Not everyone is feeling the holiday spirit this time of year. Depression can strike anyone, even generally cheerful folks, and the stresses of the season can exacerbate existing depression. \u201cHoliday depression is common because people get exhausted preparing, and many feel discouraged and isolated because of family problems,\u201d says psychologist Wyatt Fisher, PsyD. \u201cUnfortunately, this happens around the same time of year when there\u2019s less sunlight and people are experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD).\u201d If you\u2019re feeling blue, the first thing to do is figure out if it is situational, seasonal or a flare-up of a condition you\u2019ve been dealing with. Here are some ways depression manifests: What Is Holiday Depression Syndrome? \tHoliday depression syndrome. Many people are conditioned to want to embrace the holiday spirit but, in reality, financial and family pressures build and people feel overcommitted and overwhelmed. Holiday depression syndrome describes stress and anxiety related to many aspects of the holiday season. \u201cIndividuals may feel sadness or [be in a] depressed mood during the holiday months due to perceived pressure to spend more on gifts and unmet expectations about the holidays,\u201d says Whitney Hawkins, LMFT. She says negative memories about holidays past may contribute to this. \u201cAdditionally, alcohol consumption often rises during the holidays, causing some to partake more than they normally would. This may contribute to family conflict, anxiety, or depressed mood.\u201d For people in recovery and trying to stay sober, that aspect makes it all the more difficult. \tHolidays are a SAD time. Seasonal affective disorder, also known by the acronym SAD, is a recurrent major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern. Those impacted begin to feel the effects of seasonal affective disorder when daylight levels begin to drop in autumn. As the sun sets earlier and the nights grow longer, depression sets in. It lasts through winter. The change of season may disrupt the body's internal clock and sleep patterns and there\u2019s also a biochemical reason for SAD: One study showed significant summer-to-winter differences in the levels of the serotonin transporter (SERT) protein. Increased SERT activity when nights grew longer signified a decreased activity of serotonin. \tHolidays can heighten preexisting conditions. Individuals who struggle with major depressive disorder may find that symptoms can intensify during this time of year. \u201cThe holiday season tends to be a reflective period for individuals and a high-pressure time for families,\u201d says Hawkins. \u201cThe absence of certain family members, or forced quality time with other individuals, can create stress and anxiety.\u201d The season also exacerbates loneliness and loss. Researchers have found they could clearly pinpoint when symptoms were on the rise by measuring an individual\u2019s depressive symptoms during different cycles in the year. Through self-reporting methods, loneliness was revealed to be accentuated during the holidays, which can add to depression symptoms. Tackle Depression Early On Awareness of the different kinds of depression, and when they set in, can help you monitor symptoms, but always check with your physician or a qualified mental health counselor for a diagnosis and to see if adjustments to therapy and medicine are needed. Here are other measures you can take. \tGet outdoors! People are cooped up indoors during the colder months, which adds to depression. \u201cThe sun is the best place to be when fighting holiday depression,\u201d says Aditi Gupta Jha, MD, of JustDoc. \u201cIt\u2019s the best source of vitamin D.\u201d Because the body does not produce as much of that vitamin in winter, people have to make an effort to be energized by light. \u201cSun is a good source because it converts your body's stores of cholesterol into this healthy vitamin,\u201d she says. Research on farmers showed that people who are out in the sun more often have higher vitamin D levels. For those with SAD, light therapy is used to mimic sunlight by exposing people to bright light indoors. \tMove your body. Moving around physically will help fight depression. Research shows a 30-minute walk or jog around the track three times a week may be just as effective in relieving the symptoms of major depression as the standard treatment of antidepressant medications. It can also be effective in heading it off at the pass. \u201cGo for a daily jog, sprint or even a walk,\u201d says Gupta Jha. \u201cIt\u2019s a sure-shot way of giving you that adrenaline rush that helps you sail through the day with happiness.\u201d Make it fun by including music and a dance, she says. Studies reveal that regular leisure-time exercise \u2014 even just one hour a week \u2014 can also prevent depression. \tKeep your routine. Although holiday depression syndrome and seasonal affective disorder can make you want to retreat, curl up into a ball and cry, resist the desire to isolate. Take care of job responsibilities, handle chores and stay connected to friends. \u201cGo to work and do your routine,\u201d says Gupta Jha. Staying active can help energize you for the holiday. \tStay within your budget. Financial woes can cause a great deal of stress. \u201cResist the urge to go into debt for the holidays, which will certainly compound stress and subsequent depression,\u201d says Fisher. Set a budget for gifts, pay in cash and don't go over that amount. You can also try having a shopping buddy who can help brainstorm about gifts and even go shopping with you to make sure you don't overspend. Or keep it simple and within budget by ordering gift cards for loved ones. \tBe realistic and prepared for change. Give up your fantasy of a holiday that looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. \u201cHolidays are frequently stressful with all sorts of pressure,\u201d says David Ezell, MA, MS, LPC, LMHC. With family members often geographically remote, and people having not seen each other for long stretches, coming together for the holidays is intense. It\u2019s also a time when people make big announcements \u2014 like upcoming marriages, pregnancies, and promotions \u2014 because the family is all together. "More potentially troubling announcements \u2014 divorces, family members coming out, confessions of the loss of a job or a disclosure about a serious health concern \u2014 can further complicate an otherwise ideal picture in people\u2019s minds,\u201d says Ezell. Though you may not be able to avoid every holiday depression trigger, Hawkins suggests you do your best to plan for them and make sure to include activities and friends that lift your spirits. Don\u2019t take on more tasks or spending than you can handle and find a way to be grateful for the good parts of the season.