Christmas ushers in the holiday cheer, but also the “ber month burnout”
We’re all familiar with the Christmas rush: the busy streets, mega sales, campus finals season, last-minute corporate deadlines—you get the picture. For the rest of the world, this busy season begins in late November, but (un)luckily for the modern-day Filipino, the Christmas rush happens on the first of September as soon as this iconic man pops up.
Usually, Jose Mari Chan’s cheerful grin sends a signal of pure joy straight to my brain—like that feeling of holiday delight back in my innocent youth. But recently, something feels off. I once associated this season with rest and enjoyment, but now I find myself squeezing whatever life I have left in me just to get through the last few months of the year. And so now I’m wondering: what changed? Why am I and a bunch of my peers suddenly displaced from the joy that the Christmas spirit’s supposed to bring, only to find ourselves chugging our fifth coffee of the day, grappling at the bits and pieces of sanity left within? If you resonate, I invite you to explore the “ber month burnout” phenomenon with me.
A headstart we didn’t ask for
Four months of Christmas rush can’t be good for anyone
As soon as September kicks in, it’s pretty amusing how the streets of Manila transform almost instantly—parols all around, Christmas lights in the distance, and a faint “Iiiii don’t want a lot for Christmaaas…” coming from a karaoke machine from who knows where. Don’t get me wrong, the Filipino Christmas spirit is something I adore, but with it comes this surging emotion that I can only describe as a blend of anxiety, pressure and maybe a bit of fear, too.
@juliediemaus The Chistmas frenzy starts NOW #paristomanila #philippines #filipinochristmas ♬ original sound – Julie | Frenchie in Manila
Almost as if on cue, the holiday rush enters with a bang, starting with the first wave of university exams and the beginning of Black Friday campaigns. If you ask me, it’s almost as if the early entry of Filipino Christmas culture simply serves as a reminder to stay mentally stable during times of unparalleled stress. So maybe it’s this mix of cheerful Christmas sounds and visuals amidst the stress-inducing surroundings that turns the jingling of bells into a ragged heartbeat of confused and unsettling panic as the pressure to meet deadlines presses on.
But maybe this is strategic. After all, what else is there for us to look forward to during the peaks of our ber month mental turmoil? So, while our senses get distracted by Christmas carols, the rest of our system runs on autopilot to get us through the next 121 days of madness. But the hellish work that awaits is just the first dip into the ocean of full-fledged ber month burnout; wait until you peep into your bank account…
Financial distress is real
We’re officially adulting
As someone who just entered her 20s, I think it’s safe to say that I’m just about set to begin my journey to #adulting and welcome my era of financial independence. But if I’m being honest, taking one good look at my spending habits is enough proof that the ber months have not been kind to my poor wallet. With the terrible state of the economy cracking down on prices, I cannot believe my audacity to consider buying more things I don’t need simply because a pretty red tag says it’s on Christmas sale. Coupled with the whole branding of the season centered on giving gifts to loved ones, it’s a major setback to whatever responsible financial management should look like.
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I’ve genuinely asked myself, “How does anyone keep a savings account during this season and in this economy?” With prices only rising and expenses multiplying, the new-found purchasing power you’re given in your 20s can only mean one thing: decision fatigue. On top of deadlines and work lines stretching you to the seams come the plethora of decisions you must make regarding your finances. Should I get that cute top for my mom? What should I get my Secret Santa? Should I buy that ornament for my Christmas tree? It’s 50% off! Suddenly, your money problems pile onto the humongous load you’re already suffering under.
@streamarianahoe love u whitney #whitneyhouston #nomoney #meme #DoritosTriangleTryout #fyp #streamarianahoe2 ♬ som original – Whitney Houston Fan
Salvage mode: on
Hence, the ultimate burnout of the season
Enter the cherry on top to seal the ber month burnout deal: a curated list of things to do before the year ends. That’s right, the piece of paper you had stuck on your corkboard the whole year that you never got to accomplish is now staring at you right in the face. One question remains: Are you going to do it? All of it? Depending on how extreme you are, you’ll probably start filling up every part of your Google Calendar with blockers to achieve what you can. Be it that trip to Enchanted Kingdom with your high school friends or speed running your empty bullet journal with pictures you’ve collected over the months, you’re in frenzy salvage mode. And trust me, if your work and financial crisis combo didn’t already do a number on you, this definitely will.
@hope_schwingUh oh. Better luck next year♬ OH MA GAWD – meg
We’re so caught up on making each year the best year of our lives—I mean, for the sake of positive progression, am I right? And each year, we make new resolutions and expectations for ourselves to meet, almost like we’re corporatizing our growth—setting key performance indicators, strategizing roadmaps and vision boards and even plotting objectives to achieve maximum growth potential. But let’s face it; we don’t have all the time in the world to rigorously keep track of our growth. And to be honest, I don’t know if we’d want to do so (it can get pretty toxic). But of course, we do it anyway. We pressure ourselves to be the better version of who we were last year. And because we’re already so burned out, we’re disillusioned to believe that we’re nowhere near as good as we once were and set off into the depths of self-defined defeat.
Then…BAM! Just like that, you’ve just achieved ber month burnout! Now, we’re all just crawling inch by inch to the sweet release of Christmas Eve and the beginning of the new year (where everything magically resets and we’re suddenly okay again).
Does the suffering end?
Only if you acknowledge it
You must be asking yourself, “What’s the point of trying to cope with burnout if we’re bound to the same fate at the end of every year?” Well, if there’s anything I learned as someone who dances at the edge of burnout all year round (I know, I’m working on fixing that), is that you have to face your tiredness head-on. Acknowledging that you are stretched to your capacity is the first step to being the bigger person against your own suffering. Remember that most of the pressure we feel is self-induced, meaning you can take ownership of it and do with it as you please. Sulk if you must, complain if you must. Cry out all you want because maybe all our weary hearts need is to be seen for what it is: tired and on the verge of breaking.
@tutiandyuki it’s okay to feel tired #tired #cat #therapy #meow #cute #catmeow #mentalhealthawareness #positivity ♬ Everything Works Out in the end instrumental – scars
So have we figured out why we’re so tired this season? Maybe we have. And hopefully, we can be brave enough to acknowledge that we are tired, even if we can’t do much to change it. After all, our factory reset is only a couple more days away as the start of 2024 greets us with a breath of fresh air and new beginnings. Now, let’s all hope next year’s ber months are kinder to us than the ones before.
Words Vanessa Tiong
Art Macky Arquilla