Feeling May Blues Long After Golden Week? Your Gut Could Be Playing A Role.

After the excitement of a holiday subsides, it’s common to feel gloomy and underwhelmed as you return to your regular, everyday life at home. In Japan, this phenomenon is so prevalent during the months of May and June, it is given its own name – “May Blues” or “gogatsubyō” (五月病). As the joy and freedom of Golden Week has been and gone, this feeling of emptiness is shared across Japan, as workers return to  their offices. This feeling isn't just a cultural narrative – this feeling of despair or depression extends deeply to our innate biological responses.

So, what is responsible for our emotional responses to the world?

The answer lies in our gut – our digestive health significantly influences our emotional shifts, and general baseline of mental wellbeing. This connection between our guts and minds is known as the gut-brain axis (GBA), and is becoming more central in the conversation around mental wellbeing.

Luckily, there are ways Japanese workers can enhance the function of the GBA to overcome life changes, including the May Blues. Probiotics are known to be key players in our gut health; however, some strains are more beneficial than others, especially for the gut-brain axis. 

The Phenomenon of 'May Blues’

In Japan, “May Blues” refers to the post-holiday sadness and emptiness that many feel as they return to the daily grind after Golden Week. Transitioning from excitement and freedom back to a stressful working environment can cause immense anxiety, insomnia and overall poor mental wellbeing. 

As Japan’s working culture prioritizes productivity, performance and dedication to one’s work, returning to the office after an extended break can leave employees subject to intense pressure and expectations. As our environment affects us physiologically, the stress from a transition period can lead to spikes in cortisol and adrenaline, resulting in anxiety and irritability. 

On top of this, returning early morning commutes and workday routines can cause disruptions to circadian rhythms, leading to poor sleep patterns. As sleep is so crucial to neurotransmitter production, sleep disruption can make the low feelings experienced during ‘May Blues’ even worse.

However, along with affecting us emotionally, periods of heightened stress or anxiety also disrupt our gut function, further weakening the gut-brain axis. Therefore, to give your mental health the boost that it needs, consider a holistic approach, including caring for your gut-brain axis.

More Than Just May Blues – Understanding Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Even though May Blues is a widely accepted phenomenon in Japan, extended periods of feeling low can be a sign of something more serious. If you, or someone you know is still feeling the May Blues long after the transition period, consider doing a self-assessment for Major Depressive Disorder.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a significant medical condition that profoundly impacts mental health. Characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest, and a lack of pleasure in daily activities, MDD is more than just feeling sad after your vacation ends. The causes of MDD can be genetic, biochemical, environmental, and psychological, and are often a combination of multiple factors. Interestingly, elevated levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, are commonly observed in individuals with depression. 

The long-term effects of MDD on personal health can be debilitating, affecting physical health, reducing work productivity, and straining social relationships. In a culture like Japan where productivity and efficiency are prioritized, people struggling with MDD could experience immense strain on their mental wellbeing due to an inability to concentrate, make decisions and perform tasks requiring mental effort. 

Socially, the isolation that often accompanies depression can exacerbate the condition, creating a vicious cycle of withdrawal and worsening symptoms. Additionally, MDD is associated with an increased risk of suicide, particularly when feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness overwhelm an individual's coping mechanisms. In Japan, the number of patients with MDD is increasing, so evaluating your mental health and optimizing your mental wellbeing should be a top priority.

To assess yourself for signs of depression, try our short self assessment below:

Probiotics, Mental Health and the Gut-Brain Axis

There has been significant research into the affects the gut-brain axis (GBA) can have on mental health, including Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), stress, anxiety, and associated sleep disturbances. The GBA is responsible for influencing the hormones and neurotransmitters which regulate our mood, cognition and overall mental wellbeing. 

Probiotics play a pivotal role in this connection by influencing gut health, supporting the production of these necessary hormones and neurotransmitters. However, some probiotics are better than others, and knowing which specific strains of probiotics are needed for depression will allow you to enhance your gut-brain signaling. 

