Gratitude Fatigue is Real

By Kate McConnell,
Director of Inclusive Education for the Archdiocese of Chicago

I’ve heard it a million times and I’m sure you have too. Thinking, writing, and sharing what you are grateful for can help stave off depression, anxiety, and reduce stress during this isolating time caused by the global pandemic. When Zoom fatigue sets in, remember something you are grateful for, social workers say. When quarantine fatigue sets in, think of five things you are grateful for, psychologists suggest. When pandemic fatigue sets in, share with a friend something you are grateful for. Etcetera.

But, what about when gratitude fatigue sets in?

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful that I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and my health. My Catholic guilt is settling in because I know feeling fatigued by gratitude is a luxury. But, here I am.

The last time I tried the gratitude technique of getting myself out of a funk, my internal voice sounded sarcastic and exhausted, and if it had eyes, they’d be rolling in its head. I’m tired of being grateful of what I have because I am mourning what is missing. And, I know I’m not the only one. I know at least 10 other people who feel the same. Not a scientific study I realize, but I bet we’re not the only 10.

Yes, I am grateful that I have a roof over my head, but I really want to welcome family and friends under this roof for a get-together. Yes, I am grateful that we have been blessed to have no one in our extended family infected with COVID19, but I really want to hug each and every one of them. Yes, I am very, very grateful that my husband is still employed, but I really want him back in his office because he talks really, really loudly on the phone and our small condo in the Chicago sky is starting to feel like a dorm room. And on the lucky days that I get to work with students in our Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago, I am grateful to be surrounded by eager learners who are so diligently following safety protocols by keeping their distance from each other and wearing their masks. But, I miss their smiling faces.

What is one to do?

The answer for me is “hope.”

When the fatigue starts setting in, I think about what I am looking forward to: hallway chats with colleagues, welcoming family and friends to join us under our roof, handshakes, and hugging.

“Hope springs eternal.”

Alexander Pope said so in 1732 in An Essay on Man. Great thinkers of the past and present agree.

Diving into the experiences of those who lived through difficult times, a theme of hope is what propelled them forward. In the midst of great civil unrest as Americans were harassed, beaten and killed in the fight for equal rights, Martin Luther King, Jr., preached, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

When Gerta Weissman Klein was forced by Nazis to walk the death march in the winter of 1945, she says in the documentary One Survivor Remembers that it was hope that kept her going. Instead of focusing on the present, she thought of the future and planned what color dress she would wear at the party she planned to throw when the War was over.  

And Helen Keller said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

So when fatigue sets in, including gratitude fatigue, I begin planning for the future with hope and optimism. Before the pandemic rolled into Chicagoland, I was organizing a celebration/fundraiser. A celebration of my classmates and I earning our Master of Education degrees, and a fundraiser for the Fire Foundation of Greater Chicago. We were going to take over a bowling alley and spend the day laughing, bowling, and raising funds to support the cause of Fire Foundation of Greater Chicago—providing children with special needs the opportunity for an inclusive education in a Catholic school within the Archdiocese of Chicago.

I am hoping you will join us when the bowling alleys reopen.

What are you hoping for?

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13