CNBC's Sharon Epperson: A brain aneurysm saved my work-life balance

CNBC senior personal finance correspondent Sharon Epperson's priorities changed after surviving a brain aneurysm in 2016.
Sharon Epperson, senior personal finance correspondent for CNBC, at a Know Your Value event in Philadelphia on Nov. 19, 2019.
Sharon Epperson, senior personal finance correspondent for CNBC, at a Know Your Value event in Philadelphia on Nov. 19, 2019.Anthony Scutro

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By Halley Bondy

Before 2016, CNBC senior personal finance correspondent Sharon Epperson lived and breathed for her work.

“That person was going a mile a minute,” Epperson said of her previous self during an interview with Know Your Value founder and “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski. “That person was so eager to raise her profile, improve her brand. If that meant taking on four different digital projects and piloting shows and filling in for other anchors who were on leave...I wanted to do all of it. I said ‘yes’ to everything.”

Her career blossomed, but Epperson was spending less time with her husband and two children, she said.

“My work is absolutely for my family,” Epperson said. “I want to be able to provide for them...Working hard affords me the opportunity to do that, but I also want to be there to enjoy it with them, and to see them enjoy it. And that almost didn't happen.”

RELATED: How a brain aneurysm helped CNBC's Sharon Epperson embrace change

Everything changed in 2016, when Epperson suffered a brain aneurysm while working out at the gym.

She was hospitalized for a month, and had to receive extensive recuperative therapy. Epperson was unsure if she would be able to communicate again, let alone appear on TV. That stats, after all, are grim with 66 percent of brain aneurysm victims developing permanent neurological deficit, while 50 percent of victims don’t survive at all.

Brain aneurysms are hereditary and more common among black and hispanic women than other demographic groups. Stress may also be a contributor, according to some studies.

Epperson described the experience like shedding her former self and becoming an entirely new person.

“It all stopped,” Epperson said, adding she had to “figure out how to actually prioritize my life so that the things that are important, the people that are important in my life are the top priority.”

Ultimately, Epperson recovered and was welcomed back to CNBC in 2017. Since her near-death experience, however, her “family first” priority remained intact. She said she involves her family more in her work.

RELATED: Surviving a brain aneurysm taught me this about personal finance

“They’re involved in what I'm doing for work. They knew I was coming here today. This outfit is designed by a 14-year-old,” she said, referring to her interview wardrobe. “...My son is now in high school learning about the stock market ... I'm able to now use what I've been reporting on, what I've been talking about to an audience for such a long time now able to engage my family in it.”

Epperson also practices meditation, which has helped slow down and reflect.

“I can't start the day looking at my emails,” Epperson said “I can't start the day seeing what's up on Twitter. I need to start the day with a devotion, and then when I don't do that, my whole day is just shot.”

She said the aneurysm has also made her a better journalist, friend and family member.

“Was I really engaged in what I was doing or was I just talking to you? And then I was onto the next thing,” said Epperson, describing her life prior to her aneurysm. “Now I really do try to be in that moment...”