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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: March is a time to slow down

Rika Kayama

As we enter March, the date of the Great East Japan Earthquake approaches. Nearly six years have passed since that disaster on March 11, 2011, and I imagine that the climate in this month must remind people of that tragic day. Some people probably think, "Ah, it must have been like this when the earthquake and tsunami hit," as the March wind sweeps past their faces.

    Humans are often reminded of traumatic events -- such as earthquakes -- as a result of certain triggers. For example, the anniversary of a traumatic event, or the day on which a relative or friend died can act as triggers. As one can probably imagine, anniversary-related reactions are often studied and referred to within the field of psychiatry.

    Since 2011, a colleague and I have been answering phone calls from local government employees working in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures who seek psychiatric consultation. In some cases, the callers have taken a very long time until finally reaching out, due to factors such as needing to support disaster victims, handling recovery in their local areas, and emotional and physical distress.

    At the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the whole nation was shocked by the scale of the disaster. Many people across the country felt sympathy toward the victims of the tsunami, shedding tears of sorrow. The fear caused by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima was very real, and numerous people could not sleep properly. The entire nation suffered, with varying degrees, on March 11, 2011 and beyond.

    The month of March is pretty stressful as it is. Events such as entrance exam result announcements, graduation ceremonies, and moving house due to work-related transfers are common around this time of year. There are, of course, numerous pleasant changes in March but there are many challenging events during this time that need to be dealt with.

    In my opinion, I think that particularly in Japan, March should be a time to take it easy. At this time of year, it is worth noting that there are also people who calmly embrace change, while deeply reflecting on the disaster in 2011. Instead of being a time of constantly chasing after tasks and activities, March should also be a time to reflect on the events of the past 12 months, and to be kind to oneself and to others.

    When I mentioned this way of thinking to a friend of mine who works in finance, I was met with derision. "What are you on about?" replied my friend. "This is the busiest time of year. Promotion results are announced. March is not a time to slow down!"

    My friend may have a point. However, for me, the constant chasing and rushing around at this time of year makes me even more convinced that we should slow down in March. We should remember those who have passed away, and celebrate life with those who are still alive. We should also think of ways in which we can help those around us who are in trouble.

    Personally, this is how I want to feel and think on March 11, as I remember the 2011 tragedy and its victims. "March is a month when we should slow down."

    So, why don't you adopt this philosophy, as well? Because, if you do, I am sure that the annual cherry blossoms in spring will bloom a lot more vividly than usual. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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