• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Serena Williams on self-care and avoiding burnout: 'I just feel like it's so important to have boundaries'

·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

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.

Serena Williams is having a hell of a week. On Tuesday, King Richard — for which she and sister Venus served as executive producers — was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, one of six Academy nods for the drama spotlighting the tennis superstars and their family. And on Sunday, she'll star in her second consecutive Super Bowl commercial for Michelob ULTRA in a buzz-worthy, Big Lebowski-inspired spot that sees her knocking down pins alongside the likes of Peyton Manning, Jimmy Butler, Alex Morgan, Nneka Ogwumike, Brooks Koepka and — who else? — Steve Buscemi.

"What's really cool is there's the same amount of female athletes and male athletes," Williams, a supporter of the brand's $100 commitment to promote gender equality in sports and boost the visibility of female athletes, points out in a candid conversation with Yahoo Life's The Unwind.

Serena Williams on her new Super Bowl ad, switching off and what stresses her out. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers).
Serena Williams on her new Super Bowl ad, switching off and what stresses her out. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers).

Strutting into the "Superior Bowl" bowling alley in a purple jumpsuit, Williams makes sports superstardom look easy. But juggling her own responsibilities — from film to fashion to motherhood to (oh yeah) tennis — can be a struggle sometimes, the 40-year-old admits. Like anyone else, she gets tired and "mentally drained," something she tries to combat by squeezing time in her busy schedule to, as she puts it, come "loose."

"We try to focus on having every day some time that I'm not working and I'm just relaxing," says Williams, who shares 4-year-old daughter Olympia with husband Alexis Ohanian. Relaxing might involve switching off to play with her daughter, booking a massage or even hopping on the treadmill — "which I know doesn't sound therapeutic sometimes," the star athlete concedes.

As big sister Venus Williams shared to The Unwind last fall, their parents, Richard Williams and Oracene Price, gave the girls tools to avoid the burnout they'd seen so many other athletes battling.

"I think we were always taught to pace ourselves and to do the best that we can," Serena confirms. "You know, a lot of people will definitely try to pull you in different directions and have you do things in an outrageous amount of time. So you have to just really have boundaries and just say, 'Well ... quite frankly, this isn't realistic and to get the best product, this is what I highly suggest.' I just feel like it's so important to have boundaries and just be clear."

That can be difficult at this level of success. The woman who has won a staggering 23 Grand Slam singles titles admits that "the more success you have ... sometimes you feel a lot more pressure."

Off the court, chaos and disorder can also cause stress. "I like to be organized, and when I'm not organized it just really stresses me out," she says.

Spending time with daughter Olympia — sometimes on the tennis court — is a bright spot in the star's life. When Williams doesn't feel like she's getting that quality time in, it can also take a toll.

"My 4-year-old is quite demanding and she's so used to being with me," Williams says. "But it's like, I need to make sure that I spend good time with her, and I need to make sure that she feels that I'm a good mom. I like to be good at things. That's another thing that stresses me out, is when I don't spend enough time with her. So I always try to block my schedule where I do."

As Super Bowl Sunday nears, the tennis champ — who plans to attend the game, this year held in her native California — advises the players involved to enjoy the moment. For her personally, success also means being ready.

"You've got to be ready," she says of psyching herself up for a match. "I've worked my whole life for these moments. ... I don't succeed in all of them, but at the end of the day, I've gotta think I'm good enough."

—Video produced by Stacy Jackman

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting