Maya is the occupational therapist at Covenant House and, right now, her support is needed more than ever. In her normal day-to-day work, Maya’s primary focus is to help youth who are homeless build a sense of stability, structure and routine in their lives. But COVID-19 has taken all this away.

In a matter of weeks, young people staying with us - who have put so much work into stabilizing their lives - have been thrown back into uncertainty. Many have lost jobs, others can’t graduate, and the programs and services they relied on are in flux. As Maya reflects: “In this changing landscape, it’s hard to get a foothold.”

The fear and anxiety around the pandemic have also heightened existing mental health challenges.

"It’s a sense of grieving for what they had and their need to find their place in this world again."

She notes that each young person she sees is different, depending on pre-existing life circumstances and mental health. Some are comfortable not having answers or a sense of what’s next, while others are deeply struggling. It’s a matter of meeting them where they’re at in their journey.

Maya has also personally struggled with the uncertainty of the current environment and how to best help young people. She explains, “Your job is to support and help youth overcome their challenges but with COVID-19 you don’t have answers. And you have to sit with the uncomfortableness of that.”

But Maya is as motivated as ever. Here are some key strategies Maya has shared with youth to help manage these uncertain times:

  • Create a routine to keep a sense of normalcy. This could include making a to-do list and getting ready for the day as you normally would, i.e. showering at the same time every day.
  • Be critical of information and rely on reputable news sources, such as the World Health Organization, to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
  • When feeling anxious, practice grounding techniques to help restore calm – this could include deep breathing and meditation.

As Maya reflects on the new circumstances, she remains positive and encouraged by the fact youth continue to reach out to her for support. “This is the work I got into this field for and our current situation is just a new challenge that we need to creatively manage.”