Having recent opportunity to teach in the certificate program “The Holistic Approach to Trauma,” at Langara College in Vancouver BC. The impact of extreme stress and the chain reaction that stress has on the body is fresh in my mind.
PSTD can be triggered from a traumatic event which creates emotional upheaval, flashbacks and anxiety which is re-lived again and again in both the mind and the body. Rather than integrating the experience and moving forward – which is our bodies normal way of adapting, the trauma of a stress filled event can overwhelm the body, impacting resiliency and ones ability to cope; creating a looping state where the body re-lives an event which occurred in the past. PSTD and chronic stress can create a domino effect, impacting all endocrine hormones throughout the body, altering immune system, hormones, thyroid function (the bodies motor for functioning) and adrenal health and can trigger inflammatory conditions leading to chronic dis-ease.
Finding my own self in urgent need of rest after a unique year, I sought out the most possible peace filled environment I could imagine. A small cabana hut, complete with a book and a hammock right on the ocean. Time to reconnect with nature and simply exhale.
My temporary home, a one room hut with a thatched palm roof and outside my door was nothing but a wide stretch of pristine white sand beach (noted to be some of the most beautiful in the world) and awe inspiring, magnificent views of turquoise waters.
Perhaps the very best therapy for trauma (or simply overload from stress) is the quiet calm, the lush green, serene stillness of NATURE. The simplicity of nature assists in our remembering that we are all connected and mother earth is our playground and a healer on this journey called life.
Studies have been conducted on immersion in nature and its benefits for individuals suffering from stress and extended trauma. Nature can play a fundamental role in the restoration of a healthy nervous system, providing an opportunity to re-set a hyper functioning overly sensitive state. Immersion in nature is hugely beneficial for those suffering from PSTD. It matters not where ones makes contact with nature to experience the healing offered through contact with her trees, plants and the earth – gifts of mother natures and her green allies. Contact with nature can occur in ones garden, a local community park, or in the countryside, a meadow or at ocean level; remote wilderness, a jungle or high up in the mountains. It is the benefit that fresh clean air, stunning beauty, walking barefoot in the soil, hugging a tree and experiencing the soothing sounds of mother nature. There is growing evidence that our green friends – trees, plants, flowers can improve our health and well being and reminds us of the connection we have to inhabitants on this planet -plants, animals as well as each other. We are a part of a larger community.
In my soon to be released book “The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal Remedies” I speak of the urgent importance of recognizing mother nature and all she provides as necessary for the health of all life on this planet. Mother nature provides plants which are our nourishment, our foods and our medicines – plants are our healing allies – we co exist together on this planet. We could not exist on this planet without plants. It is essential that we recognise her essential value in our life and seek to protect her gifts which are disappearing at a rapid rate.
The beach road outside of Tulum, Mexico is known for its bohemian new age feel, live music, plenty of yoga, juice bars, plenty of ecologically conscious retreats and small boutique hotels – a far removed sanctuary from sprawling busy resort hotels miles away; this lush beach front is still largely surrounded by palm trees, green jungle plants, mangroves and animals. No pressure to do anything except to enjoy the sparkling Caribbean Sea and stunning shoreline. The first night I took in some late night music therapy – feeling the reverberations of vibration soothe my tired soul.
Further south of the Riviera Maya, past the Tulum Playa coastline, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is a world renowned Ecological Reserve and designated World Heritage Site (UNESCO); extending roughly 120 kilometers of coastline, and over 400,000 hectares of land. Sian Ka’an currently is the largest protected area in the Mexican Carribean. This biosphere reserve contains tropical jungle forests, marshes and wetlands, freshwater lagoons and mangrove forests, palm savannah and intersects the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the second largest barrier reef in the world) with its white beaches and sand dunes. It is the home for an thousands of plant and animal species, a habitat for more than 300 species of birds, (including the great blue heron, jabiru, ocelot, margay and wood stork, American flamingo, toucan, vultures, ) spider black howler monkey, crocodile, black iguana, puma, jaguar, brown pelican, puma, ocelot, tamandua and tapir, It also is home to a great diversity of marine life: nesting marine turtles, rays, coral fish and numerous fish species.
Studies confirm that peace filled green environments such as those found in nature have an impact on mental well being, reducing fears, anxiety, anger, tension and depression. Recognizing the challenges and stressors of daily living in our western industrialized society, nature can provide the needed reset button and perhaps may just influence our own future choices and the direction – if we recognize mother nature as valuable we might be more likely to fight to preserve her own health.
