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I had a lively discussion last night with two friends from middle school in Nuremberg, Germany. One is married with a teenager at home and the other is divorced with two kids. They each told me the same story that I have heard literally all over the world.

Sabine said she’s gone through her second round of burn-out that reared its scary head through a paralyzed nerve in her face. Maria admitted she’s put on a few extra pounds and when she explains her 50-70 hour work weeks, it’s clear she doesn’t have much time for cooking or exercising. They told me of yet another of our childhood friends who ended up in the hospital after a mental break-down.

Working mothers all over the world are crumbling under pressure. Why are we all facing the same struggles? What can women do to avoid going down that path? What can society do to support us better?

Here is what often seems to happen. Women take on the responsibilities of running the household and being the primary caretaker of their children while working full time. The romance of the marriage quickly goes by the wayside because we are getting stuff done, driving kids to activities, supporting families and friends, etc.

Before we know it, we are running 24/7 and we’re exhausted. We get so into “doing” that we squeeze every minute out of the day to cross tasks off the to-do list. Until, that is, a health scare, a divorce, or some other major event gives us that big wake-up call.

If this is you, here are some ideas that may help you get through these busy years with more grace and ease. I am going to spare you the trite “you need to take care of yourself better” speech because you already know that. If you knew how to fit self-care into your schedule, I bet you’d be doing it!

Instead, let’s start with a few small and doable steps to signal to our brains that we are making steps toward a path to happiness.

  1. ) Start to write down three things that would make you very happy right now. It could something simple like a 30-minute uninterrupted bath, or something big thing like that two-week vacation in an exotic destination.
  2. ) Set yourself one small personal goal for this week. Rather than vowing to take better care of yourself as a broad goal, break it down into a small tangible and doable part. Try something like: I am going to walk around the block twice after dinner tonight. The trick is that it should be very easy for you to achieve. So no five-mile walks, okay?
  3. ) Instead of recognizing what has gone wrong, I want you to start pointing out when something goes right. For example, as I was driving from the mountains in Austria to Berlin I pointed out how beautiful the scenery was until my daughter rolled her eyes. “I get it, it’s beautiful,” she exclaimed.

The reason I want you to start with these three simple ideas is because they will signal to your brain that you are doing something for yourself, you are achieving your goals, and you are doing things that make you happy. Through all my research and personal experiences I have discovered that happiness is a choice.

But, the trick is you have to TELL YOURSELF when you are happy so your brain has a reference. You will have virtually no choice but to be a bit happier while you soak in the bathtub with a glass of tea or wine after your evening walk. Small steps lead to big goals.

Please share your experiences on how you signal happiness. It is a hot topic, one that I discuss at length in my book Happy Woman Happy World and in many of my blog posts. It also happens to be one of the most frequently searched terms on Google. We need all the help we can get.

Beate Chelette is a respected speaker, career coach, consummate entrepreneur, Author of Happy Woman Happy World, and founder of The Women’s Code, a unique guide to leadership, and personal and career success that offers a new code of conduct for today’s business, private and digital world. Determined to build a community of women helping each other, after selling one of her companies, BeateWorks, to Bill Gates for millions of dollars, Beate created The Women’s Code to share with women everywhere her strategies for success and leadership. Through her corporate initiative “Why Acting Like a Girl Is Good For Business” she helps companies with gender diversification training, and to develop and retain women.

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