Specific strains of probiotics help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety by restoring the balance of the gut microbiome, leading to improved neurotransmitter function. This not only helps in regulating mood and reducing anxiety but also enhances sleep quality, leading to improved mental wellbeing.

PS128: A Medical Probiotic Backed by Evidence

Lactobacillus plantarum PS128, a neurologically-active probiotic known as a neurobiotic or psychobiotic, has demonstrated significant potential in the management of mental health issues. This specific strain directly interacts with the gut-brain axis (GBA) to affect neurotransmitter and hormonal levels that play a critical role in mental well-being.

By directly supporting the function of the gut-brain axis, PS128 can allow you to directly improve your mental wellbeing and provide your brain with the hormones and neurotransmitters it needs to perform. Unlike other probiotics, PS128 is backed by 30 years of research and over 14 clinical studies which show:

Improvements in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

In a clinical trial involving patients with MDD, PS128 supplementation led to notable improvements in mood and psychological well-being. Participants reported reduced depressive symptoms, enhanced mood, and better overall mental health, as measured through the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale:

The study also observed reductions in the levels of cortisol, suggesting a decrease in stress response due to the modulation of the gut microbiota by PS128.

Improved Neurotransmitter Levels

PS128 has been shown to influence levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are directly linked to mood regulation, anxiety, and depression. By enhancing the production of these neurotransmitters, PS128 can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.


Read More: Probiotics for Depression and Anxiety 

Better Sleep, Lower Anxiety

Participants in PS128 studies have also experienced improvements in sleep quality, which is often disrupted in individuals with depression and anxiety. Better sleep contributes to overall stress reduction;  since sleep is often disturbed during the May Sickness transition period, PS128 can help you get back to a healthy sleep cycle.

Research into PS128 emphasizes its use as a specialized probiotic to support the gut-brain axis for targeted improvements in mental health. Fostering a diverse gut microbiome will strengthen your gut-brain connection, providing your brain with what it needs to stay healthy.

A Holistic Approach to Managing May Sickness 

Managing "May Sickness" and enhancing mental health requires a holistic approach which addresses all areas of your wellbeing. Incorporating these tips along with PS128 supplementation will you support your journey to mental wellbeing:

Sleep Hygiene

Prioritize maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and ensure you are getting quality sleep. Setting up a peaceful, quiet environment to sleep in, and having a daily ‘unwind’ routine to relax before bedtime is essential for ensuring quality sleep. Sleep is crucial for regulating mood and reducing anxiety, helping to counteract the effects of stress.

Explore Mindfulness

Engage in mindfulness practices such as meditation and relaxation through music, art or spirituality. These techniques help manage stress and anxiety by focusing the mind on the positive and reducing the ruminating on negativity, which many people with depression experience.


Get Active

Regular exercise can significantly boost your mood, lower stress levels, and improve sleep, thanks to the release of endorphins and the regulation of neurotransmitters. Try doing light exercise to start, such as yoga, walking or stretching, and if you can, get outdoors for some fresh air and sunshine.

Stay Connected

Maintain social connections and interact with friends and loved ones often. Finding support in others can alleviate feelings of isolation associated with May Sickness, and allow you to maintain positive contact with others during tough times.

Seek Professional Help

If symptoms persist, or if addressing the feelings of May Sickness or a general low mood is becoming too overwhelming, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors or social workers can provide tailored advice and treatment options to manage symptoms effectively.


Taking care of your mental health involves addressing key areas of your lifestyle and wellbeing; however, some solutions are more impactful than others. Prioritizing sleep, getting active and supporting your gut health, you can make sure you are holistically supporting your mental wellbeing.

Remember that not all probiotics are the same –  only probiotic strain PS128, which directly targets the gut-brain axis, supports brain function and mental wellbeing. Unlike other probiotics, PS128 has been clinically proven to be effective in alleviating symptoms of depression, through its ability to improve neurotransmitter levels such as dopamine and serotonin. 

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