Finding athletic stability through mental health guidance

Kate Walkup, Staff Writer

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Competing as a three-sport athlete in high school and continuing with track and field in college, counselor Lindsay Kandra has experienced the stress and anxiety that come with competing at a high level. However, she also learned determination and hard work throughout her athletic career. 

Also competitive in the classroom, the Linfield graduate was on track to becoming an attorney while attending law school at the University of Oregon. However, her career path made an abrupt turn when she was diagnosed with cancer several years after graduating with her law degree. 

When Kandra underwent treatment for cancer in 2010, she found stability to help her cope with stress and anxiety through yoga and mindfulness practices. After battling cancer, Kandra felt guided to become a coach and mentor for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Triathlon Team that she was involved with during her journey through cancer. 

“Some of that job was teaching the athletic skills, but a ton of it was helping people stay motivated over a six-month training cycle and make it through the ups and downs of injury, illness and training setbacks,” said Kandra. 

 After mentoring cancer patients and teaching them how to stay active, Kandra realized that she wanted to continue to motivate people to stay healthy both physically and mentally. She began working as a therapist, specializing in movement, exercise and mindfulness. 

 “I work with brand-new athletes and seasoned competitors,” said Kandra. “It’s amazing to see that mental toughness can be developed and sharpened regardless of level of athletic skill.”

Kandra has brought her expertise about mental health in relation to sports to the Linfield Athletics community through Zoom workshops. In the first workshop on January 28th, she offered basic information about how the brain is structured along with an in-depth look at how the nervous system functions.

During the session, Kandra explained what it means to experience stress, anxiety, depression and trauma as a competitive athlete. She gave examples of unique skills and challenges that athletes in particular face concerning mental health and well-being. 

Athletics and their accompanying challenges have always been present in Kandra’s life. A track and field athlete throughout high school, she decided to continue with the sport in college. However, injuries and illnesses shortened her competitive career. 

“I ran track for a year and half,” Kandra said. “I battled overuse injuries and random illnesses throughout college and ended up taking a break from competitive stuff my junior and senior year.”

After college, Kandra underwent ankle reconstructive surgery, which forced her to step away from high-impact sports like running, but she maintains a high level of fitness with mountain biking, rock climbing, and teaching yoga. 

Through teaching and practicing yoga, Kandra finds a balance between mindfulness and physical activity. This balance between the body and the mind translates to the topics Kandra focuses on in her workshops. 

Kandra will continue to offer her mental health workshops to the Linfield community for the next two months. In February, the focus will be on how mental health, physical performance and injury prevention are tied together. In March, mindfulness will be explored in-depth: what it consists of, how athletes can practice it and why mindfulness matters.