This Too Shall Pass
I’ve gotten food sickness a few times over the past few years.
On my first morning in Bangkok, I felt nausea in my throat amid a rotting smell that permeated that part of the city.
My stomach churned and pain shot trough my body on a 14-hour+ sleeper bus into Vietnam. 4 jostling passengers lying shoulder-to-shoulder beside me and a pair of shoe-less feet dangling above me reminded me that if I were ever to relax as the bus crossed one of the many potholes littering the old highway, I would quickly become the most unpopular American in Vietnam.
And just yesterday, here in Ecuador, I got similarly sick after eating some likely-undercooked meat-on-a-stick, finding myself grabbing a small tree, leaning over the river, unsure if I wanted to stop myself from vomiting, or just let it out.
If you’ve ever had food sickness, you know how the nausea completely overpowers your senses. Past and future fall away, and you wonder “Will this ever end?” You’re left being ‘present’ in the most painful way possible.
I remember those painful hours on the Vietnamese bus best, because they were the worst. I wasn’t getting off the bus any time soon, and all I could do was sit.
Then I remembered:
“This too shall pass.”
I don’t know where I first heard that phrase and I don’t know who said it, but it helped. Life is made up of so many hours and they fly by so quickly. Even weeks pass by leaving us to ask “Is it Sunday already?” A few hours of pain would pass just the same.
Stuck on that bus with no relief in sight, I had to laugh. It was so clear that by midday tomorrow, today’s pain would be almost forgotten. I’d forget how long those hours on the bus felt, and it would become just another funny travel story about ‘trying to not stink up a bus crowded with Vietnamese people.”
There are many different kinds of pain, be it from your sick stomach or your bank account that isn’t high enough to pay your rent. For both types of pain, as well as the others, here are some strategies to make the situation at least a little better.
1. First, Remember That “This Too Shall Pass”
Said almost as a prayer, this phrase will bring you back to the knowledge that matters. Just like any challenge accepted in order to be defeated, it will be over no matter how it feels now.
Take on the attitude of a military recruit who’s glad that boot camp is pushing him beyond his comfort zone. The pain will fall away into the distant past, and only the memory of a formidable challenge overcome by personal will and strength will remain.
Remember, and repeat if necessary “This Too Shall Pass.”
2. Make Progress
When I’m feeling terrible I like to do something worthwhile. Tackling business challenge, watching some educational videos, or even working out is more difficult when you feel horrible but you’re going to feel terrible either way, so why not ‘Just Do It” like Nike?
One of the reasons I love pushing through when I’m sick is because I know “This Too Shall Pass” and that when I’m healthy again and sit down to work, I’ll be fully aware of and grateful for the relative ease with which I’m able to work.
3. Be ‘With’ The Pain
It doesn’t help me to try to escape from the pain. Instead, ask “What part of my body hurts?” or “Where is this pain coming from exactly?” Just applying focus seems to reduce the pain for me, and it can be an experience all on it’s own. Very importantly, you’ll more easily become aware of and grateful for the non-pain you feel all over your body 99 days out of 100.
4. Imagine “What If This Were Forever?”
I like this exercise because it brings back my perspective of how long I’ve been in pain, and how long it is likely to last. Ask, “How would I be successful, happy, etc., if this pain were just to last forever?”
Remember, there ARE people who lead meaningful, happy lives while dealing with pain every single day.
While thinking on the timescale of lifetimes, your perspective changes dramatically and you're able to more fully understand just how short this pain has been with you, and how incredibly soon it will go away. (Even though it feels like an eternity in this moment!)
Both Physical And Psychological Pain
I’ve used these strategies to help alleviate physical pain, psychological stress, and emotional heartaches.