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Renée Zellweger felt like she was “about to die” from burnout before taking a Hollywood break

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Megan Murray
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Renée Zellweger has addressed the burnout she experienced in the lead up to 2011 when she took her six year break from Hollywood, and shared the powerful metaphor Salma Hayek used to make her see she needed to rest.  

Renée Zellweger is a fascinating woman. In one way we feel we know her intimately, from the cheeky crinkle of her eyes and her uniquely flustered way of speaking combined with a reliability that is palpable. But then again, when we think of these things, are we really just imagining her as an extension of her most famous character, Bridget Jones?  

Because, when you really think about it, the real Zellweger hasn’t shared much of herself with the public for some time. Especially not after taking a six-year break from Hollywood following a period of depression and burnout. Now, however, she is about to return to our screens as Judy Garland in Judy, and so she has taken the time to speak candidly about her battles with mental wellness.

In a profile for Vulture, the Chicago star has described how she felt in a period of her life when her work and fame had become overwhelming, eclipsing her personal life and causing her to feel burnout.

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“I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was the last thing on my list of priorities,” Zellweger says about her mental state leading up to 2011 when she retreated from the spotlight. 

It was during this time that she felt she needed to see a therapist. And, during their counselling sessions, Zellweger was made to understand how little of her personal life she had been investing in and protecting.

“He recognised that I spent 99% of my life as the public persona and just a microscopic crumb of a fraction in my real life,” she recalls.

It was this, and a chance meeting in an airport with Salma Hayek, that contributed to her decision to take time for herself. After running into Hayek, Zellweger explains that the fellow actor shared a powerful metaphor: “She shared this beautiful … metaphor? Analogy? ‘The rose doesn’t bloom all year … unless it’s plastic.’” 

“I got it. Because what does that mean? It means that you have to fake that you’re OK to go and do this next thing. And you probably need to stop right now, but this creative opportunity is so exciting and it’s once-in-a-lifetime and you will regret not doing it. But actually, no, you should collect yourself and, you know … rest.”

Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland in the new biopic, Judy.

Burnout is a term that’s being used more than ever and in a plethora of forms too, including social, career, millennial and mid-year burnouts. Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director of Healthspan and author of Cut Your Stress explains what it means to Stylist, saying: “Burnout describes the feeling of being drained of energy, and the physical and mental exhaustion associated with long-term stress.”

Ambition is often the driving force behind burnout, when we push ourselves too hard in a bid to achieve our goals, whether they be in our work or personal life. Because our efforts are born out of good intentions, burnout can creep up on us and before we know it we’re exhausted and not ourselves, which is when time for a break is truly needed. Something which Zellweger has recognised was an issue for her, too.

Now, Zellweger seems grateful for that time away and says she is in a much better place. Describing the six years she was away from the film industry as “important”, the actress has marvelled at the fact that she can now sit in cafes and restaurants without worrying about being bother by fans.

“I’m not in people’s consciousness anymore, so they don’t immediately make the connection. It’s a quieter life, and I love it.”

Her new film Judy will be released in cinemas on 4 October and has been touted as a possible Oscar winner thanks to Zellweger’s incredible performance, which we think would be a fitting return for such a talented actor.

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Images: Getty / © 2019 Pathe Movies

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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