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  • Writer's picture Jana

Conquering Desk Anxiety Leads to Pre-Pandemic Flashbacks. Coronavirus Update - Day 145 and Counting.

As a psychology major, I have read and studied about general anxiety, separation anxiety, social anxiety, and conditions such as OCD, PTSD, and even agoraphobia, which are all forms of anxiety. 

However, never have I come across any literature on Desk Anxiety, which I seem to suffer from. My symptoms are a sense of panic, doom, and shortness of breath when I sit at my desk or even walk by it.   

To combat my demons, I spend a lot more time at my desk than most people do. I like to face my demons head-on, after all. It's the only way I can keep up with everything and stave off my Desk Anxiety. Even a few stray papers can bring on symptoms. 

Rewind to March 13, 2020, when I brought my kids home from school that afternoon, with the promise that they would be returning to school in two weeks. Two weeks, how will I ever keep up with my desk?   Well, we all know how this story ends. Two weeks has now turned into eternity (literally) and my Desk Anxiety is out of control. 

With the kids home for the rest of their childhoods, gone is the luxury (if you can call it that) of being able to park myself (more like chain myself) to my desk for long periods, in an attempt to stay caught up. During the first few months of lockdown, things were so bad at my desk that I even managed to miss some bills altogether. Looking back, I can see clearly how out of control things were at my desk, in my house, and in my life. 

Every day, since that dark day in March, I walk by my desk, multiple times a day and feel that familiar shortness of breath that accompanies anxiety. I cannot recall a time, in recent years, that I have been so behind on everything. 

With homeschooling looming again, just a few short weeks away, I found my anxiety growing ever greater. I realized that if I didn't plant myself at my desk, for some long periods and try to get somewhat caught up, another six months or god forbid, a year, might pass before I could think about tackling what was staring at me. 

This morning, at around 10, I started with the normal stuff (bills, a few essential phone calls, etc.). Then, I started digging deeper into piles and baskets to see what awaited me. It was not pretty. 

Time had frozen. I saw paper, after paper, with Post-its attached to each, with detailed notes from February and early March. These were all things I innocently assumed I would circle back to in a matter of days or weeks, having no idea of what lay ahead in the coming weeks. These days it is always a strange experience when you find something dated before the pandemic and think of how innocently we were all going along, oblivious to the calamity that was about to befall us. 

At some point today, about 5 hours into my ordeal, I decided to tackle my bursting-at-the-seams basket of receipts. I was probably already overdue to sort those out in March, so by now, the mound was so high it was spilling over from all sides of the basket. Groceries, children's clothing, house repairs, Target, Costco, Home Depot, and every other imaginable category of receipt, were piled-up in the basket. Some were clipped together by the store they came from, but most were in complete disarray. There were hundreds of them. 

I found myself pulling them out randomly and trying to recall where life was on that date. There were many receipts for children's clothing, which now sits unworn in my children's closets. For example, in early. March, before the lockdown, the Gap was having a big sale, so I ordered them all new swimsuits (multiple ones each) and rash guard shirts, in anticipation of our family trip to Hawaii this past June, which never happened. I also found receipts for clothing items I bought, which if only I had known what lie ahead, I probably would have passed on. I came upon the receipt for a pretty plumb silk blouse I bought to "go out in" which now sits in my closet unworn. I also found the receipt for a camel-colored faux fur jacket that I fell in love with last fall. I just had to have (it was an unexpected splurge, but given its classic color and style, I knew I would probably enjoy the jacket for years to come). Can someone tell me where I'm going to wear a faux fur jacket in a pandemic, even if it is a classic?

The most upsetting receipts I stumbled upon were a few from the Apple Store. I knew they were in there and felt almost ill when I found them. They were both dated January 26, 2020, the day Kobe Bryant died. I had stopped by the Apple Store that morning on the way home from church with the kids to exchange a phone case. It was there that I learned of the helicopter crash and Kobe's death. That moment will be burned in my mind for all of the time. I. am sure that day, many of us couldn't imagine the year getting much worse than the death of Kobe, his precious daughter, and the seven other innocent souls who perished that day. Little did we know.  

Looking at the receipts and seeing all those pre-pandemic dates caused me to feel sorrowful. I could picture where I was when I had bought or ordered those items, important or not, pretty or not, needed or not. How naive I was to think that life could go on so simply, forever. In reality, my life was far from simple then, but not until March 13, did I realize that it actually was. I just didn't know it. 

As I sorted through the receipts and threw most of them away (too much time has now passed to return anything), I did feel a bit of relief as I realized that at least I won't be amassing so many receipts anymore. Most of what I bought, except for essentials or items for our home, I could have done without, had I only known. Now that I know, I won't be buying very much, which will alleviate the overflowing basket of receipts. Maybe that will make sitting at my desk just the least bit less anxiety-provoking. 

Footnote: You might be wondering why there are no gorgeous pictures of our scrumptious dinner? Our dinner was so unattractive and strange that it could not be photographed. But I'll share it with you anyway so that we can all have a good laugh together. We had a Mexican-American-Asian Fusion dinner, which consisted of the following: leftover barbecue chicken legs of which there were only four; three leftover half ears of corn on the cob; fish sticks; raw carrots; 2 leftover enchiladas; and jasmine rice with soy sauce. Trust me, I spared you by not photographing it. 

Before: This is just the receipts. I forgot to take a shot of my desk before I tackled all the piles of paperwork, that preceded the hundreds of receipts.

After: Now that is a sight to behold. I still have hours of work to go, but it is just just filling baskets and cabinets that mercifully, don't appear in this photo. I'll keep you updated on my progress.

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Aug 04, 2020

Thank you for you kind words that are so filled with wisdom and hope! And thanks for pointing out the silver lining about cold fur storage. You make a very good point! Things could always be worse.


Hi Jana. At least you won't have to put that fake fur coat (which I saw you wearing once, and it is is is gorgeous) into cold storage! I suppose it's trite to say that there's no point in stressing over how it was, and just get on to how it is, at least for the foreseeable future. Right now, we are all the same, grieving over a way of life that seems lost to us. According to my experience, however, I recall that it's typical of life to throw us major curves at the exact moment when we believe we've got it all adjusted the way we like. From what I've seen, you and the kids have done marvel…

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