12/04/2022

Feeling Blue in May? You’ve Got Japan’s May Blues, Gogatsubyo

Ever felt the Monday blues? That feeling of dread when you wake up on Monday morning, followed by feelings of sadness, anxiety and overall stress for the whole Monday. That’s pretty much what Gogatsubyo is. In this article, we’ll explain what Japan’s May Blues are, what caused it, how to prevent the blues, and what to do if you’ve got them. 


Table of Contents

  1. What’s Gogatsubyo?
    1. Symptoms of Gogatsubyo
  2. Cause of Japan’s May Blues
    1. Who's more likely to get May Blues?
  3. May Blues Prevention Methods
  4. What to do if you’ve got the May Blues? 
    1. Can I just ignore it?
  5. Takeaway

What’s Gogatsubyo?

Gogatsubyo (五月病) is a seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known as seasonal depression, that afflicts people during the changing of seasons. Gogatsubyo directly translates to 「May Sickness」but is more commonly known as May blues or May depression. 

As we all know, March/April is a particularly busy time in Japan with many events. Example:

  • Businesses - tax season, closing account books

  • Schools - new school year, school entrance ceremony

  • Companies - changing departments, fresh graduates start their first jobs

After around a month of adapting to a new lifestyle, Golden Week (a stretch of public holidays starting 29 April) comes along giving everybody a chance for a break. Gogatsubyo is the after-holiday blues that sets in after Golden Week ends and everyone has to go back to work / school. 

Seasonal depression is not limited to the month of May. It can happen at any time when there is a change of environment, many people experience winter depression due to the gloomy weather and lack of sunlight. There are also people that experience it after year end new year (年末年始 nenmatsu-nenshi) and obon (お盆). 

Don’t know what Golden Week is? Read this article:
Golden Week, Saving Grace for Japan’s Working Class

Golden Week is a stretch of public holidays in Japan that crosses from the last week of April to the first week of May. For many of the working class in Japan, it is the ultimate opportunity to catch a break from work to go for a much-needed holiday, visit to hometown, or just rest at home to avoid the golden week crowds. In this post, we explain what exactly GW is, providing a breakdown on the public holidays that make up the week.

Symptoms of Gogatsubyo

Symptoms of May blues may include any, all, or a combination of the following:

  • Anxiety

  • Appetite Changes

  • Carelessness

  • Depression

  • Difficulty Concentrating

  • Insomnia

  • Irritable

  • Lethargy

  • Lose Interest in Hobbies

  • Mood Swings

  • Oversleeping / Difficulty Getting Up

  • Restlessness

Cause of Japan’s May Blues

You may be wondering, “Isn’t it weird to feel depressed after a nice long holiday?”

It’s really not. A lot of people underestimate how stressful it is to adapt to a new environment, be it starting a new job, starting school, and taking on new responsibilities. When you first enter your new surroundings, no matter how hard it is you’ll grit your teeth and try your hardest. 

At just the right time, Golden Week holidays give everyone a much-deserved break. However! The sudden slowing down of your hectic lifestyle gives an opportunity for the accumulated stress and fatigue to burst out. When it comes time to return to work / school, many people find it difficult to readjust back. 

Who's more likely to get May blues? 

Not everybody is afflicted with gogatsubyo, as it really depends on each person’s stress tolerance and personalities. However, there are certain groups of people who should watch out for May blues.

New Environment and Responsibilities

  • Fresh graduate employees starting a new job

  • People changing jobs, changing departments, changing schools

  • Students starting the new school year including international students that just came to Japan

  • Change of lifestyle 

and more.

Personalities and Individual Characteristics Prone to Gogatsubyo

  • Introverts

  • Perfectionists

  • Self-conscious / Low Confidence

  • Meticulous

  • Sensitive

  • Pessimistic 

  • Easily Anxious 

If you fit any of the above, try including some de-stressing / stress coping mechanisms into your life. Even if you don't get gogatsubyo, these are good to have anyway. 

May Blues Prevention Methods

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to any affliction including the May blues. To prevent May depression, the most important thing is to not accumulate stress. A change in mentality when adjusting to your new environment also goes a long way, like having a more positive outlook, not sweating the small details, and not overthinking and magnifying mistakes you’ve made or people’s comments. 

Humans are fundamentally creatures of habit that thrive on routines and a structured lifestyle. Which is why incorporating stress and fatigue coping methods into our everyday lives is the most effective way to prevent seasonal depression like gogatsubyou. Here are some suggestions on what to add to your routine: 

Hobby Time

Reading, painting, cooking, or even just a walk in the park. At least once a week, take extended time to do something that makes you happy. You can do it with a friend or just have some alone time.

Exercise Time

Regular exercise is not just good for your body, it is also excellent to relieve stress and mental tension. Endorphins (feel-good hormones) are released in your body when you get your blood pumping and work up a sweat. 2~3 times a week is highly recommended.

Eating Healthy

A healthy body is a happy body. Eating healthy foods and reducing intake of junk foods is important but so are proper meal times. There are also “anti-stress” and brain foods that can help perk you up. Try bananas, nuts, blueberries, avocados, and milk. 

Bedtime Routine

Sleep following a sleep schedule - not too late and the same time everyday. Sticking to a bedtime routine like listening to music, taking a warm bath, meditating, reading a bedtime story helps prepare your body for sleep and also improves your sleep quality. Avoid using electronics 1 hour before bedtime and of course avoid caffeine and sugar that will keep you awake.

Breaks

Working hard is great and all but taking a break is also important. Schedule frequent but short breaks throughout your day. It’ll also boost your efficiency and concentration. A break every 2 hours is quite standard. 

You’re probably doubtful whether doing any of these can really prevent the May blues. And you’re right; a complete prevention of May blues may be impossible but at the very least the blues won’t be as bad as it could’ve been. 

※ NHS, “Overview - Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

What to do if you’ve got the May Blues? 

Gogatsubyou as its name implies is temporary. After readapting to your environment, your symptoms will gradually improve on their own. It’ll usually take around 1~2 months. 

More importantly, don’t freak out. It is very common so you are not alone; everybody has probably experienced it once in their life, and some who can’t find a proper coping method end up having it every year. What you can do is try some of the recommendations above first. 

Can I just ignore it? 

This is not recommended. Depending on your stress tolerance and severity of your mental health, it may develop into depression. Try some of the above recommended activities until you feel better. If your condition does not improve, please seek professional advice and medical treatment. 

Takeaway

Has this article helped you understand gogatsubyou better? We really hope it did. Even if you do not suffer from May blues, it is still important to look out for your mental health (and physical too!). Take this opportunity to incorporate some stress coping mechanisms into your daily lifestyle for a happier and healthier tomorrow! 

If you know anybody that is suffering from blues or seasonal depression, try sharing this article with them. 

 

 

You don't have to worry alone anymore A Q&A community about Japan

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