The coronavirus pandemic has been hard on all Australians, especially those of us who have been in and out of lockdown over the last 18 months.
Even those of us who are living free from COVID-19 restrictions in states like Queensland have felt the weight of the pandemic on their mental wellbeing.
Given that October is Mental Health Month, how can we manage our mental health and boost our mood as our second year with the coronavirus pandemic draws to a close?
According to Dr Andrew Thompson, registered doctor at InstantScripts, small acts can play a huge role in improving your mental wellbeing at a time like this.
"It is okay not to be okay right now," he tells Now To Love.
"The pandemic has thrown many of us into challenging situations we have never had to deal with before."
But it can sometimes be hard to recognise when we're not coping, so it's vital to check in on your own mental state regularly and look out for signs that you're struggling.
"Common signs can include feelings of anxiety or depression, sleep problems, rapid weight loss or gain, fatigue, lack of motivation, a sudden disconnect from loved ones and friends, and feelings of guilt or worthlessness," he explains.
"Often the most challenging step is admitting when we are struggling."
But what should you do when you start to see those signs, and how can you address the smaller symptoms before they worsen?
First and foremost, you should reach out to someone like your GP, a mental health professional, or someone you trust for support.
Then you can try each of these small, 15-minute acts that can help boost your mood a little more every day.
"Even the smallest changes and actions can go a long way in improving your mental health," Dr Thompson says.
"It's really important to address any symptoms head-on, to prevent more sinister issues from emerging, which are often more difficult to resolve."
While there's no quick fix or overnight results when it comes to mental health, taking a few small steps towards better mental wellbeing every day can do a world of good.
This network can be made up of friends, family, mental health professionals – anyone you trust who can help support you during this time.
"While many Aussies are physically isolated from family and friends, there are opportunities to stay socially connected and turn to them for support and regular check-ins," Dr Thompson says.
"This can involve scheduling phone or video calls, which can be conducted in a quiet space in the home or while heading outside for a walk."
Taking 15 minutes out of your day for a quick phone call to a friend can really boost your mood and help banish those feelings of isolation for a while.
Try setting up a picnic with friends to enjoy some social time with the added bonus of getting outside – we have a guide for the ultimate picnic here.
It's easy to get glued to your work computer during the day, then stay up all hours of the night streaming movies and TV during lockdown.
Then, when restrictions ease, you may pack your diary with a thousand different social outings that leave you stretched thin.
But all of that leads to you getting less sleep and that can contribute to poor mental health.
"Maintaining a sleep schedule where you aim to sleep seven to nine hours each night is incredibly important," Dr Thompson says.
Instead of accidentally overscheduling, take 15 minutes to establish a clear routine each day that allows for plenty of downtime and rest.
That means switching off your laptop at 5pm – or whenever you finish work – and prioritising your sleep every night.
One of the big benefits of the pandemic is that many support services are now accessible remotely, meaning you can get help without having to leave home.
Dr Thompson says that anyone struggling with their mental heath should take advantage of telehealth services to help tackle their concerns.
"Telehealth services can provide advice and reassurance through talking therapies, and GPs through most telehealth services can create a mental health plan [to get more help]," he explains.
Spending just 15 minutes talking through your mental health concerns with a professional can do you a world of good and get you started on the path to better mental wellbeing.
It can be so easy to give up on exercise when you're struggling mentally, but studies have shown that moving your body really can improve your mood.
"It is important to stay active, and while you may feel less motivated during this time. I encourage you to push yourself to exercise, even if it's a walk around the block," Dr Thompson urges.
Setting aside 15 minutes every day for exercise that you actually enjoy – whether it's a walk, yoga, or a YouTube workout video – can give you a little hit of positive endorphins.
Not only will it help you stay fit physically, even a small amount of exercise can keep your mental wellbeing on track for the day.
Try investing in a smart watch like a FitBit Inspire 2 to keep you motivated, track your activity and reminders to keep moving.
It's not for everyone, but there's a reason that so many people credit meditation and mindfulness for improving their mental wellbeing.
"Mindfulness meditation techniques can help you observe and acknowledge any mental health symptoms, including stress, anxiety, and feelings of fear, worry and guilt, and bring a sense of calm," Dr Thompson says.
Setting aside 15 minutes in the morning or evening to reflect on your mental state and take stock can really help with feelings of anxiety and stress.
And for those of us who just aren't interested in meditation, getting outdoors can have a similar effect on your mood.
"Stepping outside for a walk can also help, particularly a walk in nature," Dr Thompson adds.
"Some studies have found connectedness to nature can induce feelings of happiness and reduce blood pressure and stress."
Try downloading the Calm meditation app and working through some of the guided meditations available through the free trial or paid version of the app.
It may sound out of place on this list, but having an orgasm can actually help reduce your stress levels and boost your mood.
Orgasms flood the body with the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which can help counteract feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.
Studies have shown it can remain in the body for up to 48 hours after an orgasm, so set aside 15 minutes every now and again to get a hit of oxytocin.