THIS time each year, stress mounts up as we are pressed by so many items in our to-do list. Expectations are high too from those who are under our “domain”—individuals we influence or who influence us, subordinates, and dependents. For those active in the workforce, there is stress coming from “the boss,” deadlines, quotas set for sales, performance rating, etc. Yet another stressor are unpaid debts and belligerent collectors, or huge cash deficit—spending much greater than cash coming in. For those with business and employees, there is the stress of sourcing continuing capital, and enough fund to pay not only minimum wage but this month, the 13th month and bonuses.
Stress can go on and on this season, one stressor piling after the other, and you reason, “Kaya ko pa”, so you take on more challenges and pressures, until, burnout sets in. You cease to be joyful, become cynical, unmindful of your loved ones, easily irritated, explodes with the least provocation, feeling tired and listless, almost all the time.
Commonly, depression sets in where stress becomes unbearable. I have read a number of feeds from Facebook friends expressing, feeling depressed and not knowing why. Stress unrecognized can easily graduate into depression, especially if one carries many responsibilities, or concerns. Many find pressures mounting each Christmas. But for tens of thousands of Filipinos ravaged by Typhoon Tisoy in the Visayas, and the devastating earthquake in Mindanao, the loss of houses, crops and livestock, are heavy loads weighing them down. In Samar alone, strong winds and heavy rains on December 1, destroyed 24,316 houses and left 28 towns without electricity. Occidental Mindoro, Catanduanes, Albay, Marinduque provinces are as in great want for shelters to be built after Typhoon Tisoy wiped out all their bare holdings. Far worse are the folks of still flooded Cagayan and Isabela, no houses to go back to, no crops to harvest for food and cash to tide them over this December.
Who cannot be touched by a man of the house in Albay, shifting from nervous smile to tears, expressing despair and vain hope that President Duterte then visiting his province, would take note of their great want for materials to build their homes again, and food. What is really tragic is that for men like this who have lost everything, the few pesos left is spent for alcohol to keep them warm, and to forget their woes.
Depression—that gnawing feeling of emptiness, hopelessness, and despair manifests in sleepless nights, and great weariness is inevitable in such grievous state. Yet, ironically, there are as many depressed persons in the midst of plenty, nice comfit homes, and good food. For depression knows no person, nor status. In fact, many individuals coming from rich homes, and leaving the life of plenty are depressed, leaving meaningless lives, turning to drugs for relief from their misery.
Stress, depression, and Christmas, where lies the connection? If you go back to the root of Christmas, it is all about Immanuel, God with us—the babe who was born to die, that through his death, we may be saved, and find life everlasting. In the words of a contemplative Franciscan priest, Fr. Richard Rohr, “The loving message of the Divine Incarnation is bigger than just one man. It is the ultimate character of all reality, including each one of us in community as the ongoing Body of Christ. From Richard’s recent book, The Universal Christ, he writes, “Incarnation is the oldest Christian story. Through Christ, God is pouring God’s self into all creation. To be Christian, then, is to see Christ in everything.”
This Christmas 2019, why not “see Christ” in the devastation of Typhoon Tisoy, among the suffering, hungry, homeless victims? You want to be relieved of the ennui, the great void or sense of nothingness and meaninglessness, the sleepless nights, and downright gloom and doom, think of others, dig into you what you have stored or saved, and then give liberally, not thinking of the returns, nor praises. See Christ in the cries of the poor, hapless victims of the typhoons and earthquake, give. Go out of the comfort of your home, go to the slums of Banago, or the poor fisherfolks’ huts, give! Then you will find a new surge of joy, God’s presence. As St.Francis wrote, “it is in giving that we receive.”