11 Tips for Catholics about Depression
by Rita Davidson
I once got a letter from a lady needing some advice on depression and tendencies to suicide. This is part of the reply I sent to her. It is adapted for today, as this was a number of years ago. If your struggling with your days, I pray this will be of some help to you. And I pray, that this person knows, I’ve been praying for them all these years.
It is difficult to wake up feeling worn out, thinking negatively. When you cannot find reasons to be happy, even though you do not have reason to be sad. If you look at your life and see that there is no trouble in any corners, no money troubles, no marital or family troubles, no recent deaths or divorce, no employment issues then you may be dealing with a kind of depression.
Having dealt with this at various times in my life, in myself, and in my loved ones, these are tips we have found that have helped us get a perspective on depression and move forward.
1. Be aware of your temperament. If you are not already familiar with this, start first with a good book on the Four Temperaments. (We carry the most popular ones on our website. ) After taking the test, if you turn out to be a melancholic type temperament, this would be a good indicator for someone who struggles with depression. Study what melancholic temperament means and it will give you many insights into yourself.
2. Don’t be afraid of being depressed. Many people become depressed more simply because they realize they are depressed and are afraid of the pain of depression. As long as you love God and your faith is not wavering then, rest in God’s peace and offer it up to Him. He has promised He would never give us a cross we cannot carry. But we also must rely on Him for this strength. Remember you are safe in His care.
3. Look at your life and see if there is anything in your life that needs to change. Things like unconfessed sin can often lead to depression. Do not neglect this much needed Sacrament. People with depression need to be sure to use this Sacrament regularlyto keep their souls light and clean. But be careful of scrupulosity which is a brother to depression.
If you tend to fret and worry about many sins and what is a sin, this can be a type of scruple and can very much overwhelm the soul. We carry Help for Scruples – Are you Scrupulous? that is very helpful to sort this out and bring some peace.
4. Do you have unreasonable expectations for your life? Our life is truly a vale of tears, and while we often have times of happiness we have to expect suffering and misfortune at times. Meditate on those less fortunate than us, either spiritually or financially, helps us to be grateful for what we have. Try not compare your life to others, wishing you only had a ‘house like Mary’, or ‘a job like Tom’. Be content with what God has given you in your life. Be it illness or wealth. Things can always be worse. And pray how best you can use your situation to save your soul.
5. On a more practical note; Have you been sleeping well? Are you overworked or under-slept ? Many moms can relate to both of those. Lack of sleep can lead you to being overtired. Being unrested can definitely lead to being depressed as the body is worn down. Effects of it will start to show as the mind becomes bogged down with toxins and the minds has an inability to cope with lack of sleep. This is especially common for mothers of young children. Be aware of this. Be proactive and be sure you take a nap when you can, go to bed earlier if you can. And above all don’t feel guilty for needing sleep!
6. Are you eating well? Food plays a very large part on what we feel like. Lighter meals, eating more naturally and large on the vegetables can ease up stomach distress that can lead to depression as well. Most important is cutting out junk food. White sugar, caffeine, white flour, that lack needed vitamins for our body to cope with today’s stresses. If you are struggling with depression and anxiety you may want to look into gluten/celiac tendencies. They are on the rise today, and this played a part in my own depression and anxieties.
7. Are you getting exercise? One of the biggest practical helps to combat depression is simple exercise. As we age we often don’t move around enough. This can lead to a build up of toxins that can lead one to being depressed. Regular walks that are vigorous can help the body cleanse toxins that can lead to depression. If your busy with young children and can’t get out to walk, a rebounder sat in a corner is a way to get in some lymph moving activities and can even be fun if you include the children.
