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A couple of weeks ago, I heard our sump pump go off for the first time this spring. That was a good sign the frost was coming out and spring was on the way. However, it brought to the fore an anxiety I’ve had since 2004: flooding.

Perhaps you remember 2004. Twice that year we got a so-called Century Rain, the type of daylong downpour that allegedly only happens once every hundred years. Twelve inches of rain helped to find problems in my drainage system and a re-decorated basement. Twice. I shiver just thinking about wading through inches of water, trying to salvage items and drag wet carpet up the stairs.

We put in a system from American Waterworks that worked fabulously. I was finally getting over my fear of flooding every time a heavy rain occurred. I could sleep at night when the sump pump would run. Then 2010 happened. While much of New Richland was dealing with issues much bigger than mine, I was in my basement again, trying to fend off the encroaching waters again.

American Waterworks came and improved their system free of charge, and Michelle always reminds me that it’s a good thing to hear the sump pump; that means it’s working! Still, when I hear it run, that generally means a night of little sleep.

This is an anxiety of mine that has been difficult to overcome. As I travel through life, I realize this is pretty common. Many people have something that sets them off and brings fear to their lives. This goes beyond a fear of something, like my wife’s dislike of spiders. This type of anxiety can bring on physical problems instead of just having your spouse go kill the spider.

Sometimes I think these anxieties help make us more human. I used to think nothing would really bother me much. Sure, I didn’t really like scary or gory movies, but it wasn’t something that kept me up at night or had me worrying when I glanced out the window like this flooding thing does.

I’ve written a bit before about speech anxiety, having seen more kids have a difficult time standing in front of their peers for two minutes. We made it through our first round of speeches this year without tears or breakdowns, but I think there were some that were close. Again, this is a natural anxiety to have, and many kids have overcome it over the years and become comfortable enough to not let it bother them as much.

So how do you overcome an anxiety? There are certainly many different solutions. The kids with speech anxiety often find that the very act of speaking helps decrease the anxiety, and the more they do it, the more comfortable they become. There are little tricks we work on with eye contact, since that’s usually what sets them off.

My anxiety with flooding was nearly gone, merely through attrition. We had gone so many years with hearing the sump pump and not flooding that I had finally relaxed. Hopefully this will work again, although I still have a few years to go at this rate.

Jayna had some anxiety issues after the tornados a few years ago, as I’m sure many people did. Any time she heard the wind howl or the thunder crash down or the skies open up, it was assured she’d be sleeping with us or on the couch. This also has decreased with the years, and she’s fine with it now.

Some people have such strong anxieties that they see a therapist and/or use some prescription drugs. Too many folks view this as a weakness, but the simple fact is life without that anxiety must be so worth some sacrifices.

I’ve got some anxieties I’ve been working on for many years and can’t seem to get over. Whenever it’s game day for a team I coach in basketball, my stomach is in knots. I can’t eat anything after lunch if it’s a game after school or much at all during a tournament day. It’s hard to even brush my teeth because of the gag reflex. The funny thing is this only has ever happened for basketball; in 13 years of coaching baseball, I never once experienced that!

I’m not sure what causes this anxiety, especially since it’s so specific. I’ve tried all kinds of things to relax more on game day, but I’ve also talked to a lot of other coaches at all levels who face the same challenge. It’s clearly not something that just goes away with time like the public speaking anxiety does.

It’s good to self-evaluate and search for solutions. The next time you feel anxious, remind yourself that it’s perfectly normal and think about ways to overcome. Ask for help. Talk to a friend or family member. We might never be anxiety free, but we can find sunlight through the rain clouds if we look enough!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is hypocorism, which means the practice of giving pet names, as in, “The father found that his hypocorism with his kids helped reduce their anxiety in stressful situations.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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