Continued and frequent contact with mother nature may be a necessary contact to sustain balance – sustainable and ecological friendly practices for tourism are desperately needed. New levels of ecological tourism are needed to prevent the destruction of the beauty which tourists flock to enjoy; currently at the cost of the plant life and animal species that call this backdrop home. Perhaps it is a timely call for mutual healing – for both ourselves – humans suffering the consequences of our industrialized lifestyle – insomnia, hypertension, plagued by anxiety and worry. And our own active involvement the natural world, ensuring she is flourishing, healthy and well for our mutual growth/ nourishment on this planet.
Yet during my stay I was aware of the urgent need for more environmental conservation practices in the Yucatan Peninsula to sustain this exquisite environment. This very land which provides such great beauty and deep healing is in desperate need of saving, as large resorts and fast moving developments destroy miles of mangroves creating irreversible destruction to the fragile ecosystem of this land.
What we do to the planet we do to ourselves. It is time that we take responsibility for the state of the environment and make personal and conscious choices for its improvement.
When I awoke in the morning, and took my first morning ocean swim, I could SEE the truth of the situation! Before the local beach groomers had swept the beach to remove the proof -at night the ocean would deposit ALL that was being held in her waters – plastic, plastic, and more plastic! Bottles, containers, plastic chips, hundreds of colored plastic bits littered the beach. Resembling little colored fish, I could imagine larger fish ingesting these plastic parts thinking they were nourishment. An example of xenoestrogens and a visual example of the impact that tiny bits of plastic can have on marine life and aquatic species.
Ecotourism and the issues surrounding growing coastal urbanization is a focus as locals seek to preserve the beauty of the environment and retain the biodiversity of plant and animal species in the Yucatan. Environmental groups are committed to protecting the local areas and fragile ecosystem and attempt to slow down or prevent the ecological problems that have already taken hold in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.
Many smaller hotels are conscious of the need for sustainable tourism and take steps to minimize the environmental impact on this fragile ecosystem, supporting existing conservation projects to help preservation for future generations. Some of the challenges of this area:
- there are well-documented garbage and sewage problems: septic tanks from larger (and even smaller) hotels may be dumping soap water from their laundries into the mangroves or nearby cenotes polluting the underground river system.
- chlorophenoxy herbicides from pesticides and chemical fertilisers used in green lawn areas and golf courses are now major threats to the fragile barrier reef
- due to a lack of proper man made drainage, the hydrological cycle is short, and over time the vegetation in existing mangroves ends up dying
- contamination of drinking water and ocean life from both untreated sewage and containing byproducts found in human urine (containing traces of pharmaceutical medication (such as xenoestrogen chemicals found in birth control pills, premarin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen and residue from beauty care products containing plastic beads, antiseptics (aka antibiotics such as triclosan) are a major problem
- traces of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) have also been found in ocean water and has an impact on coral and marine life
- documented climate change, raising temperatures and water levels, pollution and contamination has damaged local mangroves and reefs
Taking small steps to be eco-friendly, many smaller boutique hotels have no electricity past midnight. Toilet paper is not flushed and it is requested that water and other resources be used sparingly. Many showers are refreshing one tap cold ocean water rinses. Solar panels provide electricity and many hotels take steps to reuse and recycle offering filtered water (refills) rather than selling bottled water containers. Many environmental agencies make recommendations such as the use of impermeable liners beneath golf courses, improved wastewater treatment infrastructure, prohibition of dumping treated sewage into saltwater and protection of remaining mangrove habitat, which buffer coastal areas from pollution.
Centro Ecológico Akumal is a non-governmental organization that focuses on sustainability-related issues and improving ecosystem management in and around Akumal.
Statistics from the Mexican government state the the mayan riviera is the fastest gowing resort area in the world. Mangroves that once covered all of the coastal area, have now been bulldozed and paved over. A jarring example of how NOT to create a sustainable tourist area. Scientists now believe that mangrove forests can help slow climate change, by purifying the water from human wastes and pollutants, and in doing so, coral reefs are less effected. The roots of mangroves act to trap sediments that would otherwise be washed back out by the waves. Moreover, mangroves provide a habitat for many different species of animals and suck a large amount of industrial carbon out of the atmosphere and bury it deep within the underground network of roots.
Mother natures offers us her gifts – nature is a stunning reprieve from hectic city life. It is essential that we recognize and preserve her qualities and value her continued existence and seek to protect her gifts which are disappearing at a rapid rate.
For more information and information reading:
S.A.V.E (Society of Akumal Vital Ecology) a non profit organisation involved in preventing construction over mangrove swamps in Puerto Morelos, creation of natural reservex in Xcacel-Xcelito and protection of hundreds of marine turtle nests. http://www.cenotes.com/save/