When it comes to cutting stress and leading a healthier, more balanced life, it seems it could pay to get away.
“A crucial element to maintaining life balance is taking breaks and vacations,” says stress expert and founder of The Stress Institute Dr. Kathleen Hall. “Research shows it’s important to allow yourself time to get away. It can rejuvenate you and leave you ready to deal with challenges head-on.”
Unfortunately, it seems many Americans aren’t getting their travel tickets punched. In fact, a national survey found that one in four people are not planning on taking all their vacation days this year, with 40 percent of those respondents citing work-related reasons. Yet 72 percent of Americans feel they don’t have balance in their lives, and that vacations could help change that.
So which Americans may be most in need of a vacation? The Life Balance Barometer, which was conducted for Princess Cruises by Harris Interactive, found that residents of Chicago say they have the least amount of balance in their lives, followed by those living in Houston, Boston, Los Angeles and San Diego. People in Miami seem to have the most balance, along with residents of Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Las Vegas and Dallas/Fort Worth.
According to the poll, the top things Americans feel will help them achieve better life balance include realizing financial success, getting organized and taking more breaks and vacations.
Improving physical fitness also ranked high on the list, but in what seems like a clear disconnect, when asked what they do to destress when they get home from work, only 17 percent of Americans cited exercise.
Dr. Hall says that regardless of the approach you take to balance your life, cutting stress is key. “When people are stressed out, it can be hard for them to focus on the priorities that will help get them back in balance,” she explains. “Taking just a few minutes to do something for yourself each day can make a big difference. However, the poll showed us that nearly a third of people who focus on themselves—even rarely—feel guilty about it.”
Getting Away From Stress
According to the study, the top-five things Americans do to de-stress at the end of the day are changing their clothes, laying down, kissing their spouse/partner, playing with their pet and reading a book or a magazine.
Additionally, 64 percent of people who say they have attained life balance have taken a vacation in the last year. If you’re considering a getaway, Dr. Hall has this bit of advice: “Keep it simple.” That could mean opting for an all-inclusive trip, such as a cruise. “They require minimal planning and provide a completely different environment than what most people are used to. That’s key to removing yourself from the stressors of everyday life,” she says.