The holidays are supposed to be a time of unbridled joy, comforting family time and sentimental sweetness. At least that's what the holiday commercials and after-school specials would have you believe. But what if your holidays just aren't that merry?

Sadness and depression can be hard anytime of the year, but they can feel overwhelming during the holidays. Whether you deal with depression all year long or are hit by a temporary bout due to a loss of a loved one, money troubles, a breakup, or any number of triggers, you should know that you're not alone.

Here's how to manage your depression to help get you through the season feeling more up than down:

1. Acknowledge your feelings

It is OK to feel sad — even when everyone else is overflowing with jolly. Admit what you're feeling and give yourself a break. You cannot force yourself to be happy just because it's the holidays and everyone expects you to be full of joy.

2. Reach out

Call your mother, text your best friend, or reach out to a support group online to share your feelings. Those who love you — or those who have been in a similar situation — will understand your need for support.

3. Make time for yourself

me timeWhen you feel overwhelmed or sad, meditative moments can help you stay focused o what's important. (Photo: Gts/Shutterstock)

Give yourself some extra time to read, relax, meditate, exercise or whatever you need to help you stay calm and focused this time of year. It's easy to get swept up in all of the parties, gift exchanges, shopping and food preparation during the holidays, but feeling overwhelmed will only add to your anxiety. Schedule time for yourself just as you would any activity, and be sure to keep those appointments.

4. Make smart choices with food and alcohol

A glass of wine might take the edge off a bad mood, but half a bottle will only make things worse. The same goes for overindulging in all of those holiday sweets and treats. A little bit of chocolate might boost your mood, but eating the whole box will leave you feeling terrible. Make an effort to drink plenty of water and eat healthy foods each day.

5. Be realistic

Sure, the Joneses may look like they have achieved holiday perfection with their sparkling lights and tree piled up with presents, but this is not the time to start trying to keep up. Enjoy what you have, however big or small that may be.

6. Don't be afraid to say no

Don't agree to join in the Secret Santa gift exchange if you know doing so will add to your financial worries. And feel free to opt out of that holiday party or baking session if you aren't feeling up to it. Don't feel pressured to be in a good mood if what you really need is a break.

7. See the light

Sunlight When the days are shorter, you have to find opportunities to get more sunshine. (Photo: LoloStock/Shutterstock)

Holiday sadness and depression can be compounded by seasonal affective disorder. Try getting outside more often to boost your exposure to sunlight. If that's not an option, consider purchasing a light box to help you get your rays.

8. Make a plan for the big day

Despite the month-long buildup, the actually holiday of Christmas is only 24-hours long. If you're missing a loved one or you're sad for another reason, it might help to have a plan to get you through the day. Consider volunteering, taking a short vacation, or visiting an elderly person. Taking the focus off yourself and putting it on others may help you feel better.