For those with anxiety, rumination can be a powerfully destructive force. Swirl is a new zine hoping to help tackle that in a stylish and simple way.
There’s something a little bit patronising about offering someone help through a self-help book; often they’re not even written by anyone with any background in psychological fields, it’s just about what they’ve experienced or felt. When we think “self-help,” we think weight loss, stop smoking, learn to be confident, or learn to say no.
Swirl is a zine (for the uncool kids, that’s a self-published and printed magazine, often more pictographic than a traditional magazine) which is bucking that trend. Andy Walton, a community mental health nurse based in the north east of England, began the project. Andy, in an interview with the Guardian, said that he has been treated for his own anxiety for many years, and has had experience with CBT and collected a lot of self-help literature.
The materials associated with anxiety tend to be dull or somewhat impenetrable: CBT guides broken down into chapter upon chapter of dull graphs and even duller text. When you’re in the midst of a bad mental health day, panic attack or severe rumination episode, it’s not exactly the kind of material you’re desperate to reach for.
With this in mind, Andy created Swirl. It’s a bright, creative, artistic and colourful zine, with a kind of “coffee table book” vibe that provides straightforward advice regarding anxiety, specifically overthinking. It’s the kind of book that, in the midst of an anxious episode, you would very much want to reach for over reams and reams of loose pages with black and white graphs and clinical text.
Unlike many self-help books, the language is simple to understand and comes from a place of pure science. All of Swirl’s content is evidence-based advice, led by CBT techniques. It was sent to clinical psychologists, mental health nurses, occupational therapists and mental health advocates to review and discuss its content, ensuring it gives real, meaningful advice and help for those who are reading it.
Illustrations in Swirl by Nate Kitch are stunning, striking and sometimes chaotic collages, but there’s a sense of calm to the book. It’s a truly beautiful book, stylish book, with Gina Yu’s creative and editorial direction being felt throughout.
OTs can’t be with their patients all the time, so a resource like Swirl is invaluable for those who may have issues with anxiety, especially rumination. The zine highlights valuable mental health interventions like the worry tree and the stress vulnerability bucket, which help them to manage anxious thoughts and rationalise their situation. Everything about the zine is designed to bring calm to its reader, right down to the quality and feel of the paper it’s printed on.
For those with issues with rumination, a portable, pretty and cool intervention like Swirl might be just the thing they need to bring themselves back to a positive mental place where they feel more in control of their thoughts.