When you are confronted to a difficult situation ask yourself: What bothers me most in this situation? What is my zone of influence? We can operate only within our influence area. For example: If you are feeling uncomfortable with a new colleague and want to avoid her/him, ask yourself what is it that bothers me really in this person? If it is possible to avoid working with this person, decide to decrease unnecessary contacts. Decide how and when to get in touch with her/him in order not the stop the work flow. Have an internal talk that every person is different and that you accept others (let go).

With all that’s going on in our country, in our economy, in the world, and on social media, it feels like so many of us are under a great deal of stress. We know that chronic stress can be as unhealthy as smoking a quarter of a pack a day. For many of us, our work, our livelihood, is a particular cause of stress. Of course, a bit of stress is just fine, but what are stress management strategies that leaders use to become “Stress-Proof” at work? What are some great tweaks, hacks, and tips that help to reduce or even eliminate stress from work? 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 is a stress management coach featured in Authority Magazine and Up Journey.

She is a highly successful International Corporate Senior Executive, having led teams, supervised large teams 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 and less stressed in order to achieve their dreams.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!

I’m an International Corporate Senior Executive in charge of multi-million dollar projects and managing large teams at work. At home I have a rich and busy family life, raising three children. I have worked in various different and challenging positions for several international organizations. I was always known by colleagues and family members for being calm and serene. Nonetheless, they weren’t seeing the full story.

From the inside, I was deeply worried and felt responsible for everything. I was continuously overthinking and had the same thoughts again and again. I realized, a year ago, that stress can be manifested in different ways. It is our responsibility to learn to manage and cope with it rather than wait for the environment to change. The pandemic and other crises are shedding the light on the fact that we’ll never have the perfect conditions in which to feel un-stressed and happy. The solution is within each of us.

I started to understand my internal dynamic and made the changes. I needed to be serene “internally” as well as “externally”. I now show other professionals to become stress-proof through my coaching programs.

My coaching program is based on my sound belief in an enlightened win-win sharing attitude on give-and-get value. I embrace and constantly cultivate a profound entrepreneurial culture which reinforces my belief that personal effort is the way to success and fulfilment not only in business but also in personal life.

What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?

For a long time, I was proud to be a perfectionist and believed this quality enabled me to become a Senior executive. The skill I would like my younger self to have is to differentiate between being a detail-oriented person and a perfectionist. It is totally different to aim for quality and consistency rather than perfection.

It is a good thing to be on top of the detail, quality and consistency of a job. These are positive and helpful qualities. However, “Perfectionism” implies that you are “still not there”. In “Perfectionism” there is a resentment that “you are not good enough” and will need to do more. You seek perfection without even knowing how perfection looks. Perfectionism suggests a lack of control, uncertainty about how far you should go and the un-satisfaction that you can’t reach what you are aiming for.

None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?

So many people have helped me with support, advices and, suggestions, or even a simple “Yes you can do it”. I’m grateful for every single one of them.

However, I would like to thank one person in particular. They made my life miserable and caused me to question why I’m hurt and emotionally triggered. This is what led to an awakening moment where I started to explore how external factors can trigger internal unhealed emotions and stories. As long as you do not fix your inner-you, external factors will always be “bothering” you. I now help people go through this process.

And as Confucius said “Tell me and I would forget. Show me and I would remember. Imply me and I would understand”

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?

I offer a 3-month program with 1:1 coaching sessions using different techniques to help entrepreneurs and professionals reduce stress and become more serene. This solution enables them to focus and to do more in less time. I use hypnotherapy to dig deep into unhelpful beliefs and old stories that are not serving anymore.

Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about stress. How would you define stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to a demanding situation, real or perceived. It is a coping mechanism which we put in place to adapt to changes.

It is not the situation that is stressful but our ability (or not) to cope with it.

In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. So what has led to this chronic stress? Why are so many of us always stressed out?

In Maslow’s needs pyramid, survival needs are at the bottom of the hierarchy. These are our basic needs, but there are other higher needs. These include:

– Safety needs (eg security of employment)

– Love and belonging (eg sense of connection with colleagues)

– Esteem (eg respected and recognized within the company)

– Self-actualization (eg to be the best version of yourself and have a purpose in your life).

These are as important and represent the rest of the Maslow’s pyramid.

When our survival needs are partially met, we are drawn to fulfil the next need in the hierarchy. When we don’t fulfil certain needs, we can experience stress. This depends on where we are in our journey, stories we are telling ourselves and our desires and dreams.

What are some of the physical manifestations of being under a lot of stress? How does the human body react to stress?

Stress can affect our emotions, behaviors, mental and physical health. We all handle stress differently and symptoms can vary. They may be the same as those caused by medical conditions. For example:

• Emotional symptoms could be:

Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody. Feeling overwhelmed or bad about yourself (low self-esteem),

• Physical symptoms could be:

Low energy, chest pain and rapid heartbeat, insomnia, frequent colds and infections.

• Mental and physical health could be:

Constant worrying, inability to focus, being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side. Changes in appetite, avoiding responsibilities, more use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes.

Is stress necessarily a bad thing? Can stress ever be good for us?

Stress triggers adrenaline which made our ancestors run when a lion was heading towards us, and stress makes us productive during the last hour before submitting an important report.

Stress has a very useful function: it increases brain and body abilities, memory, intelligence, productivity, speed, alertness, energy and creativity. Stress is helpful when it is punctual and when it is at its early stages.

