“May Disease” strikes Japan yearly

Recently I was listening to a JapanesePod101.com episode1 and they talked about something called gogatsu-byō (五月病) which can be translated as “May Disease”.

According to Wikipedia JP, April is an important time for both school and work because. New students start school in April, and companies often start hire new employees straight from college. In both cases, the person is in a new environment and although they are motivated, it’s hard to adjust.

Then, after Golden Week vacation in May, these new employees or new students come back feeling really tired and unmotivated. This feeling is what’s known as gogatsu-by#&333;. “May Disease” isn’t a real disease, but it’s an effect of stress all month in April catching up after a week of rest. After taking a week off, the last thing you want is to come back to a situation you’re stressed about.

But for some people, the effects of all that stress can be pretty serious. Among possible symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of motivation

I mention this for a reason though. Not all readers live in Japan (I don’t), but May Disease is something that can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime of year. It’s an effect of too much long-term stress in a new environment.

This site recommended 10 suggestions:

  1. Don’t expect to be perfect, especially if you’re new.
  2. Don’t rush things.
  3. Talk about your anxiety with someone else. Don’t suffer alone.
  4. Know yourself and the signs when you are stressed.
  5. Know your limits.
  6. Watch your eating habits; eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  7. Get plenty of sleep.
  8. Focus your energies elsewhere, keep your mind distracted. The more you think about depression, the more likely you will be depressed.
  9. Ensure you have time for yourself.
  10. Forget about “pride”; don’t tough it out.

Anyhow, if you’re feeling sluggish, unmotivated and/or depressed, maybe stress or a new situation is wearing you down. Consider some of these steps above.

P.S. As I wrote the last paragraph, I thought to myself, “Holy cow! That’s me!”.

1 Despite my past rant, I still listen to JPod101 even though I cancelled my subscription to their Korean site. I find it useful to review Japanese that I sort of understood, but wasn’t totally clear on. Part of my strategy to use study to supplement exposure, not the other way around with I’m using for both Korean and Japanese.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

5 thoughts on ““May Disease” strikes Japan yearly”

  1. Actually……
    Another key factor of gogatsubyou is the the pressure society has on these kids to perform at their peak and study as hard as they can to enter the top schools. They cram and cram and cram and when they finally get past the entrance exams, they are quite simply burnt out. Worst of all, most of these students only pass their exams only to get into the school of their choice and realize all their work wasn’t really for much of anything and most realize that when they get into school the “hard work” is over.
    Though the narrative it is a bit biased, I read this in “The Japanese Have a Word for It” and it is kind of true, from what I have seen from my time in Japan.


  2. Hi Everyone,

    Cocomino: I believe it!

    Kelleynymph: It’s definitely burnout, I agree.

    Pink Ninjabi: Thanks. 🙂

    bronwynschroeder: Welcome and hang in there. 🙂


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