Mindset coach Ciaran May on dealing with life’s difficulties: ‘Natural resilience is the key to bouncing back from tough times’
Mindset coach Ciaran May offers workshops, classes, and one-on-one mentoring sessions, many of which are male-only.
All are backed by “natural resilience” which is the name of his Lisburn-based company.
“For me, resilience is a core human characteristic that we all have and it’s the ability to adapt to adversity, to bend without breaking, and to bounce back from difficult times or struggles,” says Ciaran. (36 years).
“Natural resilience is a belief or one of my concepts that resilience itself is a trait that can be developed by anyone once they are disciplined and I use nature as part of that.
“I would teach people to adapt or better manage stress, for example, by controlling their breathing in the cold sea.
“Or I would take people wild camping or on hikes to get them away from the office or distractions and allow them to have that peace of mind.”
The Belfast coach believes that everyone can benefit from developing resilience and by doing so he will react better to difficult situations.
“The world we currently live in is the ultimate paradox. So as a society we are obsessed with convenience, technology and shortcuts and take the easy route for short-term gratifications, but at the same time we are experiencing pandemics, lockdowns and fuel shortages,” Ciaran says.
“If you look at the statistics, in Northern Ireland for example, the suicide rate is higher than it has ever been. Depression and anxiety levels are at their highest. This is where we have to adapt, and for me this is where resilience comes in – where, although society is arguably the most comfortable it has ever been, we are probably the most unhappy if we we rely on mental health statistics.
“Resilience is also the ability to see struggles or obstacles as potential for growth, and to be able to embrace somewhat bitter change, and to be able to react, as opposed to reacting as we always have.”
Ciaran believes there are many reasons why mental health issues are common in today’s society. He explains:
“I think it’s interdimensional, I think there’s a lot going on. In terms of nature, the human species obviously developed over millions of years, certainly over hundreds of thousands of years. , and it’s in our very DNA to have a community, a tribe of people, to spend time with in nature.
“I don’t think we as humans have to sit in front of a computer screen for ten hours a day, come home and sit alone, watch TV, eat junk food and not moving – and doing it year after year. .
“I think we took ourselves out of our natural habitat, which is community, family, social interaction, nature…and what we replaced it with is wrong for us, for our soul basically. We watch apps instead of talking with our friends.
“I studied human behavior, and only 12% of our human communication is verbal. If you went to see your best friend, for example, you would know in a very short time if something was wrong with him.
“But your best friend might be in a dark room depressed sending you laughing emojis on a WhatsApp group and you have no idea. So we lose that ability to — I call it ‘the art of living’.
“It’s all the simple things that are in our very DNA, you know, conversation, empathy, supporting each other, just all those things that our ancestors did.”
The company owner says a big part of Natural Resilience’s ethos is community.
” It’s primordial. There’s a quote about ‘we don’t heal in isolation, we heal in community’, and I think now more than ever people are really yearning for that sense of community, that sense of belonging,” Ciaran says.
“Having been isolated in lockdowns for the past two years, I think we realize how much it means to us to be able to spend time with your family, or your friends or like-minded people, so my philosophy is to bring people together, whether at sea, in the mountains or at events.
Prior to starting his business, Ciaran worked with young people in Belfast and it was this work that inspired him to found Natural Resilience.
“A few years ago I was working a lot with young people, especially young men in West Belfast, and there was one in particular who I had a great relationship with, who took his own life,” Ciaran explains.
“It was in 2019. Two of his friends committed suicide.
“So I started taking a small group of people from west Belfast, swimming in the sea and taking them to Wallace Park in Lisburn in the morning.
“We used to run barefoot in the winter in the frozen grass and we made a pact, we were like, ‘Okay guys, we’re going to run 12 lengths of football pitch barefoot on the ice’ .
“We took our flip flops off, well I call them flip flops, they call them sliders, I was showing my age – but they could have put their sliders back on at any time and got in the car, but we did it together like a group.”
Ciaran says the concept centered on building resilience to “cope with things when life gets tough.”
He adds, “That’s what inspired me to start the business. It’s about bringing people into nature, developing that resilience, developing that little bit of courage or determination.
“I thought, ‘How can I develop this; how can I offer this to the public?’ I created Natural Resilience in March 2020.”
Ciaran offers coaching using modalities such as NLP (neurolinguistic programming), personal development-style workshops and retreats, and he recently launched an online group mentoring service.
He says: “The workshops last one day. We look at emotional intelligence.
“We get people to control their breathing in cold water. We add sailing, climbing, orienteering… to each exercise corresponds a real life lesson.
“For example, I’ll rappel guys blindfolded and they can’t come back down without communicating with their teammates on the ground.
“It just shows the importance of effective communication, but we’ll also touch on if you’re feeling overwhelmed by life, the importance of speaking up and having that voice inside of you to say, ‘I need help. or ‘I feel overwhelmed’.”
Ciaran encourages clients to make a conscious effort to “accept the discomfort” and he does this himself by standing under cold running water for a minute or two at the end of his shower and swimming in the sea.
“Life can get uncomfortable sometimes, we know that – we can’t control life,” he says.
“So something I would do would be take cold showers in the shower or swim in the sea at sunrise every morning, to adjust to that discomfort, and I’ve been doing that for about four or five years.
“Before that, I took anxiety medication for several years, and it’s a process of doing it alone, the cold showers, the cold water, the breathing through that stress response; I haven’t needed to take any medication since doing this and I’ve never been happier.
“I’m a certified breathwork instructor and the breathwork is so, so fascinating. When you step into cold water, let’s say you do it for the first time, you get a bit of a shocking response.
“It’s reproduced anxiety and your breathing becomes very rapid and shallow. And then as a result of that your heart starts beating faster, your muscles tense up and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, get me out of here. ‘here”.
“But with the breath, what we can do is kind of reverse the effect of the panic attack by consciously slowing down the breath.
“It slows down the heart and allows the body to relax and send a message to the brain saying, ‘Calm down, you don’t need to push the stress hormones, I feel fine.
“The long-term goal is that if you can do it in cold water, you can do it when something doesn’t go to plan. So it’s almost training the body to deal with stress better.
For more information see instagram.com/naturalresilience_