Overcoming burnout through volleyball

26 June 2020

Kirsten Rodacker, BSc DH '20

I've played volleyball since grade seven. In my prerequisite years in Grande Prairie, I spent more than 40 hours a week doing volleyball-related activities! It helped me stay on track: if I had two hours of free time, I'd better be doing homework, because there was no other time to do it!

When I got into the Dental Hygiene program in Edmonton, I knew it would be busy. I planned to replace my time spent playing volleyball with doing schoolwork.

What actually happened was that it was awful! First, I wasn't mentally prepared to move away from home. I'm very close with my family, and I had no one in Edmonton. Then I didn't have that couple of hours of quality physical activity when you can't worry about anything else until practice is over. I underestimated how good both of those were for my mental health.


I had to learn how to live by myself for the first time, but I also felt like I was drowning in school. I found myself skipping my ladies' league volleyball and not going to the gym because I thought I was "too busy for it."

I asked my friends what they did when they went home, and they would watch their show and then do homework all night. I heard that and thought, "I don't have time for the gym!"

At home during the first holiday break, I wasn't in a good place, mentally, nor was I doing well in school. I didn't want to go back in January.

Thankfully, the first week we were back, we had a presentation from a woman who specialized in burnout. This woman said she also asked her friends how they relax, and they said they take baths. So she tried that and realized being over six feet tall that she doesn't even fit in a bathtub! I had "aha!" moment then: Maybe what my friends do isn't what I need to do. I needed to do what I was used to. Life got drastically better after that.

Favourite things about hygiene

One of my favourite things is building relationships with my patients. It feels good to build trust with them. I also love being able to read them (a skill I developed in volleyball), and to best suit my care to each personality. It's interesting and rewarding. I change how I am with each patient to help them feel relaxed. I know I can't judge patients based on their chart, looks or careers — only by talking with them.


Our professors were already calling us the class of resiliency even before the pandemic hit. Being the first class to go through the bachelor of science program all worked out in the end, but there was a lot of improvising! Then we had to finish our year online, move our grad to November, and wait on our board exams. I’m glad to be done, but it's bittersweet.


Now that I'm back in Grande Prairie, I plan on working in private practice to make a bit of money. I'll be playing co-ed here, and I'll get a gym membership to go after work. It makes my back feel good after doing hygiene all day!

After, I'm going to try to do hygiene down in California — my boyfriend just got into chiropractic school there. I hope to eventually work down there. The licensing is a lot of work, and I need a job offer first, so it will be difficult and expensive. But I'd love to experience living somewhere else. I hated moving to Edmonton at first, but I loved it by the end, and I miss it!