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Working from home since early 2020, has taken a toll on many people. Study after study has shown that the detrimental impacts on mental health for people working remotely have increased. Many people identify increased feelings of stress, anxiety, isolation, and burnout.

I recently took advantage of Media Profile’s new Work Away Benefit (WAB) and headed to Manzanillo, Costa Rica. Here are four ways that the experience positively impacted my mental health.

1. Something to finally look forward to

Before the pandemic, my partner and I travelled about three times per year. One big trip to a far away place like Guatemala or Malaysia, and at least two smaller trips to places like Detroit or Halifax. We had big plans to travel to Rwanda and Kenya for my 40th birthday in 2020, but that was squashed. Not having something to look forward for so long had an impact on my mental health and made me feel like I had less control over my life. Every plan was always guarded by a “maybe.”

When we started planning where we would go for my work away, I immediately began to feel more optimistic, grateful and motivated in all aspects of my life.  My colleague Scott also noted the impact of having something to look forward in his recent post about MP’s WAB.

2. Increasing my movement

Movement and exercise have direct links to mental health benefits. I used to ride a bicycle to work, walk and generally move a lot more. Working from home has had a major impact on the amount I move. It has become something I have to work on rather than something that used to just happen naturally because I had to travel to the office. 

For my WAB, I chose a location that was very close to water and the jungle. The Caribbean Sea was just outside my window and we were surrounded by the Gandoca-Manzanillo Natural Wildlife Refuge. The area we stayed in was also part of a string of five beach towns. At lunch I swam about 100 ft. away from my desk and, in the evenings, we explored the other beach towns and the Refuge. Hiking and swimming were daily activities and easily accessible. I limited evening screen time and found it refreshing to be away for much of the winter.

3. Detaching from work

My workspace is right in the middle of my home, so truly detaching from work is challenging because I am always a few feet away from my desk – a constant reminder of my to-do list. At the end of the workday in Costa Rica, I put my laptop out of sight. I did not have my work email on my Costa Rican phone, so when I when I went out in the evenings, I was fully disconnected. This allowed me to be in the moment and appreciate time with my partner and in nature without distractions.

4. Revisiting passions

The main reason I travel is to see wildlife – it’s one of my hobbies. My bucket list is filled with all the animals I hope to see in the wild. The pandemic put a huge damper on this. When deciding where we should go, I knew I wanted to be near water and see some of the animals on my long and unintentionally neglected list. 

Having active hobbies, being near the sea and generally spending more time in nature are all proven to have mental health benefits. By the end of our trip, we saw 17 sloths, dolphins, toucans, great green macaws, turtles, hermit crabs (a personal favourite because these little ones bring me so much joy!), snakes, starfish, three types of monkeys and more. Every time we saw an animal my happiness endorphins did their thing.

I have been home for a couple of weeks now and am still feeling the positive effects of being away. Can’t wait to start planning for next year.

Curious to learn more about MP’s adventures abroad? Stay tuned for future Our Take #PassportToMP blog posts where employees will share their work away experiences.

Ginger Shewell
Senior Account Director

#PassportToMP: Diary of a solo traveller
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