Is there a difference between being in a short term stressful situation versus an ongoing stress? Are there long term ramifications to living in a constant state of stress?

It is the excess of stress that is harmful. Short term can be positive and effective. Chronic stress on the contrary has an impact on our well-being, health, performance and effectiveness.

We can monitor our reaction to stress by observing signs and physical symptoms. For example:

Transient insomnia and less social relationships would be signs for an early stage of stress,

Recurrent insomnia and tendency to isolation would be signs for intermediate stress,

Hypersomnia, oppression, panic attacks and hyperventilation would be physical symptoms of advanced stress stage.

It is important to monitor signs and symptoms of stress in order to avoid finding ourselves in chronic stress and having to deal with advanced symptoms which are more difficult to heal, such as depression and anxiety. The earlier the better.

Is it even possible to eliminate stress?

Yes, if we are totally isolated and we practice meditation throughout the day. Jokes aside, why would we get rid of stress if we could make use of it at its initial stages? However, we need to keep monitoring the situation and make sure we don’t continue in chronic stress through a proper stress management process.

In your opinion, is this something that we should be raising more awareness about, or is it a relatively small issue? Please explain what you mean.

It is necessary to talk about it and raise awareness. Stress is a general and common phenomenon which is exacerbated by worldwide crisis, wars, pandemics and global recessions.

It is important to raise awareness about stress, to inform people that it is not OK to be stressed. It is not OK to be overwhelmed, to feel bad, to feel oppressed. Awareness campaigns allow people to be conscious about their stress level and alert to the possibility of change. Awareness campaigns could concentrate on preventive measures rather than “fixing” measures.

Let’s talk about stress at work. Numerous studies show that job stress is the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades. For you personally, if you are feeling that overall, work is going well, do you feel calm and peaceful, or is there always an underlying feeling of stress? Can you explain what you mean?

Stress can come from real situations or perceived ones. We can feel stress even if work is going well. This can be caused by our internal stories and beliefs, if we have not set helpful boundaries.

Different levels of needs arise at different stages of our life journey. We might find our calling is different from our current job and this can cause stress.

Perhaps our calm job is not coherent with our values, such as freedom. Remote work has led employees to discover new freedoms as a result from working from home.

Okay, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview: Can you share with our readers your “5 stress management strategies that busy leaders can use to become “Stress-Proof” at Work?” Please share a story or example for each.

These tips are offered as general guidance.

Strategy 1:

Identify what is really stressing you and ask:

o What is my reality? Is my work genuinely overwhelming or do I need to reprioritize my list?

o Where did I do that to myself?

o Where can I break the cycle?

Most of the time the main stressor is yourself. It’s important to have clarity on our behaviors, boundaries, and how you perceive the situation and this will reduce drastically our stress level.

Strategy 2:

When you are confronted to a difficult situation ask yourself: What bothers me most in this situation? What is my zone of influence? We can operate only within our influence area. For example: If you are feeling uncomfortable with a new colleague and want to avoid her/him, ask yourself what is it that bothers me really in this person? If it is possible to avoid working with this person, decide to decrease unnecessary contacts. Decide how and when to get in touch with her/him in order not the stop the work flow. Have an internal talk that every person is different and that you accept others (let go).

Strategy 3:

Have a list of priorities and start with the most energy-consuming actions and the one you resist the most:

Don’t put more than 3 important tasks per day and 3 nice-to-have tasks per day in your To-Do list. Praise yourself for every little step you achieved during the day.

Strategy 4:

Install regular self-care practices such as: sport, meditation, water, relaxation, breaks, reading, walking in nature throughout your week and throughout your day. Accept that you cannot control the environment but you can control yourself and how you perceive things. Accept that receiving bad comments and remarks from others does not mean anything about you as an individual.

Strategy 5:

Map out your day, the night before:

Have everything you need ready BEFORE you start working, such as water, agenda, phone, headset. This helps you avoid losing time and energy searching for it.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?

  • Wayne Dyer — The power of intention. This is a powerful book that I read at the beginning of my coaching career. It opened my eyes to the power of our thoughts. Our thoughts are making our actions, which are making our reality. To change your reality, you need to change your thoughts first. It’s one of the foundations of my coaching programs.
  • Tal Ben-Shahar — The Pursuit of Perfect. How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life. I had this book on my shelf for 6 months before I had the courage to read it. I wanted to stay that perfectionist who had it all. While reading this book, I had an awakening moment about what perfectionism really is. Changing my attitude towards perfectionism does not have any effect on how good I am at my work.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A crazy idea that came up while doing this interview is to build the “Stress Proof Community”.

The idea is to have a platform where tips and strategies to reduce and prevent stress are centralized in a central reference point. Each person can be a member and will get a “Stress Proof Badge” if she or he can assist for free two other people to decrease their stress levels. The period of specific stress coaching will be around 3 months. The two “trainees” will commit to assisting two further people and will, in return, receive their own “Stress Proof Badge.”.

The aim will be to spread the skills for managing stress using humor and social proof. People will come to you as a Stress Expert — but also as an expert who has the human dimension of being able to spread wellbeing in the word.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

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.


  • Savio Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Media Journalist, #1 Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), media journalist, #1 best-selling author, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.  He coaches cancer survivors to overcome obstacles, gain clarity, and attract media attention by sharing their superpower through inspiring stories that make a difference. He inspires them to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. 

    Savio has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad.  His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.