Category Archives: Health & Sports

How much do we matter? – A midwife’s Coronavirus experience

Over the course of the last three months, a lot has changed in our daily routines. The sudden lockdown and stay-at-home orders have affected everyone in Germany. While many students, myself included, were able to stay at home and rejoice in the comforts of “easier” exams and a two-minute commute from bed to desk, essential workers were not so lucky.

Essential Workers during a pandemic

Undoubtedly, every single essential worker deserves more than just applause and praise for keeping our country going. And surely a million articles could be written about the heroic people that braved the storm and still made sure everyone was safe, healthy and provided with everything they needed. However, I want to focus specifically on a group that has often fallen under the radar in the last months: midwives.
For clarification purposes, midwives are women and men (yes, they exist) that take care of expecting mothers before and after they give birth.

Tanja, a self-employed midwife from Bavaria, recalls the beginnings of what will eventually surely be the prologue of a Steven Spielberg movie. “We were suddenly the only port of call and source of comfort for new mothers, not just professionally but also on a personal level. Most times, their husbands could not be with them in the delivery rooms. On top of that, the entire family is often present in the time after a birth but could not help because of the social distancing rules set in place.” At the same time, they were ordered to only stay with the mothers and babies for as short as possible, which felt like a strange internal dilemma of wanting to be safe and also wanting to give the mothers all the support they were not currently receiving, she explains.

Midwives especially were in a difficult situation because they had to move from family to family despite the no-contact rules which technically forbade anyone from visiting another household. “And on top of that, of course the families had vulnerable newborns that could easily get sick. Plus, we had to be extra careful since they had just left the hospital and were at a higher risk of having contacted Covid-19 already.” Tanja recalls.

The technological side of things

Another area of trouble was the gymnastics courses they offered to mothers after birth. “Fortunately, we were able to do the courses online almost immediately, but that brought with it its own set of challenges. I’m not a very tech-savvy person and of course, when you’re in such a strange new situation, everything that can go wrong usually does.” Laughing, Tanja remembers: “In the first session, we started about 15 minutes later than we wanted to. My colleague’s camera didn’t work and I couldn’t access the video conference at all because my e-mail provider had spontaneously shut down their site. In the end, both our kids held our cellphones for an hour because that was the only way we were able to access the course.” Since then, not only has the technological aspect gotten much smoother, but Tanja also jokes that she’s now an expert at angling the laptop perfectly so that no one sees the chaos in her room.

“All in all, we’ve dealt with the situation as best we could,” is the conclusion Tanja offers. “In the beginning, we really wondered how much us midwives matter. It seemed like every new rule put in place somewhat ignored our existence and focused on everyone but us, but eventually we were able to piece together how we should conduct our work.” When asked what the hardest part was for her personally, the answer is “Probably the huge weight I felt with regard to the comfort I wanted to offer these women but couldn’t. Pregnancy is often already a very scary time for them, and then to suddenly feel like they had to figure everything out on their own with the occasional phone call and the significantly shorter visits we conducted was a source of frustration for all of us.”

The moral of our newfound appreciation

While this pandemic is certainly not an occasion to be thankful for, it’s safe to say that our attention has had to shift to aspects of our society that we didn’t focus on before. Not only are essential workers finally receiving the attention they deserve, but like midwives, many professions have finally started being viewed as irreplaceable. Something we can take away from these months – other than a 1,5 meter distance being ingrained in our heads – might be a newfound awareness for just how difficult and important the work done by nurses, retail workers, midwives (and many more) is in our society. In the months coming, perhaps we can all do our part to make sure that we show this appreciation not only in clapping at a certain time every day, but also make sure they are treated fairly and also finally paid as much as they deserve.

author: Sarah Fiebig

Behind the green – Tips on how to spot and avoid Greenwashing

Organic. 100% recycled. Recyclable. Natural. Certified green. When you buy this item, 1$ will be donated to children in need. Think for yourself: Do you feel better when buying an item which is labelled as environmental-friendly or sustainable?

