For many, the holiday season is a source of dread. Between finances, travel, family, and seasonal depression, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is considered the toughest.

People with estranged family or who have lost loved ones may find the holiday season particularly lonely or stressful, as the emphasis on togetherness and tradition intensifies painful memories and emotions. On the flip side, family gatherings may open old wounds that parents or siblings have inflicted on one another. Anticipation of drama may snowball into anxiety or episodes of depression.

Some have a fear of traveling, while others simply can’t afford it. In general, the holidays usher in financial stress for many people whether they’re traveling or not.

Additionally, seasonal depression might affect someone more than anything else. According to Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, formerly of the National Institute of Mental Health, six percent of Americans experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), exhibiting worsening symptoms of depression as the days grow darker and shorter. SAD begins in late fall or early winter and eases up at the onset of spring.

Fortunately, there are several ways to cope with both the holiday blues and SAD. Rather than bottling them up, emotions are safely expressed and managed when they are acknowledged as they occur. In this situation, self- compassion is key. It’s easy to shame or berate oneself, but such feelings are normal and, most importantly, valid.

Some individuals spiral into a rabbit hole of triggering thoughts and emotions which may or may not be connected to the issue at hand. For example, “I can’t afford this for my family” segues into “I’m not good enough” when there’s really no correlation. When this happens, the brain shoots off a succession of panic alarms that overshadow practical resolution. This is called rumination.

The University of Southern California has a free online mindfulness toolkit ( resources/) for those who struggle with their emotions. The toolkit features guided meditations that allow one to assess their mind-state and make adjustments toward stability, focus, and calm. The natural inclination while depressed is to self-isolate, but it’s important to reach out to a therapist or trusted friend or loved one. Acceptance of oneself and others during this time is crucial, as judgment triggers negative emotions.

As far as finances go, find creative, thoughtful, or homemade gifts that won’t break the bank. Know your limits, financially, and emotionally, and be aware of when it’s time to say “no.” Avoid drugs, alcohol, or any overindulgence, as this will add to any guilt or sadness already felt.

The holidays don’t have to be the best time of the year, but they also certainly don’t have to be the worst.