Online educational resource for students helps with stress, anxiety

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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, experts say suicide rates among young Americans were growing.

"I know in the last few years there have been a few kids who have committed suicide," said Hastings High School Senior Simon Hedin.

Stress and anxiety pre-coronavirus was one thing, but now?

"With all of the chaos that’s going around and, honestly, it’s just easy to get overwhelmed and get wrapped up and start rolling down the hill, just start overthinking things," Hedin added.

Hedin in on the soccer and baseball teams, he is also a peer helper who has used Allina Health’s Change to Chill program to help reset.

"I’ve used a lot of the meditation resources on the website to center myself and just take it one day at a time," he said.

Change to Chill offers students free online tools and techniques to address stress and anxiety.

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"It helps teens identify how stress personally affects them and gives some ways to build their resiliency and deal with the stress," said Susan Nygaard, manager of Community Health Improvement, Community Benefit and Engagement with Allina Health.

During the pandemic, a new video series has been launched called "Coping with Change."

"We interviewed some teens this summer about how they deal with the pandemic and civil unrest and how it’s impacting them and how they can use some of the tools, deep breathing and different relaxation tools, to help them get through the day by day changes we are experiencing," Nygaard said.

The program has helped fund chill zones in schools, which are designed by students and are places to go in the school setting to calm the mind and body.

Places Nygaard says teens have asked for.

"Don’t assume all that’s going on, don’t assume we’re getting our information from social media," Nygaard said. "Give us some space, let us talk about what we’re feeling, what we’re experiencing."

For Hedin, change to chill has helped him cope. And he is now helping his peers do the same.

"It’s really been, it’s been really helpful," he said. "It’s been a game-changer for me."

There is free online Change to Chill community training for students, parents, educators, grandparents and anyone who would like to help a young adult in their life. More information can be found here.