High expectations for the holidays can often turn out to be a little ho-hum.
"I do have family that live in other states. Sometimes the holidays are hard when I'm here mostly on my own," said Julie Perkins.
The Christmas season isn't what it used to be for Julie Perkins of Altadena.
For many the contrast between the image of holiday joy and the reality of our lives can be an annual downer. It can bring up many buried emotions.
"Or they remember really, really bad and difficult holidays when they were children, and that sort of unresolved grief sticks with them," said family therapist John Tsilimparis.
Tsilimparis says it's important to realize bad feelings aren't the real problem. They're a symptom of the problem. He's a big believer in talking out what's bothering you and he advises his patients to "go with the flow."
"The saying is 'You can't swim in the same river twice.' So it's not always going to be the same. It's always going to be different," said Tsilimparis. "And one has to accept that."
Symptoms of holiday blues include sadness, stress, agitation and fatigue. Experts advise seeking professional help when you find you're losing interest in things you normally enjoy, when you can't concentrate, or you can't sleep.
The extra demands on our attention, energy and finances often add to stress.
In this hectic holiday season, experts say, give yourself a break. Do things that will help with your mental and physical well-being: yoga, exercise, massage, any activity that will help calm you down and give you perspective on what's really important in life.
"I guess I'm older now, where I am more realistic about the holidays," said Perkins. "A little bit more time off and more relaxation time. And I don't expect so much out of it anymore."
Experts say keeping expectations realistic may help you find the true meaning of the season.