MHAW2020: Peer supporter Julia shares lived experience of coping strategies through art

To continue our features for Mental Health Awareness week around the value of Lived Experience, peer supporter Julia shares a coping strategy she has used through art. Peer supporters are a really important part of our services and Julia works at our Bakery Court supported living service as part of the Norfolk Integrated Housing and Community Support Service. She explains here how she deals with anxiety by focusing on breathing and expresses that through drawing:

When I’ve felt overwhelmed or anxious people have often suggested concentrating on my breathing. As an artist I was struggling at the same time to carry on with any kind of creative practice. I knew that I needed to create, that it was fundamental to who I am as a person and that I felt stifled and choked by the stream of ideas that couldn’t make their way out into the world. My peer support worker would remind me that the breath was always there, and reflecting on this I decided to start a daily breathing practice. I needed to remember to breathe so started by drawing the breath. Literally.

This piece shows how the technique helped me feel calmer recently, going from shallow, quick breathes through to longer, fuller ones. The numbers in the drawing relate to the counts of each inhale and exhale.

Julia’s drawing to accompany the technique is below: