Nicole Spencer, DNP, AGNP, APRN

Nurse uses healthy diet and exercise to stay fueled during COVID-19

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12 years ago, Nicole Spencer embarked on a major life change: She decided to change careers and start nursing school. What she didn’t realize was that this would be one of many decisions to alter her life for the better.

While in nursing school, Nicole also decided to start a more formal nutrition plan and incorporate more exercise into her routine. She joined a well-known diet and lifestyle wellness program and became more mindful of what she ate. She paid closer attention to how her diet affected her wellness.

“I’m not a big tracker with food or calories, but I’ve learned to monitor my macros (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates),” said Nicole. “I limit sugar, drink at least 80 ounces to a gallon of water a day, and limit treat meals.”

Why the nutritional change?

“I’ve noticed my diet plays a big part in how I feel, like with my energy levels and my mood,” said Nicole.

Through the years, Nicole adjusted her diet to what works best for her lifestyle. As an essential worker on the frontlines of COVID-19 today, her healthy diet ensures she’s not overly fatigued.

“I didn’t want my diet to bring me down,” said Nicole. “Now I have much more energy when I focus on what I’m eating and eat a higher-quality diet. My mood is more stable, my skin is more hydrated, and overall I feel better.”

Movement and Energy
Just like Nicole’s diet has evolved over the years, her physical activity has, too. Before COVID-19, Nicole visited her local gym 5 to 6 times per week. She’d attend group fitness classes, with her favorite being one that mixed running, rowing, and weight training.

After the coronavirus pandemic closed fitness facilities, Nicole started working out at home. She turned to:
  • Virtual fitness classes through her gym
  • Pre-recorded programs on her TV
  • Running outside
  • The Spartan Virtual Super (a 10K run and 25 obstacle workout)

“Because I work as an essential worker on the frontlines of COVID-19, I had to be physically active,” said Nicole. “Both my exercise and diet help make sure I’m not overly fatigued.”

Staying Motivated
The stress of the pandemic plays a huge role in keeping Nicole motivated to live a healthy life. Knowing the importance of her role, she prioritizes a commitment to herself just as much as her day-to-day work.

“I have to make sure I’m well and as healthy as I can be,” said Nicole. “Anything that might make me a lesser version of myself will negatively affect my work.”

In the throes of this pandemic, we’re learning the implications it has on healthcare workers. Nicole’s first-defense strategy includes a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and staying active.

And while it’s not always easy, Nicole plans her routine on a week-by-week basis and gives herself flexibility with how she stays active. She simply finds opportunities to move, no matter how.

Nicole’s Advice
As a nurse, Nicole understands the health and wellness challenges that medical professionals face. Her advice, especially during COVID-19:
  • You can’t pour from an empty cup. You need to refill yourself as much as you can because nursing jobs are demanding.
  • Don’t feel guilty. It’s OK to step away and do something that benefits you. Things like fitness give you so much back, including mental clarity and physical wellness.
  • Find what works for you. Find something you can do (healthy eating, walking, meditating, yoga, journaling) that helps you mentally reset and engage. Don’t think what works for someone else has to work for you, too.
Nicole Spencer, DNP, AGNP, APRN, is a nurse at UNC Health in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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Posted by Holly E Carpenter, RN, BSN on Aug 8, 2020 1:43 PM America/Chicago

Blog Post Comments

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I love the alternative ideas to going to the gym! I had not heard of the virtual 10k's before and am now interested!
  • Posted Thu 27 Aug 2020 01:39 PM CDT

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