DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my closest friends has a terrible shopping habit. With all the money she's spent in the past year, I think she could have made a down payment on a home. I not-so-jokingly told her she has a problem, which she acknowledged. Now the problem is getting bigger because she's putting on a lot of weight. How do I get her to face her problems without shopping or food? -- Facing the Truth, Jackson, Mississippi
DEAR FACING THE TRUTH: There may be a bit of good news in your friend's situation -- namely, that she has some awareness of her problems. Clearly, something is wrong on the inside that is causing your friend to try to make up for it by shopping or eating. Addiction often has its cause in an emotional dearth. Your friend needs to figure out what is hurting her deep down inside in order to be able to free herself of the source of her pain.
You can recommend that she get mental health counseling. Suggest that talking to a professional may help her to break free from her unhealthy habits and dive deep into her life to unmask whatever is creating such difficulty.
DEAR HARRIETTE: At this time of year, I often get down in the dumps. I know it's coming, so I try to remind myself that this too shall pass. But the blues are with me now, and I feel sad and incapacitated. I mean, I am still going to work and interacting with people, but I find it hard to sleep, and I am not feeling good about myself. I cannot afford to go to a shrink, so please don't suggest that. I just need a bridge to get me past this season. -- Down in the Dumps, Philadelphia
DEAR DOWN IN THE DUMPS: One idea is to serve others. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, a retirement community, a hospital or a homeless shelter. Offer to do whatever is needed in the moment you arrive. Almost always and especially at this time of year, extra hands are needed. Amazingly, when you act in service of others who are in need, it takes the attention away from you and your issues and can fill your heart with gratitude. If you are up for it, you can volunteer daily at one or more of these locations. You can also check in with local charities and churches to see if they need a helping hand. It can be amazingly uplifting to have fellowship with others who appreciate your time, attention and care.
Additionally, whenever the sun is shining, go outside and take a walk. As the weather changes and the days get cold and gray, some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Getting some sun and moving your body may help brighten your day.