During the holidays, it’s easier than at other times to become sad or depressed. Holiday time is when our thoughts turn to family and friends. It’s a time when we feel our need to be surrounded by people whom we love and who love us. It’s when we miss people who are no longer with us, when we have the time to call up memories, and when we often feel badly about ourselves and our lives. It’s when we may have feelings about wanting to have a perfect life and feeling defective for the fact that our life is far from perfect.

This is particularly so because of what we are told—through social media, through advertising, and through generally accepted tradition. The message is that everyone is truly happy. Everyone lives a life that has an abundance of friends and family, without ill-will, struggle or strife. The message is that you, too, should get with the program. Why isn’t your life perfect?

Of course, your life isn’t perfect. No one’s life is! And of course, you realize that “perfection” isn’t really the goal. It just looks good on television. But perhaps you are feeling some emotional pain because your marriage is struggling. Perhaps your parents are not in good health. Perhaps you’re lonely and haven’t been able to create strong relationships. A job, a family member, a housing situation, a crisis of any sort—all of these and more can cause emotional pain which makes us vulnerable and susceptible to depression during the holidays.

What to do? How to lift your spirits? How to counter the sense that everyone else is utterly content with their lives and I’m the only one struggling?

Self-care is almost a cliché, but I write about it because when we’re feeling lost and unimportant, the ability to give to ourselves becomes very important. If you can manage to override the voices in your head telling you that you don’t deserve it, or can’t manage the time, or shouldn’t, see if you can take note of them, acknowledge them, and then put them to the side. They’re not going to disappear easily and most likely will return again. However, if you can carve out a little breathing room for yourself, you can engage in self-care, and give yourself some joy. If you’re able to do that, you’re going to feel the pleasure of having given yourself something meaningful.

It’s an odd thing, but generosity toward the self can lead you to hold a less self-critical view of yourself. It can lead you to think kindlier about yourself, and to viewing yourself with greater respect and even love. Even the smallest improvement in how you see yourself will give you a real boost in mood or self-esteem. So, see if you can take that first important step of giving to yourself. You deserve it.