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The Pace of Growth With LivingWell art instructor, Cheri Hunt, and LivingWell counselor, Christine McMinn, LCPC, CT

There are many ways to record growth. As a child, your mom or grandmother may have measured you against a wall, marking a line for each inch, all the way through high school. As an adult, you may have measured growth by your family members, education level, job success and friendships. When facing a big challenge like a cancer diagnosis, growth can also be evaluated, and often times in these five phases:

In a recent online Journaling and Altered Art class, LivingWell instructors Cheri Hunt and Christine McMinn, LCPC, CT, asked participants to think about their own growth after cancer diagnosis and the five words above. Then, they worked on a variety of journaling practices that included visual elements. Like any form of journaling, an art journal is a capture of thoughts, emotions, and ideas, but it goes beyond simple words on a page to include artistic expression.

Try journaling about these five words at home and get creative with the artistic elements below.

To get her own pages started, Cheri began with the five words and then covered pieces of white paper with sheets of music, her own doodles, and flowers made from book pages, layers of crepe paper and scrapbook paper. She deliberately used pages from a book by one of her favorite authors, Mary Oliver.

I surround myself with nature so using pages from Mary Oliver's book validated my thoughts on my growth moving upstream." — Cheri Hunt

Inside her layered crepe paper flowers, Cheri sprinkled in words that symbolized growth for her. The layering of flowers were by design as well ... layers of growth!

Using scrapbook paper, Cheri used this technique to make six-petal origami flowers.

Cheri's growth garden ...

Doodling is another great way to fill pages of an art journal. Cheri suggests sitting in nature and doodling what you see. Fill in doodles with words that express your anxiety, fears, hopes, and dreams of becoming.

Cheri must have been sitting in a flower garden while doodling these pages!

You can watch your growth evolve in a basic calendar, too. Instead of filling in days with meetings, doctor appointments and other humdrum to-dos, fill in with feeling of highs and lows, what you did, where you went, who you saw. Doodle these, too, with colorful pens and make it fun! While cataloging your days, look for positive shifts. These shifts can allow for gratitude and blessings to flourish.

Another creative idea to measure progress is to create a growth chart. Cut rectangles from cards, catalogs, etc., and glue the top of each rectangle down. Flip up each rectangle and write in progress made each day, like "took a walk," "journaled one page," "tried a new healthy recipe." Check it out ...

Similar to an advent calendar, this growth chart features a "surprise" behind each window.
Growth takes place at different rates. Let it happen as it should. Breathe through the paths that are bumpy, stormy, dead ends. Pick yourself up, turn yourself around, and move forward—taking time to smell the flowers along the way.

This week, reflect on your growth ... and be gentle with your pace.

To help you reflect, here are three journal questions/prompts from LivingWell counselor, Christine McMinn, LCPC, CT ...

1. What has the experience of personal growth been like for you historically?

2. Growth of any kind is often slow with very little we can do to expedite the process. What is it like for you to sit in a waiting period and allow things to unfold on their own timeline?

3. Has the concept of growth applied to your cancer related experience in any way? (Please note: cancer is not something we need to grow or learn from, nor does it come about because we needed to grow in some way. At the same time, many people find areas where they experience personal growth whether they wanted to or not throughout their experience with a diagnosis, i.e., recognizing inner strength, setting healthy boundaries, etc.)