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Government Shutdown: Financial Instability Can Impact Physical, Mental Health

RIVERDALE, Utah – Although the government shutdown may be temporarily over, the accompanying stress isn’t. One Riverdale couple is still figuring out the reality of living without a paycheck. Their financial instability is starting to affect their physical and emotional health.

Both Allison and Chris Ekstrom are IRS employees and have gone without pay for the last month.

Allison and Chris Ekstrom are both IRS clerks in Northern Utah and now have each gone without two paychecks this month.

“There’s been an immense amount of stress because you get up every day knowing what’s going to happen,” Allison Ekstrom described.

She described the feeling, “like a fist in your gut.”

Her husband agrees. As parents of two young children, they’re concerned about providing for their family’s basic needs.

“I mean, we’re trying to stretch every single dollar,” Christ Ekstrom said.

Their situation is even more fragile considering Allison Ekstrom suffers from multiple sclerosis.

Allison Ekstrom blows bubbles with her son, Connor. She can’t afford to pay for daycare without a steady income.

“We have to take care of important things like prescriptions,” she said, on top of therapy for herself and her daughter who has anxiety.

Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Jose Mathews said added stress can exacerbate existing health conditions.

“It has effects on both physical as well as our emotional health,” Mathews explained.

Allison Ekstrom experienced this firsthand after landing in the hospital this week for irregular heart palpitations.

“My blood pressure was very, very high [and] the EKG that they did was abnormal,” she described.

Mathews explained there are certain arrhythmias which are extremely responsive to heart arrhythmias. He said stress could potentially explain the onset of Allison Ekstrom’s recent heart concerns.

If unmanaged, Mathews said stress can lead to other developments like severe depression or anxiety. However, he said there are ways to manage stress.
Mathews said it is critical for an individual to first recognize a problem and become aware of when a situation is unhealthy. He then encourages people to develop the courage to overcome the stigma of seeking help from close family and friends and also medical professionals when necessary.

Mathews said research shows having face-to-face interactions with people, rather than communicating through technology, makes people more resilient and better suited to overcome from negative events like a loss of income.

“There is data to show that it helps with us having a better adaptive response to stress and also bouncing back from a traumatic event in a shorter time scale,” he explained.

Mathews also said exercise, like yoga, has proven to be an effective way of mitigating stress.

“Having even minimal amounts of exercise, helps with stress, helps with anxiety, helps with depression,” he explained.

Allison and Christ Ekstrom worried about their ability to provide for their 4-year-old son, Connor, during the government shutdown.

Mathews said it’s important for people to make time for themselves through practicing mindfulness or meditation, which can also relieve stress.
For now, the Ekstrom family will continue to rely on their relationships with one another to make ends meet.

“No matter what happens, when we see him smile, it almost erases everything,” Chris Ekstrom said.

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