Self-Care & Mental Wellness: Donya Ben Mlouka Smida On The Top Five Selfcare Practices That Improve Mental Wellness

An Interview With Maria Angelova


Be kind to your body in order to improve your mind. This involves eating healthy, getting regular good-quality sleep, taking time off and exercising regularly. Life Insurance reported that 63% of fitness program participants report being more physically relaxed, less tired, and more patient. If you don’t respect your body, it will shut down when you will need it most. It is your noble and holly temple Take care of it!

Let’s face it. It seems that everyone is under a great deal of stress these days. This takes a toll on our mental wellness. What are some of the best self-care practices that we can use to help improve our mental wellness and mental well-being? In this interview series, we are talking to medical doctors, mental health professionals, health and wellness professionals, and experts about self-care or mental health who can share insights from their experience about How Each Of Us Can Use Self Care To Improve Our Mental Wellness. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Donya Ben Mlouka Smida.

Donya Ben Mlouka Smida is an expert on maximizing efficiency and stress management coach.

She is a highly successful International Corporate Senior Executive, having led teams, supervised more than 40 staff and managed multi-million regional complex projects for the past 17 years. She is married, has 3 children and is passionate about personal development and Sport.

She consistently follows her inner voice to empower entrepreneurs and executives to build their businesses and careers around their lives, not the other way around. She is devoted to her mission to accompany people to become more efficient in order to achieve their dreams and have the energy while taking care of themselves and their loved ones.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us. It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about you and your personal background. Can you please share your personal story? What has brought you to this point in your life?

I reached a crisis in my life when I realized that getting to the pinnacle of my career ladder didn’t necessarily make me a happier person.

I was achieving my professional goals, plus my role as a wife and a mother. I believed my life was perfectly set (and I was proud of it). The path forward seemed like a straight one, leaping from one challenge to the next.

I’m an International Corporate Senior Executive in charge of multi-million dollar projects and managing around 30 people at work. At home I have a packed and rich family life raising three children. I obtained a while ago my degree in engineering and I have worked in various different and challenging positions for several international organizations. I have always been available to support, listen and occasionally guide colleagues and friends.

A year ago, I had a powerful awakening moment. I started to ask myself: ”Am I fulfilled with my life?” I suddenly understood that I was neglecting myself and not listening to my inner voice. I hadn’t realized that the high-pressure lifestyle was actually crippling me emotionally. It became clear that I hadn’t defined for myself a purpose that would give me a meaningful life.

I started to make the changes I needed to give myself a more purposeful and rewarding life. One of these was to get professional coaching to help me identify my own values and priorities. I found this so rewarding that it awakened in me a desire to bring the same sense of freedom and excitement to the forefront of my life and the life of others. I decided to take another route to commence my own path as a professional coach specializing in productivity and stress management. This was the debut of a journey that brings me every day more fulfilment and allows me to share with others the beauty of life. I still do my Corporate job because I love working in a team and dealing with challenges.

What is your “WHY” behind what you do? What fuels you?

I’ve loved helping others since I was a child. In high school, I helped classmates prepare for their exams because I found it easy to communicate concepts to them. During my Baccalaureate, I intensively coached a close friend who used to have bad results during the year. As a consequence, she passed brilliantly her final exams and was able to join University. At University, my classmates called me “Let Me Explain” because teaching and transferring knowledge is such a passion for me.

My discovery of coaching and personal development world has opened my eyes to many more possibilities. A mindset shift can change our life and it is our birthright to be happy and fulfilled.

Combining my love of helping others with my excitement about new possibilities is what gives me my WHY:

To teach self-empowerment and coach others in order for them to and contemplate the beauty of their life. My mission is helping others reach their potential and leave their capacities manifest itself.

Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a mistake or failure which you now appreciate has taught you a valuable lesson?

Each failure is an opportunity to learn. I’ve discovered this valuable lesson from painful experience.

Some years ago I was part of a high ranking delegation on a four-day mission. It was very emotionally and mentally intense because I had to handle negotiations with delegates who had strong egos. On the way back, there was a three hours layover for a connection. I made sure everybody knew where the Gate was so they didn’t miss the flight and went to a café situated next to the Gate. I finished my coffee and went to the Gate to discover that the doors had been closed! I tried everything I could to get on the plane, but the airport staff refused to let me by. It took ages to recover my luggage and find another flight. It was a huge airport and I felt like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal”.

