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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Untangling thoughts: Math major channels anxiety into podcasting

Photo courtesy of Ashley Thompson
Ashley Thompson, senior mathematics major at WSU.

The room is quiet, and her old wired headphones are tangled together. Her brain is scattered, and all she needs is a moment to air out her thoughts. Before she knows it, she is debriefing on her very own podcast, “ashley unedited!”

Wichita State senior Ashley Thompson has caught the attention of students and friends with her unique approach to tackling her anxiety: turning her anxious dialogues into a podcast.

With her impending graduation in May, Thompson reflects on finding solace from changing her aerospace engineering major to mathematics and starting podcasting.

“Aerospace specifically was just such a narrow field, and I was like, ‘I do not want to do this for the rest of my life,’” Thompson said, reflecting on the switch she made in her junior year.

Amidst the whirlwind of academic pursuits and personal growth, Thompson found herself grappling with anxiety and racing thoughts.

“Before I started going to therapy, a way for me to deal with if I was having an anxiety attack would be to talk to myself,” Thompson said. “I would literally look in the mirror and just air out what’s on my brain.”

She often found herself using Snapchat videos to get further out of her head and into the notification bar of her friends’ phones. Amused by the therapeutic conversations with herself, Thompson’s friends presented an idea to her.

“I occasionally send them to my friends, and then they were like, ‘You’re so funny. I love when you send me these videos because it’s always entertaining to watch,’” Thompson said. “My friend Mikala was like, ‘You should just turn this into a podcast,’ and I was like, ‘You’re so right.’”

Thompson embarked on sharing her experiences through podcasting with casual, relaxed episode drops on Spotify.

“I started very unserious,” Thompson said. “I didn’t even post about it. I published my first five episodes without ever even posting about it because I was scared of people finding it. Then, I was eventually like, ‘You know what? I’m just going to own this.’”

Jaklyn Reibenstein, a December 2023 WSU graduate, met Thompson almost four years ago when they were roommates in Shocker Hall. She said it was no surprise when Thompson debuted her podcast.

“When Ashley let me know she was thinking about doing a podcast and decided to release her first episode, I was super excited,” Reibenstein said. “She has such eclectic interests and is so smart and articulate.”

Reibenstein said Thompson’s podcast has become a staple in her schedule.

“It has impacted me in a positive way. I always look forward to a new episode I can listen to at work,” Reibenstein said. “It makes my day more exciting to listen to my friend’s opinions on fashion or the history of a topic that piques her interest.”

Thompson’s podcast, which predominantly focuses on random topics of her choosing, has become a sanctuary for her when life feels too predictable.

“I feel like because so much of my everyday stuff is very analytical, like strict, rigid stuff,” Thompson said. “Being able to be on my podcast is definitely a creative outlet for my time.”

Thompson has talked about the history of Anastasia Romanov, a Grand Duchess of Russia who inspired the Disney movie “Anastasia.” Other subjects have included her dating “icks,” death row meal and even her experiences having divorced parents.

“My favorite episode is definitely ‘these habits changed my life,’” Reibenstein said. “I am huge into self-improvement, not just on the physical but emotional and spiritual levels, and it was enlightening to hear what she (Thompson) is prioritizing and why.”

Thompson said her favorite episode to record was ‘falling behind and dating apps,’ an early episode where she discusses comparing her life to others.

“That week I recorded that episode, I found out about three more people from my high school have become engaged,” Thompson said. “I was in the heavy headspace where I was comparing my track of life to anyone else.”

Despite her initial apprehensions, Thompson’s podcast has garnered a dedicated following, spanning various age groups and including friends and acquaintances, some of whom find themselves in the same situations.

“I had so many people that reached out to me, like friends who listen to it, and say it was so reaffirming to hear someone else in the same boat,” Thompson said. “I thought I was the only one in my space of life … then it turns out, I’m not, like there’s other people in the same boat.”

As she prepares to graduate, Thompson urges other students to prioritize self-care and authenticity.

“Try not to put so much pressure on yourself for a multitude of reasons,” Thompson said. “The world is going to keep on turning. Life is going to keep moving. Do what makes you happy; cut out what doesn’t make you happy.”

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About the Contributor
Piper Pinnetti
Piper Pinnetti, Reporter
Piper Pinnetti is a reporter for The Sunflower. Pinnetti previously designed content for The Sunflower's Instagram. Pinnetti is a junior at Wichita State, majoring in journalism with the hopes of pursuing a career in writing. Pinnetti uses she/her pronouns.

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