Gogatsubyo (五月病)



Note: this information is not intended or implied to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please seek professional help if you think you may have seasonal affective disorder/Gogatsubyo
As the new beginnings on April 1st calm down, and you start getting into your new routine as an employee or student refreshed after Golden Week. Suddenly, you start feeling sluggish, tired, and can’t eat or sleep well. Is it the spring weather? Allergies? Mercury in retrograde?
It turns out you may have Gogatsubyo (五月病).

What is Gogatsubyo (五月病)

Gogatsubyo (literally “May sickness”) is not just a Japanese phenomenon but is well-known in Japanese society. It’s not a medically diagnosed sickness per se but refers to seasonal affective disorder. 
The stress from the big adjustment such as a new school year, new school, joining the workforce, or transitioning jobs or locations can be tremendous stress for many. The pressure to perform well in a new environment and live up to their colleagues’ expectations and themselves can put one at risk for anxiety disorder. 
In addition, there are no national holidays after Golden Week until mid-July. Depending on your workplace, taking paid leave may seem difficult, especially as a new hire. The perspective of no holidays may heighten your stress. Thus, some may lose motivation and feel melancholy after Golden Week. 
According to a study about stress conducted in 2018, one in four has experienced gogatsubyo at least once. While not uncommon, it can lead to mild depression or even worse if it’s not appropriately treated.

Signs of Gogatsubyo

Here are some signs of gogatsubyo. 

Mental symptoms: 

  • Sadness, depression
  • Anxiety, frustration, tension
  • Helplessness, tiredness, lack of motivation

Physical symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, stomach pain, nausea
  • Trouble falling asleep, weakening up early, insomnia
  • Palpitations, dizziness, increased blood pressure, heavy sweating

Behavior symptoms: 

  • Becoming passive, avoiding interaction with people
  • Excess drinking and smoking
  • Feeling restless, uncomfortable 

How to combat Gogatsubyo

Here are some stress busters to combat gogatsubyo. 

Acknowledge and manage your stress and anxiety

  • Easily said than done, but stress and fatigue management are vital, according to the Osaka Medical Association. Allow yourself some space, and take breaks between your day. 

Get exercise

  • Go for a light run, jog or walk around your neighborhood. Maybe you’ll notice something new that you haven’t before
  • Get on your bike and explore somewhere new. 
  • Watch and follow exercise videos on YouTube. There is lots of content out there for yoga, pilates, strength training, and more in the comfort of your home.

Reunite with an old hobby or start a new one

  • Did you like to knit, bake, draw, work on puzzles, or read? Reunite with an old hobby you used to partake in or find a new hobby! 
  • These activities release serotonin in the brain, which is responsible for the feelings of well-being and happiness. 

Reschedule your daily routine

  • It may be hard at first, but try to reschedule your daily routine. This would mean going to sleep and waking up around the same time every day.
  • Try to turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime, as the blue light messes with your body’s ability to sleep.

Make time to reflect on your day

  • Regardless of your day’s life, make time to reflect on your day. Perhaps you could journal or meditate. 
Seek professional help 
  • Don’t hesitate to seek help if necessary. While your family and friends may provide you with mental and emotional care, a doctor may be able to direct your stress in the right direction. Whether it be counseling, medication, or a combination of the two, seeking help is not a sign of weakness.