In 1996, Tomasa Macapinlac was in her early 30s, very successful, and working for one of the tech world's biggest companies. She was also extremely exhausted.
15 years of grinding it out in corporate America had taken its toll. "I was working my butt off. I had two small toddler daughters. I was married at the time, so I had a lot of stuff going on," remembers Macapinlac.
No doubt, many Americans have felt these same burnout feelings, which can have real impacts on physical health. In fact, stressful jobs are a known cause of high blood pressure.
In Macapinlac's case, it was the severe exhaustion that hit her, and over time, she fell ill — so ill, in fact, that she could barely climb out of bed.
"I didn't know what was wrong with me," says Macapinlac. "I'm pretty strong immune system-wise, health-wise, and I could usually kick things out. But this time, I couldn't."
So Macapinlac went to a doctor and was told to get three days of bed rest. But even after that, nothing changed. "I got back up and I was still not well," she adds. "I wasn't well for a while."
Macapinlac knew she needed to make a change and start taking better care of herself.
She was on the lookout for solutions that would help her feel better. So when a co-worker approached her and suggested she visit a holistic practitioner, it piqued her interest, and she decided to check it out.
Once there, she got up on a table and immediately received some hands-on healing. "It's very similar to acupressure," describes Macapinlac. "It's like being a jumper cable and recharging someone."
When it was over, Macapinlac already felt better. "I said, 'I don't know what you did, but I'm coming back,'" she remembers. And that, she says, was just the beginning of her whole journey of self-care.
Since then, Macapinlac has taken the time to create a self-care ritual that works for her.
Of course, everyone is different and self-care is going to vary from person to person. For some, it's about following a thorough daily routine. For others, it's as simple as not missing preventive care annual doctor visits to keep an eye on the four health numbers — blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body mass index (BMI) — so they can take control of their health and hopefully prevent disease before they get sick. For Macapinlac, it was about finding ways to destress and eat well.
To do that, she adjusted her work hours, she followed some ancient healing practices, and she eliminated packaged, processed foods from her diet. She also gets in regular exercise by doing things she loves. "I jazz and hip-hop dance, and then I'll hike every day because I love being in nature," she says.
Her key finding was that balance in everything she does — from work to sleeping to working out — is crucial to her feeling healthy and happy.
Her daily rituals helped her get rid of her chronic body pain, fatigue, and nagging health issues, such as asthma and allergies. She also stopped losing energy early in the day and had much more time to be there for her daughters. (In fact, Macapinlac's rituals have inspired them to prioritize their own self-care.)
"I'm going to be 54 this year, and if you take a look at my latest pictures, I feel that I look much younger than I did in my 30s," Macapinlac explains with a chuckle. "A lot of people want to know where I get my energy from."
That's why Macapinlac continues her practice by helping others get through their own self-care challenges.
In fact, she eventually left the corporate world and became a holistic practitioner herself.
"What I began to realize was that I'm really all about people taking care of themselves," she explains. "Because the truth is, when you take of yourself, then your glass is half-full, instead of half-empty."
"Then you can be there 100% for other people or whatever it is you want to focus on."
Yes, different things will work for different people. But taking time to care for yourself — no matter how you do it — can help improve your health.
And if you don't know where to get started, you can always talk to a health care professional near you. Even something as simple as getting a health check to know your key health numbers can give you a good starting place when it comes to developing a self-care plan that works for you.
"I encourage everyone to find what’s right for them," says Macapinlac. Because that's what it's all about: taking the time to find a self-care ritual that works for you so that you can improve your health and well-being.
Learn more about how to take control of your health at Cigna.com/TakeControl.