There are many words that could be used to describe something as eco-friendly or sustainable. When reading these, people mostly feel good for supporting a company that cares about sustainability, animals and human rights. However, most of these companies only use these for tricking people into buying their things – while not caring a single bit about problems like environmental pollution, child labour and so on. This problem is called greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines greenwashing as “activities by a company or an organization that are intended to make people think that it is concerned about the environment, even if its real business actually harms the environment”. The term is based on the word “white-wash”, which describes that somebody is trying to hide unpleasant facts about something and trying to make it seem better than it is. As protecting the environment and living a more sustainable life is a current and “trendy” topic in times of climate change and Fridays For Future, many companies try to use this for making profit and selling more of their products. For example, a company sells items packed in plastic but claims that they have a new campaign which reduced the plastic by 15%. So why don’t they ban it entirely and search for a completely different type of packaging which would be a 100% less plastic? Probably because it is cheaper and costumers don’t really think that much into it, as the item is “more” sustainable than others or the older version of the same product.

How do I recognize greenwashing?

There are some possible ways to recognize greenwashed products. Above all, trust your instincts. Also check the whole product, what it’s made of and how it can be disposed of afterwards. When seeing a green label, check why it’s claimed to be green. You could even go to the website and read through it. Do they give a lot of information about their goals and marketing or is it really vague and unspecific? Is there a lot of ambiguity? Research the company on other websites, which are not associated with it and check for hints. If you want to go into it even more, contact the company and directly ask them your questions. If they don’t respond or talk around your questions, it might be greenwashing. Look for certain certifications and seals on the product. Research them and make sure they are from third parties which are not influenced by the company.

How can I avoid greenwashing and take action against it?

You can avoid greenwashing by saying no. Don’t buy the item if you don’t want to support this company. If you have the choice, search for the same thing by another brand and buy it instead (if it isn’t also affected by greenwashing). Also spread the word. Less demand will eventually get the product from the market. If you want to go even further, contact the company and state your concerns. They might have done it unintentionally or are open for suggestions to improve their marketing. There is also the possibility to report it to the consumer advice centre (Verbraucherzentrale). They check the item or advertisement and may even go after it judicially. Now you might think “Why should I do all this if it’s just a marketing strategy?”. The problem about it is that you lose sight of the bigger problem that is hidden behind the “green marketing”. At its worst it isn’t just a marketing trick but rather an attempt to hide the bad effects the companies have on the environment. This is why everybody should take a look behind the green.

author: Veronika Grashey

I want to get clean… How Forest Bathing clears your Mind


Due to Corona, we aren’t able to visit our lovely university and complain about the whole bunch of work the professors gave us. Instead, this work awaits us at our desk at home now; practically every aspect of our studies is carried out there. It feels like tasks and information are overrunning us and time is, naturally, limited. That’s why it’s important to let off some steam and find calmness amidst all this chaos. Netflix doesn’t have to be the best solution, though. Ever thought about forests? Yeah sure, those wide, green spaces are nice for a short walk. But what about plunging into the forest and really focusing? So, why don’t we plunge into the benefits of Forest Bathing and how it helps us maintain our mental health.

What is Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing is not at all new. It originated in Japan and is called Shinrin-Yoku. Basically, it means to experience the forest with all your senses and create a connection between you and the natural world around you. Smell the flowers, listen to the softly flowing water or just relax while watching the sunlight sprinkle through the leaves. If you want to hug a tree, feel free to do it! Sounds hippie-like? Maybe it is. But the results are amazing.


Get the facts
Various studies have proven the positive impacts of Forest Bathing. First of all, it slows you down. It reduces the stress which has gathered over the days and lets you focus in the here and now. I don’t think I have to tell you how stressful life can be and how stress negatively affects your health and well-being. It can even cause depression. Forest Bathing helps you stay mentally healthy. What’s more, your immune system benefits from it. A study by the Department of Hygiene and Public Health of the Nippon Medical School in Japan proves that a forest bathing trip can increase the activity of the NK-Cells (Natural Killer Cells), which are for example responsible for exterminating cancer cells. Without digging to deep into biology: your immune system gets a nice boost. Of course, one condition does exist: no mobile phone! Any technical device will only distract and, after all, the main goal is to focus and shortly distance oneself from the daily, rushing world. Additionally, the intention of the forest bather must be genuine. If they only think it’s humbug anyway, no gain can be achieved.

