Observers have noted from quite some time ago that upon the end of Golden Week -- the string of national holidays and weekends that this year ran from April 29 to May 8 -- many adults begin to show signs of listlessness, an overall feeling of fatigue and reluctance to drag themselves out of bed and go to work. This phenomenon is popularly referred to as gogatsu-byo or the "May disease."
It's certainly nothing to be sniffed at. Psychiatrist Zion Kabasawa's weekly column in Flash (May 10-17) notes that a survey of 1,000 adults undertaken by the Zurich Insurance Group taken in 2018 found that 23.3% of the subjects gave positive replies to the question, "Up to now, have you ever felt you had suffered from gogatsu-byo?" In other words, approximately one Japanese in four recognized they had indeed suffered from the May malady.
"So even if you yourself haven't had problems, there's a strong possibility that a co-worker might be suffering," Kabasawa writes.
What impact does May disease have on business and society? The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, in a separate survey, considered the tendency for nearly one newly hired worker in three to quit their job within three years of joining the company. Of these, between 40 to 50% did so within their first year of employment. The ministry concluded that over half of new company workers felt stressed, and of these, 70% admitted, as a result of such stress, to feeling a physical or mental malaise within the first month of their undertaking employment, which customarily begins the first week in April.
Shrugging off the onset of May disease, or leaving it unattended, can gradually manifest itself as depression, maladjustment, panic attacks and other phenomena. These are not only regarded as prime factors leading to new workers' resignations, but also impact on the quality of their work, and create friction with others on the job.
The early onset symptoms -- usually occurring between one to three months after initiation of the stressor -- include feelings of languor, dullness, insomnia and loss of appetite. When and if these reach the point of absenteeism from work, mood swings and depression might not be far behind.
In traditional Asian medicine, this precursor status, between the conditions "healthy" and "ill," is referred to as mibyo (a state of unwellness). The biggest difference between unwellness and illness, writes Kabasawa, is that while the former is reversible, the latter is not. And once a person becomes diagnosed as ill, recovery becomes more difficult.
So what to do? Being alert to the problem and early intervention by managers or sempai (senior co-workers) is a must. Diagnosis and treatment at an early stage can help set a person straight and achieve long-term benefits.
Kabasawa suggests three methods of attacking the problem. The first is to ensure sufficient, good-quality sleep and regular living habits. The second is to refrain from consumption of alcohol. Research has shown that while many people take to drink in the hopes of relieving their stress, they often obtain opposite results, only making things worse.
The third is finding ways to let off stress, such as through sitting down and talking to someone willing to listen to their concerns. "Alienation is a surefire formula for worsening mental health," Kabasawa says.
"Ideally, the best person with whom to talk things over is someone who joined the company the same time they did," says Kabasawa. "In many cases they will have harbored similar concerns and feelings."
Patience will be needed. Overcoming this phenomenon may take as long as six months to a year. But clearly, the first line of defense against May disease is recognizing its symptoms and taking proactive measures to nip it in the bud.© Japan Today