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Yes, burnout nearly killed me

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Kandi Wiens

The nurse checked my blood pressure twice. A third time. Then a fourth. 

As she quietly exited the exam room, I grabbed my phone to check on work (would you do the same?). This was a routine physical. I expected to pop in for half an hour, get my A+, and go straight back to work.

Minutes later the doctor came in. “What’s going on, Kandi?” she asked. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine,” I said.

And I really did feel fine. Yes, the ever-present hum of anxiety was climbing in advance of the leadership development program I was running. Yes, I worked 55+ hours per week as a leadership development director. Yes, I had three kids under the age of 7, so I wasn’t getting much sleep. But that was normal, right? I was used to it. I was fine.

Shock twist: I was not fine.

My blood pressure was a life-threatening 200/110. I would soon learn that a reading that high is considered a “hypertensive emergency.” If not treated it can lead to terrifying outcomes: organ failure, vision loss, stroke, heart attack. Death.

“We need to get this under control ASAP,” my doctor said. She gave me medication to lower my blood pressure and a strong dose of Xanax. She then personally called my husband to pick me up and ordered me to remain on bed rest for three days. If I experienced so much as a slight headache, I was to go to the ER.

My first thought? I can’t call in sick—I have a leadership development program to run!

My second thought (which even I recognized as unhealthy): Thank God. I finally have a legitimate excuse to sleep.

My third: Damn, she’s right. I am not fine.

My couch-ridden awakening

I remember lying on the couch on my prescribed bed rest, chilled out from the Xanax, when the realization hit: I almost let stress kill me.

Something had to change. I had to change.

During those days at home, I took a hard look at my stress, my relationship with work and success, and my self-destructive coping patterns. I’d never stopped before to consider WHY I was so driven and willing to sacrifice all the things outside of work—time with family and friends, sleep, exercise, vacations, leisure activities—that made life meaningful. 

Forced to a screeching halt, I recognized how burned-out I was, even though I loved my work and believed in the firm’s mission.

Right there on the couch, I resolved to make some serious changes. What was the point of success anyway if I was going to stroke out in my early forties?

From near-death to nearing publication: my book cover reveal!

In the years that followed I turned my ship (and blood pressure) around, leading to a doctoral program and my own research, and the tender realization that a lack of stability in my early life is what fueled the break-neck pace of my overwork and search for success. 

I’m going to share that story next month—promise—but right now I want to celebrate a HUGE personal and professional milestone: the beautiful cover of my forthcoming book, “Burnout Immunity: How Emotional Intelligence Can Help You Build Resilience and Heal Your Relationship with Work”:

Kandi BurnoutImmunity 3D

I’ll never forget how it felt to see it for the first time. It was May 2023 and I was at a conference with five good friends (👋Jess, Bria, Becca, Nyssa, Jen!). We walked into an enormous ballroom filled with excited conference-goers waiting for Adam Grant to take the stage. Before he was introduced, I opened the email from my editor and just about fell off my chair. 

Seeing the green and pink colors gave me that full-body rush you get when you see something you immediately love. I could feel the dopamine pumping as I whisper-screamed the news to my friends. As they hugged me, their genuine support and excitement were palpable. 

I am so excited to share the cover with you, and to let you know that Burnout Immunity is available for pre-order right now.

You might not know this (I didn’t) but pre-orders are super important. They count toward the first week’s sales, which increases a book’s chance of getting on a bestseller list. The more pre-orders the book gets, the more copies the publishing house will know to print.

I want to get Burnout Immunity in the hands of as many people as possible. Thank you, now and always,for your support. 

As we approach the book’s publication date of April 23rd, I’ll be emailing more often to keep you up-to-date and to share with you my best thinking and most personal stories—as thanks for being here and being part of this wild ride with me.

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