English professor offers students chance to relax through breathing


By Katie Doll

College can be stressful, but Betty Mandeville, professor of English at Volunteer State Community College, has a few techniques to help students take the time to relax and breathe.

Mandeville hosts breathing exercises from 2:15-2:45 p.m. every Monday upstairs in Thigpen Library.

Abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes a day reduces anxiety and stress, according to the American Institute of Stress. By breathing deeply, the parasympathetic nervous system of the body is stimulated, bringing about a state of calmness.

At the beginning of every class, Mandeville takes the time to make sure students are fully focused. Students are encouraged to close their eyes as they are walked through a series of slow deep breathing exercises to help stressful thoughts leave their minds.

Ten years ago, after she resigned from teaching, Mandeville started her own form of exercises to help calm her down while home with her son. Five years later, she returned to teaching and thought the exercises would be helpful for students.

“My hope would be that they then use it anytime when they’re about to study for a test or have a complicated conversation or do something that makes them feel anxious,” said Mandeville.

Some of her techniques are what she would want to hear, in hopes that students would want to hear the same, she said.

One of her techniques involves simple phrases or analogies, such as “thinking of your breath as an anchor.”

Mandeville went through a certification program at Duke University. She uses some of her training for in-class exercises.

“Their scale is a bigger scale where it’s class that you take,” said Mandeville. “I offer some longer classes, but consistently, I always do whatever we can do in class to get settled in, so to speak.”

Students like Elise Piliponis, a middle college student in Mandeville’s class, have often found these routines helpful in dealing with their everyday lives.

“I don’t get a lot of sleep, so it’s like really nice to get my brain focused,” said Piliponis. “Because I have stuff going on everyday after school.”