MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The election has yet to be determined, but there’s one thing that’s certain. It is expected to be an extra stressful week for some Americans. The already contentious election is happening amid a global pandemic and months of social unrest after the death of George Floyd.

WCCO found a free program that’s allowing Minnesotans to relieve some of that stress.

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It’s a place known for making the body stronger. But in the basement of the south Minneapolis Blaisdell YMCA you’ll find a room full of people making their minds stronger.

Sue Tambornino is an acupuncture patient.

“I come in and it’s a chance to unwind and sometimes I forget there are other people in the room,” she said.

Nora Gyrafas is also a patient.

“When she puts the needles in my head, I just — whoosh — leave my body,” Gyrafas said.

The needles aren’t meant to cause pain but to alleviate it. In the wake of the most stressful year many have known, Y’s in St. Paul and Minneapolis are offering free community acupuncture treatments.

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“After George Floyd was murdered, we had to figure out how does this community manage the stress response not only of the pandemic but racism and now economic stresses,” Sally St. John, vice president for YMCA’s integrative health and wellbeing, said

So through the George Wellbeing Program — a 3-year-old program named for its donors — they offer massage, mindfulness and, of course, acupuncture, which relaxes the nervous system.

Ray Himmelman Le Blanc is an acupuncturist with the George Wellbeing Program

“I’m so excited about my work because people come in stressed out and they leave more relaxed. And that instant shift is able to happen because of the beauty of acupuncture,” he said.

And so amidst another high-stress week, this gym is focusing on lowering anxiety.

“It’s all about mind, body and spirit coming together so we can feel whole,” St. John said.

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You do not have to be a member of the YMCA to get the free acupuncture. It’s being offered five days a week in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Click here for the schedule.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield