Alone Time


Alone time.

One of my favorite questions to ask my clients as a survivorship coach is: “What will it take for you to care for yourself in the way that you care for others?”

What comes up for you when you hear that question? I see a common theme among survivors, including myself in the past, of not exercising self-love and self-care and always seeing the need to care for others first. There are times when we don’t even know what serving ourselves really looks like until we dig deep to find the answers. Yes, for me a blowout and getting a mani-pedi makes me feel better, but that is external. What makes us feel good on the inside?

Life is a continual journey for all of us. Over the last few years I have realized for myself that if I don’t do something for myself on a daily basis that feeds my soul and frees me up internally, I get angry or resentful later in the day. It took me a long time to realize that all of the excuses and stories I was creating in my head for not having some alone time were detrimental to my health. Some of my excuses were: “I have to clean the house before I go out for my walk.” Or “I just need to get this file completed or that phone call made before I went for my walk.” Little did I know these were excuses I was making based on old patterns and beliefs that went something like – you need to take care of everything else before you take care of yourself.  This is a load of BS!

During the winter months I got off track from taking my walks because it was too cold out, but when spring and summer came I knew something was off.  I needed to take a step back from all of the “doing” that I was involved and just Be with myself and nature. When I started going for my walks ALONE again, I felt so much lighter and I felt like my whole world began to open up again.  It was the physical part that I needed to light me up again and just being outside and one with the Universe and throwing all of my heaviness out to the Universe was what finally opened me up again. I began to feel clearer and lighter again. I just have to stay committed and not revert to my old patterns. We all need reminders.

What can you do today to recharge your inner being to get back to who you are at your core?

I look forward to your comments. Xo Gina


Gina Costa CPC, ELI-MP

Certified Professional Coach


New Beginnings Coaching Services, LLC

Jan 2, 2016: My 6 Year Pancreas Transplant Anniversary

Exactly 6 years ago, in the early morning of January 2, 2010, I was on the operating table, in Minneapolis, at the University of Minnesota, Fairview, about to undergo a pancreas transplantation. I was on the finish line of a very long race that had given me a number of curveballs on the way.

I was diagnosed with T1D at the age of 16, and had already undergone a kidney transplant 9 months earlier due to complications of my diabetes, and my eyes had been treated multiple times with aggressive, destructive laser therapy to save my vision.

After 20 years with diabetes, I had forgotten what it was like to live without thinking about sugar levels and insulin dosing since my very being was contingent upon injections several times daily, and glucose measuring even more often.


In the late evening on Dec 30, 2009, the attending doctor on the Minnesota transplant watch called me with the message – “there is a match, you better get here soon to receive your new pancreas.” At the time my sister Anna and I were having a holiday cocktail and some appetizers, but we immediately paid the check and dashed home to prepare. I had a bag packed that just sat in my apartment, and I constantly carried the plane schedule to Minneapolis with me. It was an anxious wait that was about to end. I was excited and nervous. This kind of surgery is not done often, a few 100 procedures per year in the US, many of them in Minneapolis, which had made my decision to choose this location easy. I had spoken at length with my surgeon, Dr David Sutherland, who is a world-leader and innovator in the transplant surgery business.

Upon arrival on December 31, I was immediately taken to the transplant ward for preparations and soon moved into pre-op while waiting for the surgeons to get ready.  Dr Sutherland walked into my cubicle in his dinner jacket looking dapper enough to be on his way to a New year’s eve party and said “there will be no surgery tonight – the pancreas does not look good enough.” I was devastated, but completely understood his decision. There is no way one can undergo serious surgery, literally stapling a new piece of intestine and a pancreas onto my small intestine, without knowing that the organ is in good shape. I got dressed and went out to dinner, it was after all, New Year’s Eve 2009.

The following day after deciding to stay around for a while, since I was now on top of the transplant list, we went shopping in Minneapolis, but eventually decided to sit down for lunch and ordered oysters and champagne, trying to embrace the holiday season while being far away from home and suddenly we got a call. This was it – a new pancreas was on its way to Minneapolis, and I was the next person on the list. We finished our lunch, I did not eat any oysters, nor did I have any champagne, since I was now on pre-op fast, and then we slowly walked back to the hotel in the freezing cold. Going to bed before the procedure was hard, I was nervous the second pancreas would not be good enough either, and I started to realize what a huge surgery I was going to go through. My parents were in Spain at the time, celebrating the holidays with my other sister, Lisa, and her family, but they were notified and were already on a flight back to the US.

The pancreas came from a young woman who had died of an asthma attack, and I thank her family each day for their sacrifice. I tend to believe she is in a better place and is watching over me and our pancreas. Early morning, January 2, 2010, we were back in the pre-op room, and this time Dr Sutherland came in to see us in his scrubs and was smiling. “The pancreas looks good!”

I will never forget waking up after the 7 hr long procedure and hearing that it had gone well. The pancreas was already providing me with insulin and within hours the insulin drip would be shut off and I was for the first time in almost 21 years producing my own insulin. However, the pain, nausea and weakness were great due to the very significant surgery involved. This incision was not done by minimal surgery, but I have a vertical scar from my belly bottom to my pelvic bone, and the recovery took much longer than the kidney transplant 9 months earlier.

However, the change was even more dramatic than after the kidney – from the day after surgery, I have not needed one insulin injection and my HbA1c has been around 5, with fasting glucose levels around 70. The pancreas from the young woman completely changed the course of my life. I have become a healthier person both physically and mentally.

It is difficult to explain the joys of being insulin independent beyond the obvious ones, but it is really about the small things. Not having to carry around all my diabetes devices, to simply walk down the street and decide on a whim to sit down for lunch or a cup of tea with a cookie and indulging without having to prepare and thinking how much insulin is required, or going to sleep and not be afraid of waking up in cold sweat and having to address a hypo. Equally important is also the mental and psychological stability that improved for me after the pancreas, since my mood swings, unexplained fatigue and periods of sadness disappeared after correcting my glucose excursions. Most importantly though was my renewed confidence in a future. Today, on the 6th anniversary of my pancreas transplant, I am full of joy and hopes for tomorrow and beyond.

At Lyfebulb we want to bring this sense of well-being, love for life and self-belief to everyone with diabetes. That is why we work so hard in connecting people on and offline, and in working with industry to identify needs that truly make a difference to people with the disease and secondly to bring better products to people living with diabetes NOW.

De-Stress and Refuel with Your Breath


Life doesn’t always follow our plans, does it?  We have our intentions, our plan, and when everything seems to be under control we’re pleased.  But circumstances can change.  Especially when we least expect it!  Even the smallest changes can upset a tried and true routine, bringing about a panicked, stressful state (this is true for me at least!).  And since stress wreaks havoc on the body we’re better off when we are in control of our reactions.  After all, life is full of surprises!

There are many strategies out there that help strengthen one’s ability to cope with stress, but one of a my favorites, a simple and easy one, is meditative breathing.  A few minutes of conscious breathing restores harmony and balance to my mind and body almost immediately.

Meditative breathing techniques are known as pranayama, which means “control of breath.”  I first discovered it when I started my yoga practice as a stressed-out 20-something working long hours in a fast-paced city.  The exercises felt awkward and unnatural at first, but once I started seeing the benefits – a relaxed body, a clear mind – the practice spilled into my day to day routine, helping me cope with stress and anxiety any time of day.

Many years ago a teacher shared with me this simple pranayama exercise, which, when practiced regularly, can help strengthen our immune system, aid in detoxification, and improve digestion.  It can also help regulate the autonomic nervous system (where our “fight or flight” response comes from) by naturally supporting our body’s ability to relax and de-stress.

