-compassion can make a difference. Plus doing this is mportant to your overall health and well being.

If you’re experiencing the holiday blues, it might also be a good time to start a mindfulness meditation practice. You can try one of my guided meditations here.

Please let me know how these tips worked for you and leave a message in the comment section below.