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Ann Abbey: “How I Make It Work”

From students fresh out of undergrad to professionals who are retraining for a new career, the Michigan School of Psychology welcomes students wherever they are in life. “How I Make It Work”  highlights the diversity of student experiences as they balance classes, work, and life. 

Name:  Ann Abbey, CPA, RYT

Ann Abbey headshot

Program: MA

Describe the (joys and) challenges in your life that make graduate school difficult to manage.

The joys in my life include spending time with my kids, good friends, yoga, the ocean.  These joys bring me light and balance.  The challenge is these same things are also what suffer when I get very busy.  When I notice it happening, I work hard to re-focus on my priorities.  When using joy as my guide, I can rebalance.

How do you make it work?

To be honest, I don’t know how to make it work.  I have sat down to write this many times and struggled with it.  I felt like there was wisdom or a perfect combination of things that I needed to figure out and communicate with all of you.  Here is what I know. 

It somehow always works out. 

I struggle to remember this wisdom when I need it most.

I could write plenty about support systems, self-care, organization, time management, etc.  I don’t feel there is anything new I can offer in those areas.  If you are like me and struggle with making it work, you may relate.  I have spent hundreds of hours reading about how to make it work, how to do it all.  Beautiful websites, challenging blogs, pages of books.  All giving advice.  It can’t be done.  I spent two decades attempting to making it happen, forcing the outcome, at all costs.  Until it cost me my health and nearly my life.  The most valuable guidance I continue to embrace is this.

It somehow always works out. 

The Universe has my back.  The Universe has all of our backs.  I hear the message again and again and again.

The grace I offer you is the same grace I offer to myself.  It is a part of the process.  Our paths are different.  Our processes are different.  There is no magic trick, organizational tip nor perfect combination to offer.  There is trust. 

It somehow always works out. 

What are some tips or secrets you have for staying organized with a busy schedule?

As a single mom with two kids, two soccer schedules and three school schedules, it can get complicated.  Everything goes into my calendar on my phone.  I check it every night for the following day and often have to look a few weeks in advance.  Conflicts happen and I try to notice them in advance, so I have time to find a solution. 

I am in love with my iPad and the app Notability.  I have all of my textbooks, articles and notes electronically.  I also have my assignments and personal things like groceries in reminders.  It makes things easier for me because I always have everything with me.  It also syncs to my laptop and my phone, so if I have five minutes waiting for a doctor appointment, or 20 minutes before a soccer game starts, I can do a little reading for school.

How do you make time for yourself?

I need yoga daily, to balance my mental health as well as to access joy.  Some days that means an hour practice, other days it means 10 minutes before a meeting.  I also have to maintain clear and healthy boundaries that are consistent with my goals, personally and professionally.  I try to dedicate the same blocks of time each week.  Friday evenings are non-negotiable.  Whether it is to spend time with those I love, or to make dinner at home and watch a movie, I put all work down at 5pm on Fridays.  Ultimately, I also try to maintain flexibility and self-compassion, to be able to change things up when necessary. 

How do you avoid feeling overwhelmed?

It is impossible to avoid.  It too is a part of the process.  When I notice it starting to wash over me, I reach for the tools I have (journaling, yoga, texting or calling someone from my support system) to acknowledge what is coming up.  When I journal how I feel or say it out loud, it helps take away its power and creates space to continue to flow through it.

What support have you received from MSP?

The professors, supervisors and support staff on campus are incredible.  The personal relationships I have developed make it easy to reach out, whether it is to clarify a paper, find research resources or to discuss other challenges.  I have developed a wonderful relationship with my supervisor and feel comfortable discussing everything that comes up.

What advice would you give a prospective student who is worried he or she can’t make grad school work?

I would share the perspective that worry is a part of the process and is absolutely okay to have.  You are not alone – I thought the same thing.  Know if you have the passion for this work, follow that intuition.  The rest will fall into place.