Ready to give it a try?  Here’s what you do:

  1. Start sitting down, with your back straight and feet on the ground in a quiet space

  2. Close your eyes and exhale through your mouth, pushing all the air out of your lungs

  3. Next, breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of four and hold the breath for eight seconds

  4. Release slowly, through the mouth, to the count of four

  5. Repeat three times


On the fourth exhale, open your eyes and take in a comfortable breath through your nose.  Pause for a minute and notice how you feel, scanning your body and mind.  In the first few tries you might feel lightheaded, but this quickly goes away.

When is it best to practice pranayama?  Try practicing first thing in the morning when you wake up (before the day begins to affect the mind), and in the evening just before bed (to relax and calm the body and mind at the end of the day).  The best part of this exercise is you can take it anywhere: in traffic, at the office, or on a crowded subway.  Any time you feel your body could use some centering, breathe away!

I like to put it to use when I begin to feel overwhelmed by my to do list.  Or when I start to feel overstimulated by my surroundings, like when I’m in a crowded airport, or waiting in a long line at Whole Foods with a toddler who wants out of her stroller.  Thanks to the simple (and discreet) steps, I can de-stress and refuel wherever I am.
While many circumstances in life may be out of our control, what is in our control is how we react to them.  Pranayama not only helps the body recover from the effects of stress and anxiety internally, but you can inspire others when they see you handle unexpected changes with grace and ease!

Emergency Care in the City – The Story of a Klutz

Last Friday, I managed to trip over my own feet, fall to the ground; all five feet eleven inches of me tumbling down like a large tree tipping over in the forest.  My knees did not buckle, and I caught my body weight with my hands.  My left hand hit flat ground and did not even bruise, but my right was not so lucky.  My palm hit a step, the edge of which caused excruciating pain on site and immediate swelling.   My reaction at the time was:  what a klutz!

While in law school I took a similar tumble;  but that time it was down three or four stone stairs, with my school bag filled with law books and my trusted work-horse ThinkPad weighing me down.  That fall led to one dislocated elbow, two fractured elbows, lots of bruising, and months of physical therapy.  Although last Friday’s fall was nothing like that, it made me nervous enough that I decided, with some encouragement from my sister who is a doctor, to get my hand checked out.

Any time I begin to think about going to the Emergency Room, anxiety overwhelms me.   Thoughts of sitting in a crowded waiting room, watching people with injuries far more severe than mine be seen ahead of me (obviously), and filling out countless pages worth of paperwork flood my mind and dissuade me from actually seeing a doctor.   Last Friday, when the sole purpose of seeing a physician was to ascertain whether or not my hand was fractured, I seriously debated whether going to the ER was actually worth the hassle.  Then I thought, perhaps the emergency clinics popping up throughout the city, where wait times are less than an hour, the facilities are small and clean, and the staff friendly, maybe just maybe they also do x-rays.

I found one close to my home, gave them a call, and CityMD on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn confirmed that all of their locations are capable of taking an x-ray.  I walked over, the friendly staff had all of my information on file from a previous visit, and the wait was approximately 15 minutes before my examination began.  The physician on staff was unable to determine whether or not I had a hairline fracture in my hand, and therefore my x-rays were outsourced to a local radiologist.  It was finally determined that I had a bad sprain, some nasty bruising, but that there was no break (phew!).  I was in and out of the facility within a couple of hours, and the staff profusely apologized about the wait.

The convenience, including the proximate location of the clinic to my home and the efficiency of the staff, made this an unusually pleasant visit for emergency care in New York City.  It is encouraging to find that emergency care is evolving, and, that if you are like me and do not require an ambulance to take you to a full blown hospital ER, you can unclog those ER waiting rooms and seek out a facility in your area where competent professionals can ascertain the urgency of your condition quickly and send you on your way.

Today, my hand still makes it uncomfortable to type, to turn doorknobs, and to carry bags.  But it is quickly healing as I have followed the recommendation of the physician on staff at CityMd to R-I-C-E (rest, ice, compress, elevate).

Have a safe weekend everyone!