I was SO ashamed on having missed the flight. I searched for logical excuses for what happened, including time zone differences. I accused the company of closing the doors early and of failing to call passengers to the Gate.

I was speaking about this disaster for days and it took me a week to digest this failure. My friends, family and colleagues told me “It’s ok, it happens to everyone!” but this response made me even sicker.

In retrospect, I learned an impactful lesson. It is not possible to be in control of everything. When you become overwhelmed and “burn” too much energy, you need to regain it somehow. Energy consumption does not occur only on the physical level, but on the mental and emotional sides as well.

I, now, realize that my mind was simply empty of energy when I went for that coffee. It had switched off because I had not previously given it the chance to recharge. So it did it on its own!

I learned how important it is to take care of our mental health. It is valuable to create regular periods where we can regain our energy and practice self-care.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I’m a Great listener:

I am genuinely interested in what people think, feel and say. This makes me the sought-for person with several colleagues, friends and now my partners clients.

I’m open-minded:

I have always worked in a multicultural environment and put my act together to adapt to complex and challenging situations. My first engineering position, at 25, was with a Swiss pharmaceutical company. I moved to a small German- speaking village and worked with men who had 20–30 years of experience operating the plant. In the first year I built solid working relationships with the operators and introduced technical changes which increased production volumes.

I’m eager to learn:

I love developing and enriching new skills. This has enabled me to “jump” to apparently unrelated new areas. I moved from a chemical engineering background to an administrative assistant in an international organization to a project manager. My most recent move was to a senior executive position managing multi-million projects. Exploring new horizons and being open to new skills enables us to evolve not only professionally but also mentally.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting new projects you are working on now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m excited to add hypnotherapy techniques to my coaching. This has helped me personally to delve deep into my limiting beliefs and eliminate old traumas that have been in my subconscious for many years. In particular, I use the “New Recognition” method developed by a French Hypnotherapist that has the power to “clean the soul”. In less than 3 hours, I encoded and profoundly anchored all learnings, self-confidence and self-worth while working on negative emotions and traumas. I now add this to my coaching packages.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, about the interface between self-care and mental health. From where you stand personally or professionally, why are you so passionate about mental well-being?

Mental well-being is the basis of all our personal development! Can you imagine a car with a faulty motor?

Many people believe we only need our logical brain to keep everything under control, but that is a mistake. I can tell you from experience that having an amazing job, amazing family and house, does not make you happy and fulfilled. The essence of a rewarding life is our mental well-being.

The great news is that we have the power to improve our own mental well-being. We can explore so many aspects and are able to rewire, re-program and shift our perspective. It is challenging and interesting — but most of all, it is possible to have this shift!

Based on your research or experience, how exactly does self-care impact our mental wellness?

Mental, emotional, and physical health are related. When you are mentally unwell it has consequences on the rest of your body and emotions. The more care you take of yourself the more prepared you are for life’s daily challenges and the greater your potential to thrive.

Self-care is about taking the time to listen to yourself. This can mean disconnecting from demanding work, interruptions and negativity. It’s about refueling and regaining energy: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Here is our primary question. Can you please share your “Top Five Selfcare Practices That Each Of Us Can Use To Improve Our Mental Wellness”?

The best self-care practices that I recommend are:

Respect your body:

Be kind to your body in order to improve your mind. This involves eating healthy, getting regular good-quality sleep, taking time off and exercising regularly. Life Insurance reported that 63% of fitness program participants report being more physically relaxed, less tired, and more patient. If you don’t respect your body, it will shut down when you will need it most. It is your noble and holly temple Take care of it!

Daily practice of breathing exercises:

You have the power to control your breathing. Unlike digestion, for example, breathing is a critical bodily function that you can take direct control over. Learning to master your breath can reduce anxiety and regain control of your well-being. I recommend the 4–8 Breathing Method which is easy to use wherever you are. It consists of inhaling from your nose whilst mentally counting to four. Feel the air entering your nose and descending to your belly. Then exhale from your mouth whilst mentally counting to eight.

