DEAR HARRIETTE: I have noticed that I am isolating myself more and more. I prefer spending hours on social media and watching videos on the internet to reaching out to friends and meeting up in person. I have also stopped seeing my therapist, who was a primary source of my human interaction. I live far from family and I don’t have a girlfriend. How can I stop this loneliness before it takes a huge toll on my social health? -- Couch Potato, Denver
DEAR COUCH POTATO: You already know what you need to do first: Schedule an appointment with your therapist. You have cut off the lifeline that helps you to find balance in your life. Whatever your reason for ending that, figure out how to re-engage. If it’s the cost, ask your therapist to work with you on a fee reduction or to refer you to someone else who may be able to charge less.
Next, think about what you have enjoyed doing in your spare time. Even if it feels like your feet are stuck in quicksand, promise yourself that you will do one thing outside of your home per week that involves other people. That could be taking a walk in the local park, taking a class, going to the movies -- anything. Force yourself to go out. While you are out, look around and notice friendly faces. Choose someone who looks approachable, and strike up a conversation. But first, call your therapist! Oh, yes, you can also schedule weekly calls with family members to keep in close touch with them.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My parents have been divorced for nearly two decades. Recently, each has separately told me that they refuse to be in the same room together. I tried to investigate what led to this declaration, but I have gotten no answers. I think they are being ridiculous and dramatic, as does my sister. Can I not invite either parent to family gatherings? I don’t want to have to pick a favorite and give into their immature bickering. -- Grow Up, Cincinnati
DEAR GROW UP: Join forces with your sister and invite your parents to a family meeting. Tell them that you need to talk to them. Even if you have to invite them separately for a surprise private meeting with the two of you, do it.
When your parents arrive, ask them to listen to you before reacting. Present to them some facts: They created the family that produced the two of you. You do not want to choose between them in order to have a family experience. You want to include them in your family life as long as they are alive. You need them to behave as civil adults. You do not want to navigate the land mines of their energy in trying to create a wholesome family experience. Beg them to figure out how to be able to put aside their personal differences so that they can support their children in their current lives.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)