1. If you're on medication, make sure to take each and every dose as prescribed. If you're seeing a counselor, keep each appointment, or request a couple of extra appointments, as needed.
2. Make a special effort to take good care of your physical well-being by eating healthy, getting some exercise each day, and getting enough rest and sleep. When you cannot sleep, get up and do something peaceful and relaxing rather than lying awake tossing and turning. Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol, or fat and sugar laden holiday goodies. If you're on medication, avoid drinking any alcohol at all, as the combination can be deadly.
3. Define for yourself the true spirit of the holidays, rather than allowing others to define it for you. Give up trying to live up to the expectations of others when they tax you or make no sense to you.
4. Speaking of expectations, keep your own realistic. Embrace the warmth and beauty of the season without thinking of it as a magic cure or vacation from depression. Do what you can, what you love, and what you can afford and let go of the rest, even if what you let go are long-standing traditions.
5. Do make good use of the special holiday music and lighting to help you feel good. Allow yourself some alone time or time with a special person to soak up the atmosphere.
6. Consciously set aside any differences you might have with family or minimize contact with "toxic" people.
7. Pare down your holiday work load, so that the stress won't increase any tendency to become more depressed. Perfection is unattainable, so let go of the extras that don't really matter. You can shop online, for instance, or try something new, such as hosting Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant this year. Tradition is wonderful, but again, keep your expectations of yourself and the holidays realistic. Don't be afraid to initiate new traditions.
8. The best way to help yourself is to help others, so volunteer to deliver Christmas boxes to those less fortunate, or lend a hand at the local soup kitchen. Other ways to help: donate canned goods to food banks, buy a toy to donate to the drives that help children or those in poverty. When you help others have a merrier Christmas, you, too, will have a merrier Christmas.
9. Delegate or ask for help if you're hosting the Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year or Kwanzaa celebrations this year. Whatever you celebrate, make it simple, or ask Aunt Helen and Uncle Joe to help with the decorations. Request that each person attending your party bring a snack, beverage, or dish to pass.
10. To cope with the absence of loved ones who've passed on, remember or honor them in ways that are meaningful to you. Offer a special toast in a loved one's memory. Write a poem or essay for them in your journal or on your blog. Place a Christmas bouquet at a loved one's burial site.
11. When it comes to all the parties and gatherings held during the holidays, don't overbook yourself. Attend only the ones that mean the most to you, or leave early if you need to.
12. Resist the temptation to spend more than you can afford. Look for sales online and off, check clearance aisles, or give homemade gifts this year. Pare down your Christmas card list, as well.