Identify what stresses you and define your boundaries:

Identify your main source of stress and start learning about your internal functioning system. For example, are you a “Pleaser”, a “Be Strong”, a “Be Perfect”, a “Make Some Efforts”, or a “Hurry Up” person? Once you understand this, you can better define what boundaries you need to put in place. These boundaries will give you the necessary distance to mentally and physically handle daily pressure. As you work on your boundaries you may want to explore issue like defining fixed working hours or creating fixed days/hours which would allow you to devote time to self-care.

Daily meditation:

Meditation has proven to be a powerful method to disconnect with the outside and connect with the inside. I’m not asking you to stay “still” for hours but rather to cut the pattern of working on auto-pilot. As a beginner, you can start with conscious actions which allow you to embrace the moment. For example: brushing your teeth with the left hand if you are right handed or counting the steps when you are walking. A powerful exercise is to become conscious of your breathing. “Follow” the breath as it comes into your body and the sensations as you breathe the air out again. Doing this for just ten minutes a day can completely change your state.

Daily journaling to increase self-awareness, self-confidence and self-love:

At the beginning you might simply identify your basic desires and purpose. As you progress in journaling you might list 100 things you are proud of, then you might list 100 things you are grateful for. With time you will be able to use journaling to help you develop a clear picture of the things you want to bring into your life. This is another story in itself!

Can you please share a few of the main roadblocks that prevent people from making better self-care choices? What would you suggest can be done to overcome those roadblocks?

Chronic Stress:

When you are in constant stress it is hard to distinguish right from wrong. You are overwhelmed depleted energy and close to survival mode. Self-care is crucial at this point: take a step back, relax, seek external help and identify the sources of stress in order to work on them.

The belief that self-care is a waste of time:

This is often a strong barrier to progress. You might think that taking time for yourself reduces the time available for “important” things. It is fundamental to understand that taking time off for regular breaks actually increases productivity. As a consequence, you will not only gain more time but will feel better. The better you feel the better you will perform which will create a virtuous circle. Install regular breaks as part of a healthy habit regime. You might use the technique of a five to ten — minutes break for every ninety minutes of focused work time.

Belief that life is hard and I can’t escape feeling unhappy (so why bother with self-care?):

This is usually related to low self-esteem. It’s important to detect this pattern, so you can work on rebuilding self-confidence AND self-worth. Follow the motto that every person on the planet deserves to be happy — it is simply your birthright. Use meditation, journaling and coaching to help you.

Self-care is expensive:

You might think that Self-care is only for rich people. Yet self-care can be as easy as: breathing, meditation, taking breaks or having a good time with friends and family.

In one sentence, what would you say to someone who doesn’t prioritize their mental well-being?

Your life is the most important asset you have; if you want to be the CEO of your life take care of yourself and your mental health.

Thank you for all that great insight! Let’s start wrapping up. Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does this quote resonate with you so much?

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” Einstein.

Einstein’s scientific theories changed the world, but he also saw the value of the human, mind, soul and emotions, not just the molecules and cells that make us up.

This quote recognizes the importance of adapting our thoughts to match the reality we want rather than changing the reality to match our thoughts. That means we need to change our thoughts first, our behaviors will follow and finally our reality match what we are looking for (not the other way around). This gives us great hope in our lives and fuels me with energy to achieve my goals and purpose in life.

Another reason I like this quote is because I’m privileged to have attended the same University as Einstein to complete my Master’s degree!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? They might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

So let’s dream big ☺ I WOULD LOVE to have breakfast with Michelle Obama. She is a mother, a wife, a professional and a social activist. She has mastered all those roles and I would love to hear about her secret (or maybe not so secret) self-care routines.

I truly appreciate your time and valuable contribution. One last question. How can our readers best reach or follow you?

I’m present on social media, where I share regularly on mindset, productivity and stress management

LinkedIn: LinkeIn Donya

Facebook: Facebook Donya

Facebook Group: Facebook Group Grow & Glow

Instagram: IG Donya

And would be happy to schedule a Discovery call Calendly Donya

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at To schedule a free consultation, click here.



Maria Angelova, CEO of Rebellious Intl.
Authority Magazine

Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl.