Road trips, family togetherness, chilly weather, parties and plenty of food -- what's not to love about the holiday season?

There can be plenty, according to counseling professionals.

In fact, some of the very things that make this time of year joyous for some can contribute to significant stress, even depression for others.

For starters, even just the shortness of the days can cause moodiness and negative feelings, according to Leah Fondaw, a licensed clinical social worker with Four Rivers Behavioral Health.

"We're in the house more, there's not the sunshine," she said, adding that, for those suffering from depression already, the winter months can exacerbate the condition.

Fondaw added that many people also experience grief around the holidays, especially if they've lost a family member or loved one.

"It can be a barrier to some people getting to enjoy the holidays," she said.

Fondaw suggested that, rather than trying to deny or hide the grief, or deal with it in negative ways, people could find positive ways to acknowledge and deal with the sadness.

"A big thing we talk about is maybe doing something in memory of your loved one."

She suggested perhaps lighting a candle in the person's memory, donating to a charity in their honor or donating to a charity in their name.

"It's a way to express that grief, but in a positive way that can bring you comfort."

Fondaw said, in addition to grief or depression, many factors can contribute to holiday-related stress, including pressure to have "perfect" experiences.

"The whole holiday is doing, doing, doing, but they never really get to enjoy," Fondaw said.

"Stop yourself, look around and be truly present in that moment," she said, adding that for people with packed schedules, scheduling downtime with no expectations is important.

She also suggested strict budgeting to alleviate financial stress -- an especially common form of stress as Christmas nears -- and understanding that there's no shame in not being rich enough to buy everyone on your list an expensive present.

"Not everybody can afford gifts," she said.

And with people often forced indoors because of the weather, and personality conflicts and other disagreements coming into play between family members who may not usually associate, gatherings have the potential to devolve into nasty arguments or even physical altercations.

Fondaw said making and enforcing boundaries is key to avoiding those situations.

"Make sure that other people's behavior does not control your behavior," she said.

"If you can go through and be who you want to be regardless of how everyone else is acting … you've got control of yourself."

And if a situation is getting too out of hand, she suggested just walking away from the confrontation.

And whether it's eggnog or flaming rum punch, office parties and family affairs often feature alcohol, which, in addition to potentially exacerbating or causing conflicts, can also pose difficult situations for those pursuing sobriety.

"If they have a support person who knows that they're trying not to drink, make sure you have that person to call," Fondaw said.

She said Alcoholics Anonymous meets every day in Paducah, and can accommodate anyone who needs support.

In general, whatever the stressor, Fondaw said that thought control is key to emotional control, which is necessary for behavior control.

"If your thoughts are negative, your mood will be negative, and that comes out in your behavior," she said.

"Make sure you're seeking to find the positive, and whatever you're looking for you're going to find."

In case of an immediate crisis, the Four Rivers crisis line can be reached at 800-592-5980.

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