A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Oh, the things we can learn from a starfish!

One of the most well-known attributes of star fish (more correctly called sea stars because they are not actually fish) is that they can regrow an arm when it has been cut off by a predator - that's what I call being resilient! In the psychology of wellness and mental health, there has been a lot of research on the concept of "resilience" - the ability to bounce back. When comparing two people who had very difficult childhoods, the one who is happier and has more success in life, despite their background, is the one who is more resilient in their thinking. Some research coming out of Canada recently has discovered that you can actually TEACH resilience to children, in very simple but effective ways, reducing their risk for depression.

Some sea stars can not only regrow an arm but can regenerate a body and four other arms from a single arm that has been removed! And sea stars can intentionally drop an arm to escape a predator. Now that not only makes a sea star resilient but makes it a survivor! It's a "star of the sea", if you will (OK maybe that's a bit hokey but it reminds me of this lovely little book we used to read to the kids.)

Probably a lesser-known trait of sea stars is that they are incredibly strong - those arms can wrap around a clam or mussel and pry them open - just enough to eat them! And of course those arms can be very flexible and can take the sea star over or around most any obstacle.

The sea star clip represents my ongoing work with my 12-year-old son, who we jokingly call "Starfish" because when he has to share a bed with someone he does the "starfish" with arms and legs spreading to each corner of the bed. Mitchell struggles with anxiety, especially around sleeping, so we are working with him on being stronger, more flexible, and more resilient - in his thinking!

I "earned" the sea star charm (which, by the way, is very realistic looking) after achieving my goal last winter of getting to the gym twice a week for two months - getting stronger and more flexible. It was part of my plan for being more resilient and beating the winter blues. Going to the gym provided not only exercise but, because I was going to the Y where I used to work as a Personal Trainer, it also meant I would see people and not isolate, which often happens when I am depressed.

I approached the manager at the Y and we arranged that I would do some free workshops for the personal trainers on staff in exchange for access to the facilities. The workshops were very well received so of course that was a good boost and reminded me of what I'm good at! The unexpected bonus was that I ended up taking the bus downtown at the same time as my husband on his way to work. That allowed us to spend more time together, strengthening our relationship. So this sea star charm is on my "Gift from the Sea" bracelet, named after one of my favourite books, and will remind me to be like the star of the sea - strong, flexible and resilient - a survivor!

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