8. Do you have enough activity? By activity we mean, hobbies and things to keep us busy. Simple inactivity can lead to sins of sloth, and impurity. Lack of interesting hobbies can also lead us to depression. Especially if your prone to a melancholic type temperament. This kind of temperament, or any that are prone to depression, need to keep busy. There is a kind of ‘wallowing in our depression’ that happens, that we must fight. When you hear people say, ‘oh it doesn’t matter, nothing will ever change’, that’s an indication. Depression is a whole body thing. When the mind is depressed it slows the heart rate, and keeps the whole body ‘still’. We must fight this and though we are depressed, we must find reasons to move.
Depression can also lead us to losing interest in hobbies. Instead of waking up and having a slow start to your day. Get busy into an activity right away after you wake up and start your day, so that at the end of the day, you know you have accomplished something. Check it off on a to do list! That alone can help relieve us of the depression coming from being overwhelmed and thinking we have gotten nothing done. Getting on top of depression is about regaining control. No matter how small, if we can regain some control, we will feel better.
9. Develop a great love towards the Sacred Heart. Practice mental prayer, every single day. When one is depressed and thinking thoughts of suicide, we have to realize this is a ploy of Satan for us to loose our souls. Suicide is a grave sin against the Holy Ghost. By keeping a close relationship with the Sacred Heart, He can become your closest friend. Someone you don’t just talk to on Sundays, or during morning prayers, but One you talk to literally every hour, every moment. Jesus is really like that. One we can talk to at all times. To pour forth our suffering and our tears. One whom we must be so close to that we will always remain on the right path no matter how deep our depression might be. Console the Sacred Heart with your sufferings and know that He is there for you and sees all. It can be a very great grace for us, to suffer interiorly for Our Lord and if we do it right it can only lead to our sanctification.
If you don’t already have devotions to the Sacred Heart, try read up on the Sacred Heart to find out how merciful is His sacred heart and from there grow to have a devotion to some aspect of the Sacred Heart through mental prayer. If you don’t know how to do mental prayer we have books available on mental prayer here.
10. Know that all things do pass. This is hard to remember when we are struggling just to get through the day. But remind yourself of the last time you were happy. What was that circumstances ? Was it recent ? Remind yourself that happy days will come again. But keeping in mind as Catholics being prepared for misfortunes help us stay prepared for what is to come.
11. Keeping contact with family and friends as well. Many of us struggle with family members that do not believe as we do and do not support us in our way of life. This has become increasingly moreso as society has changed. Family can sometimes become the thorn in our side instead of the support we need. If this is the case, be sure to find good friends you can trust, that will support you. Having good family and friends can go a long way to helping us cope with a difficult time in our life and help us keep perspective.
WIth all of this in mind. There are times that depression can be serious and does need to be treated. I do not wish to downplay this when needed. So, please prayerfully consider your own circumstances along with all I have said.
Ideally if there are no chemical reasons for depression, it is important to follow the above program and take care that your life is ordered the way you need it to fulfill your needs.
If there is a chemical reason for your depression the above tips will help you deal with your depression as you treat it as well.
Leading a properly ordered life, – not sinning, and keeping a clean soul with confession, taking care of the body God has given us with good food, all goes a long way to combatting depression. And I pray it helps improve your life today.
What have you done that has helped with your depression ? Share it here.
©Copyright 2007-2012 Rita Davidson All Rights Reserved.
Rita is a Catholic wife and mother of seven children. She reverted back to the faith when her oldest was making her First Communion. By then, she had completed degrees in Hairdressing and Make up artistry. She went on to receive a degree in Natural Health and another degree in Art. At age 26, Rita suffered a minor stroke. With no lasting effects, this dramatically changed her outlook on life. In 1996, Rita began ‘Little Flowers Family Apostolates’ to reach out to other families with her new found faith, by creating unique Catholic books and resources.. In 1999, she wrote the bestselling, ‘Immodesty; Satan’s Virtue’. She was editor of ‘The Catholic Health Letter’ for 7 years. She has been a homeschooling mom for 20+ years, and has written for various magazines. She is honored that families have trusted her with their questions, needs and concerns over the years. She continues to write and reach out to Catholic families with her husband, Mark and their 4 boys through