The point is: Our world isn’t becoming slower. Quite the contrary, with all the tasks awaiting us, it’s becoming faster, more exciting and more complicated. It doesn’t matter if you’re just strolling through a park or wander off the beaten path through the wood: Concentrating on your fantastic, natural environment for a while takes you through this rather unsure time a lot easier. So – why not pay the Siebentischwald a visit and try it out?

author: Sara Vidanovic

Fifty Shades of Greens

Fighting Food Waste

Walking through a supermarket, you may notice the many shelves stocked with freshly baked bread, exotic fruits and barely one-day-old vegetables. Everything is organic – everything is green – everything is sustainable, at least that’s what the ads promise. What´s hidden from the customers’ eyes are the completely overstuffed bins, containing huge amounts of still edible food. Since we were children, we’ve been told that wasting food is wrong. So how is it possible that food waste is still an issue today?

Here’s the problem

Even today, 800 million people – one in nine – are starving or suffering from malnutrition. Each of them could be fed with less than a quarter of the food that’s wasted in the western world each year. Globally, it takes a space larger than China just to produce the amount of food that is never eaten. And full tables come at a high price: over the last few decades, our food supply system has been globalized, which has driven up the prices of food in developing countries. A quarter of all fresh water consumption is used to grow our food. No to mention issues like deforestation, the extinction of rare species and the forced movement of indigenous people. It’s quite easy to think of food waste as someone else’s problem, but truth be told, more than half of the food waste takes place in our private homes.

What’ s happening in our neighborhood?

Germans approximately throw away 45 million tons of food per year, around 55kg per person. The government has discussed various strategies to cut this down. The goal is to reduce this huge number by 50 % over the next ten years. National awareness campaigns are launched to highlight the level of food waste, as well as setting legal guidelines for supermarkets and restaurants, which are responsible for around 40 million tons in total. Consumers are supposed to be aware of the real importance of the best-before-date, which is misinterpreted by some as a tutorial on how to stay alive. One of the most important parts of the plan is directed at the food industry and regards packaging the food in much smaller, suitable quantities. In addition, experts recommend a traffic-light-style system, which could illustrate precisely whether food is still edible.

What could be done about it?

And then, there are legal issues: at the moment, possible food-providers have to be afraid of legal proceedings, in case their donations cause food poisoning or other diseases. There is also the problem of transportation. Supermarkets have to pay someone to transport their food to organizations like the Tafel, that ensure that surplus food from retail trade is collected and passed on to those in need. While Germany hasn’t worked out all the legal details yet, others have already taken action. France, for example, has banned supermarket waste, unsold food is to be donated to food banks or charities. In Denmark, supermarkets have to release information on how much of their produce goes to waste. Over 150 food companies in the UK have committed to the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, implementing the Target – Measure – Act strategy, which provides businesses with steps they can take to reduce waste in their own supply chain. Germany still has a lot to do.

author: Dietmar Zombori

“I moved here because of the Eiskanal” – “The what?”

Since I was a little kid, my step dad took me and my family on a holiday to Slovenia every summer. On these holidays, my passion for whitewater kayaking was born. Now, around 20 years later, I can still be found in a boat on a regular basis. And here’s the reason for why I moved to Augsburg last year: the Eiskanal. But what exactly is the Eiskanal? I’m often quite surprised when people living in Augsburg who don’t have a single clue of what this thing is.

So what is it?

Well, as you might have guessed by now, the Eiskanal is somehow related to whitewater sports. In fact, it’s an artificial whitewater river that was built for the Summer Olympics in 1972. Up until today, the Eiskanal is a very famous spot for kayakers coming from all parts of Germany and even for non-Germans. People use the water for canoe slalom, where you navigate your canoe through a course of hanging gates on river rapids really fast, but you can also just ignore the gates and try to master the rapids as expertly as possible, or you might even see stand-up paddlers (I guess you know what this is) trying to survive the rapids of the Eiskanal. And one more thing: the Eiskanal will even host the canoe slalom world championships in 2022.

Mastering the waves

In my case, I prefer being in a boat without manoeuvring it through the gates as you do it in canoe slalom. To be honest, these gates simply annoy me and I just try not to get hit by them. For me, the Eiskanal is simply a training course for being prepared to master the waves on natural rivers in countries such as Austria or Slovenia. The boats I use are made of plastic, in contrast to the slalom canoes, which consist of carbon. Being made of plastic instead of carbon obviously makes the boats considerably cheaper, and – highly important for the natural rivers – a lot more stable and resistant against getting punctured by rocks.

Being on natural rivers is not comparable at all to the artificial rivers, such as the Eiskanal. You have the breath-taking scenery around you, which makes this sport so outstanding. Also, you might feel like being on holiday, even when being on the river for only one day. So you can completely forget your worries from everyday life. Being surrounded by nature is also quite calming for the stress the sport often brings. Almost before every new rapid, you can get really nervous and have to discuss with your group how to best run the rapid so you won’t have to roll up again, or, in case that doesn’t work, even get out of the boat and swim. Seeing the beautiful nature around you at this moment can have such a positive effect and encourage you for paddling forward.

Promoting the Eiskanal

Highlighting the pro’s of natural rivers in contrast to the Eiskanal was definitely not meant to talk bad about the Eiskanal. Instead, kayaking on the Eiskanal is the best training and preparation for going on the natural whitewater rivers. You know that the rapids are always the same, you can practice on the same spot again and again, and nearly always, there is someone around who could help you in case of an emergency. If you struggle to get out of the water or to get your boat out again, there will be another person in the water who can help you, or if not, then there are always people by the water. One last note, if you don’t feel like trying to kayak now, then one first approach might be to just go to the Eiskanal and watch the others in their boats. The Eiskanal is surrounded by a nice terrace-like green field, which is used by people a lot, especially in summer, for just relaxing in the sun, having a picnic, or taking a break from a bike ride. And why not just let your eyes wander towards the kayakers mastering the waves on the Eiskanal?

author: Lena Pickert

Lifehacks for your sleep

It’s two a.m. and you’re tossing and turning in your bed. You have to get up at six to get to your 8:15 class on time (officially), which stresses you out, making it even more difficult to fall asleep. Your sweet old grandmother’s advice to drink warm milk with honey hasn’t worked. All you want is to not be tired in the morning for a change. Sound familiar? Now, ideally, you would examine your life and question every decision that has gotten you into this situation and improve all the areas that prevent you from sleeping. Exercise regularly. No Netflix binges. Stop eating unhealthy food. But what’s that you say? Ain’t nobody got time for that? You want a few tricks that will help you sleep well without actually sacrificing anything or significantly changing any aspect of your life? You’ve come to the right place.

1.5 is the magic number

This is by far the most important rule. 1.5 is the length of an average sleep cycle, so you should aim for the hours you sleep to be a multiple of 1.5 (3 hours, 4.5 hours, 6 hours, 7.5 hours and so on). Interrupting a sleep cycle is pretty much the worst thing you can do for your sleep. It will leave you tired, no matter how many hours you slept. This leads to some counter-intuitive truths sleeping 7 hours will leave you more tired than 6 hours, because 4 x 1,5 = 6. Get the idea?

Blue light is a no-go

Fair enough, you say, but you’re having trouble even falling asleep? It might be because you’re staring atpic a screen all day every day. That’s right, your mother had a point when she told you to put your phone away. But relax you don’t have to give up your Netflix binges and nightly meme-browsing on your phone. The culprit is the blue light emitting from your screen (wave-length between 400 to 495 nm). It inhibits the release of melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you sleepy. But that can be improved pretty easily. You can filter out the blue light with the help of apps, such as f.lux for your computer or Twilight for your phone. (Warning: side effects include being asked from time to time why your screen is tinged orange-ish. Or so I’ve heard.)

Eat to sleep deep

Ok, you’ve followed all of the advice but you’re still not happy because you wake up in the middle of the night? Might be natural, in which case you should just accept it as part of your natural sleep pattern, or, what’s more likely, it might be because of your blood sugar dropping rapidly. To make sure that doesn’t happen:

DON’T: eat simple carbs in the evening, like white bread, white pasta, candy or literally anything that’s a carb and that’s white.

DO: eat complex carbs in the evening, like whole grains, beans or oatmeal. They take longer to break down and to absorb, so they will provide your body with slow and steady energy.

There you have it. If these tips don’t help you, you might want to look into slightly more extreme methods, like traveling to Tibet studying with Buddhist monks until you overcome your earthly desire for sleep or replacing all of your blood with coffee.

Author & Picture: Maria Diamantopoulou