ST PAUL, Minn — The holiday blues are not the same as Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is the type of depression linked to lack of sun exposure. Rather, the holiday blues come specifically during the holiday season.

Sue Abderholden is executive director of NAMI Minnesota, the local office for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

She says the following factors may contribute to the holiday blues:

The pressure to be perfect

"We place a lot of pressure on ourselves to have a perfect holiday. The food is going to be perfect, the decorations are going to be perfect."

Money

"When we overspend to put ourselves into debt to have a perfect holiday, whatever the holiday is, it's just not a good thing. You're just creating more stress for yourself in the future."

All the noise, noise, noise!

"People who are not an extrovert, being with people all the time, whether it's parties and family getting together, it can just be too much."

Loss

"If someone lost someone within the last year or two, those first kind of anniversaries without the individual, whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, those are really difficult times for people." 

Alcohol

"Alcohol is a depressant but we tend to actually have a lot of alcohol at parties and celebrations."

Sleep

"How many people have stayed up really late and then to open the gifts early in the morning with toddlers and they can barely keep their eyes open and they're not enjoying it?"

"We know that sleep is really important to dealing with stress so if we're not getting enough sleep because we're staying up late, whether it's wrapping or baking, or cooking, that's not really good. You're going to be more stressed and not be able to handle things."

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Here's what Abderholden says you can try doing to beat the holiday blues:

Embrace imperfection

"We just have to be gentle with ourselves say hey, you know, we did the best that we could."

Spend within your means

"It's really about being with family and friends and kind of that joy and togetherness and it's not all the material things. It's not the perfect food."

Take "me time" during preparations and even at gatherings 

"Take that 15 minutes that you need, hide in the bathroom, you know, whatever it is to take that time for yourself."

For those who are grieving, set an intentional plan

"We do encourage people to think about perhaps a new tradition to get through the holiday. Or, you know, if you don't want to celebrate this year, just don't celebrate."

Choose healthy foods and drinks

"Be careful with alcohol."

Be active

"Whether it's taking a walk around your block, on your treadmill, just dancing in front of the TV or some music, doing those kinds of things gets the endorphins moving in your brain and that can be really helpful as well."

The holiday blues should let up after the holidays. If not, you might have a different type of depression. It's never too early to visit a mental health professional to figure out what's going on.

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