Residents of Chicago say they have the least amount of balance in their lives, while people in Miami claim to have the most, according to a new survey, the Princess Cruises Life Balance Barometer.  Rounding out the top-five list of most stressed out cities are Houston, Boston, Los Angeles and San Diego.  Also joining Miami, purporting to have the most amount of life balance are Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Las Vegas and Dallas/Fort Worth.

The national survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive, reveals that even though Americans continue to strive for the ultimate life balance, which includes juggling work and personal priorities, only approximately one-quarter of people in the U.S. actually have achieved this goal.  However, the survey shows that there is a prevailing sense of hope, even in today’s tough economic times, with more than 53 percent of respondents saying they believe they will achieve life balance in the next five years.

“Princess Cruises launched this barometer because we believe we offer Americans the perfect escape from their busy, frenetic lives; a way for people to break away from their everyday routine to refresh and relax,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president.  “Through the survey, we hoped to determine if people were feeling out of balance, and if so, what they need to get back on track.  While it’s clear from the results that many people do not have life balance, we were pleased to see that one of the key enablers to living a balanced life was taking a vacation.  In fact, we discovered there is a direct correlation between taking vacations and having a balanced life, as 64 percent of people who say they have attained life balance have taken a vacation in the last year.”

According to the Barometer, the top-five things Americans feel will help them achieve better life balance include realizing financial success, improving physical fitness, getting organized and taking more breaks and vacations.  However, when it comes to doing what it takes to create more life balance, Americans aren’t taking their own advice, with one in four Americans not planning to take all their vacation days this year.  Of those not planning to take all of their vacation days, 40 percent of those respondents cite work-related reasons.  And, it’s clear they don’t want to be alone – one out of every 10 Americans, and particularly those living in Washington, D.C., don’t think the President of the United States should be given any vacation days.

Renowned stress expert and founder of The Stress Institute, Dr. Kathleen Hall, believes learning how to deal with stress is one of the most important things Americans can do to lead more balanced lives.

“Life balance is all about having time for work, relationships, relaxation and fun, but when people are stressed out, it can be hard for them to focus on the priorities that will help get them back in balance,” said Dr. Hall.  “Stress can manifest itself in many different forms, both mentally and physically, so it’s important to know how to identify our key stressors and learn to make positive choices that help manage stress every day.  A crucial element to maintaining life balance is taking breaks and vacations.  Research shows it’s so important to allow yourself time to get away and disconnect from it all so that you can return to your everyday life rejuvenated and ready to deal with challenges head on.”

The Princess Cruises Life Balance Barometer uncovered issues and trends regarding life balance both nationally and in 25 cities.  Key findings include:

• Chicago ranks first as the most stressed out city on the Life Balance Barometer, followed by Houston, Boston, Los Angeles and San Diego (in order)

• The least stressed out cities on the Life Balance Barometer include Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth, Las Vegas, Cincinnati and Minneapolis (in order)

• An overwhelming majority of Americans (72 percent) say they do not have balance in their lives, but there is hope; 53 percent say they believe they will achieve life balance in the next five years

• Fifteen percent of Americans feel that they will not have life balance until they are retired

• Financial stress and the poor economy are among the leading causes for life imbalance among Americans, followed closely by their need to lose weight/get fit

• More than half of Americans say that improving their physical fitness would create more life balance; however, when asked what they do to de-stress when they get home from work, only 17 percent of Americans cited exercise

• 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 (in order)

• If being provided a free service for a month, Americans are most likely to choose a fitness trainer over a home organizer, masseuse or personal chef

• One in five Americans (19 percent) rarely spend any time doing something for themselves, and of those that do, nearly a third feel guilty about it

• One out of every five Americans say their spouse/partner contributes most to their stress level, with women more likely than men to say this.  More men than women say that their boss is the biggest contributor to their stress

• Given the opportunity, a strong majority of Americans would not trade places with many of today’s top celebrities to escape their daily stresses.  But for those who would, most men would like to trade places with Bill Gates, Tiger Woods or Jay Leno, and most women would like to swap spots with Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey or Michelle Obama

• Americans are divided about the value of smart phones for business purposes.  Just over half of users say the devices make them more stressed, while just under half say they actually help them have balance

• Twenty-nine percent of users say that being active on Facebook is a good stress reliever, but many feel like it is another task they have to take care of (16 percent) and feel pressured to provide new updates and content (13 percent)

• One in four Americans are not planning on taking all of their vacation days this year, with 40 percent of those respondents citing work-related reasons.  Of those who think the President should be given vacation days, the average number of days they think he should be given is 24

• One in 10 Americans do not think the President should receive any vacation days

• Sixty-four percent of people who say they have attained life balance have taken a vacation in the last year

• More than half of Americans say they either work or think about work while on vacation

• Two-thirds of Americans say that, given more leisure time, they would use it to travel.  After travel came spending time with family and friends, volunteering and going to back to school/furthering their education (in order)

Following is a complete list of the 25 cities surveyed in the Princess Cruises Life Balance Barometer, ranked in order from lowest to highest levels of life balance:

America’s Most Stressed Out Cities

1. Chicago 9. Tampa (tie) 15. New York
2. Houston  9. Portland, Ore. (tie)  16. Phoenix
3. Boston  10. Seattle  17. Atlanta
4. Los Angeles  11. Washington, D.C. (tie)  18. St. Louis
5. San Diego  11. Baltimore (tie)  19. Minneapolis
6. Denver  12. Sacramento 20. Cincinnati
7. San Francisco  13. Pittsburgh 21. Las Vegas
8. Detroit  14. Philadelphia 22. Dallas/Fort Worth
    23. Miami