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Lviv, Ukraine, March 14-19, 2024

Structured rhythmic bilateral drawing can help to self-regulate nervous systems; we witnessed this several times across our week in Lviv.

In short, coordinated bilateral movements can helpfully engage different sensory and motor areas in both hemispheres of the brain. We used bilateral drawing exercises on a number of occasions while offering training on burnout and self-care during our collaboration @firstaidofthesoul : for a warmup at the Art therapy conference; with psychology students at the Catholic University, and with teachers in a school for both children with learning disabilities and young people who have been displaced by the war.

We often discuss, with ourselves and others, how this exercise can be something both simple and self-soothing. This was evidenced to us all when an air alert siren went off while we were visiting the school. Here we tried to gauge the mood, some of teachers saying this is what they live with, and we picked up on the pervading anxiety.

We were greeted by a group of 20 teachers waiting for us in an upstairs corridor where we understood they shelter from any risk of shattering glass. A long table was quickly assembled on behalf of the group, initiated by the teachers themselves, with tables carried in from surrounding classrooms and pushed together.

We introduced guided spiral drawings, with first the dominant hand then the non-dominant hand, culminating with both hands simultaneously making spirals on the page. Everyone participated, while each individual’s response was slightly different, some choosing to move fast or slow, exploring a rhythm of movement that suited them.

The women also seemed to find solace in the corridor, held by the impromptu table and each other. They transformed a through-space - linking other areas of the building together - into a place that was inhabited and helped self-regulation for a brief period of time.

Words by Miriam Usiskin & Bobby Lloyd.

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