The surprising way Awkwafina relaxes on set: Gaming is 'a very therapeutic thing for me'

Awkwafina shares how she unwinds. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Awkwafina shares how she unwinds. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

When she's not voicing dragons in films like Raya and the Last Dragon or battling them in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Awkwafina prefers to face challenges on a much smaller screen: namely, that of her Nintendo Switch.

The 33-year-old actor tells Yahoo Life she enjoys both the competition and sense of community she's found by delving deeper into the world of video games. And, although she jokes she's lost some friendships over heated Mario Kart competitions, she says she's been inspired to work hard and de-stress more through relationships with fellow gamers.

Here, Awkwafina shares how gaming has become an outlet for relaxation on her most stressful days, as well as her advice for others who are slaying metaphorical dragons in their own lives.

Tell me a bit about your experience with gaming. What do you like most about it?

I've played video games since I was a kid and Nintendo specifically was a big part of my childhood growing up. I've seen the technology change and the games I used to play as a kid change as I grew up, too. I've really reconnected with gaming in more recent years because it's a very therapeutic thing for me. But also, it's entertaining and there's something nostalgic about it.

I like that even if you're not really a gamer-centered person, there's a place where you can still kind of live in there. There's something for everyone.

I've always liked gaming but also... [I'm] not the best gamer.

How have you found time to prioritize yourself and practice self-care amid all the recent projects that you've been up to and, of course, during the pandemic? And, how do you unwind when you're on set?

It is really hard to find the time to unwind, especially between what I feel can be really chaotic bursts of time in between projects.

But in the same way that we sit and binge-watch a TV show or go watch a movie when we want to find ways to kind of declutter our mind, I've definitely used gaming in that way. I bring my Nintendo Switch everywhere I go: Sometimes when I'm trying to beat a game, between sets I'll go into my trailer and just be on it. I travel with it constantly and it's kind of become a part of everywhere I go.

What advice would you give people who have big dreams or goals of their own and are trying to overcome setbacks?

I think the basic thing to always know is that first of all, you're never too old to accomplish anything.

Also, there are things we can manifest for ourselves and there are other things we have no control over. I think we're kind of set up to live in a world where big dreams and hopes and wants don't come to us very easily, so it really is a matter of having a sense of identity and knowing what you want to do.

And then, it's about staying strong through those times because life is only going to be a series of setbacks really, but you have to trust that those setbacks will inevitably lead to something good.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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