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Seeking ways to cope with the dreaded May malaise

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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

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Weather affecting mental health is well understood, the "winter blues" in countries far from the Equator being the most famous one. It's easy to get depressed when you only get six or seven hours of grey daylight.

Regarding May's weather in Japan though, it's warm and not hot, pretty dry, the air is quite clear (good views of mountains if you're in them or near them) and I don't think there are masses of pollen about. So I don't what there is to moan about. By comparison, the rainy season (mid June to mid July) can be totally grim, sticky, wet, dark with grey skies. Your house will get mouldy and if you have a garden, it will explode with weeds that will be wet when you try to cut them or dig em up. For me personally, it is easily the worst time of year, much worse than the hottest days of summer.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I remember when some wag coined the term "Narita taishoku" (Narita resignation), a parody of "Narita rikon" (Narita divorce), which referred to couples returning to Japan from their overseas honeymoons, upon which they went their separate ways. One theory was that the extended vacation time coming so soon after joining a company gave workers time to consider their new employer, and they decided things weren't ever going to get any better, so it made sense to not return to work after the holiday. Some never even bothered to show their face at the office, but just sent in a resignation letter. I guess because so many things happen in April in Japan -- new schools, new jobs, etc. -- that May results in a slump. So it's nothing to do with the weather but with the state of mind.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Stress is a completely normal human reaction and a basic part of our life. We will feel it whenever we challenge ourselves, try to learn something that is difficult, take an exam, take a risk or face a crisis. Stress is not an inherently bad thing, so much as an indicator.

Feeling stressed should not be seen as negative by default. Understand why you are feeling it and how it is affecting you. Then determine whether your level of stress is acceptable for you or an indication that you need to make changes.

With regard to May malaise, having discovered that their job is much worse than they thought it would be, or wrong for them, the sensible % quit sooner rather than later.

Each year, Golden Week allows people a period of self-examination whilst getting a taste of not being at their job. The rest of the year they may be too tired and miserable to do this, operating on automatic.

Solutions don't necessarily require psychoanalysis. Make jobs more stimulating and rewarding, offering staff a sense of achievement. Dump the unnecessary stuff with smarter working and let people go home at the end of the day, not the end of the evening. Reward staff for achievements and competency rather than surviving to their next birthday. Don't treat your staff like children or robots. Don't pressurise them with unobtainable targets. Allow them time off for family events and support their training.

Some people will leave because the job is just a bad fit for them. They took a wrong turn on their career path. It is good and healthy for both employer and employee that they can switch to another job.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It's called not liking your job.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

In Japan, the barometric pressure from May through July is the most brutal due to the weather and other environmental factors with May being the triggering time when most people begin to suffer more noticeably from illnesses or ailing health—and with an aging population, it only makes it worse for the majority of those who can tolerate their pain or mental anguish as easily with any steady success during this season…Speaking from my own experience, May through July is the worst and most difficult for me in that regard personally because my Fibromyalgia flares up unbearably when the Typhoon season kicks in.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In Japan, the barometric pressure from May through July is the most brutal due to the weather and other environmental factors with May being the triggering time when most people begin to suffer more noticeably from illnesses or ailing health—and with an aging population, it only makes it worse for the majority of those who can tolerate their pain or mental anguish as easily with any steady success during this season…Speaking from my own experience, May through July is the worst and most difficult

I concur 100%

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I love this time of year in Japan. The weather is great, meaning: Long walks with the dogs; Gardening; Car care; and, most importantly, Outdoor dining.

It's Golden Week I hate, with its crowds and traffic. Screw that. Bring on the rest of May and early June to enjoy before rainy season kicks in, followed by the oppressive Summer heat and humidity!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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