When stressed, make sure you are getting enough sleep! I cannot emphasize the importance of sleep enough. If we are overloading our brains on a daily basis your mind needs to process this, to be able to process information we need to sleep. When we spend our days walking and doing physical things like going up stairs our body also needs rest
As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rosaria Barreto.
Rosaria Barreto is the Director of Vitality Hub a UK-based health and Fitness organization that specializes in clinical exercise. The Vitality Hub ideology is the MOVEMENT IS MEDICINE. Rosaria is a qualified sports scientist holding a BSc Hons Exercise Fitness management and works as a GP referral and Personal Training practitioner. Despite her starting her first business only 2 years ago she has run a successful crowdfunding campaign exceeding her target of £8000, has been a guest speaker as various business conferences and is currently developing health-related Artificial intelligence technology.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My story starts in Chelsea and Westminster hospital, I was born from mixed heritage (Anglo-Indo-Portuguese) and grew up in South Kensington just 15 minutes away from Harrods. My family grew and kept growing, when I became the eldest of 4 children, we moved further out, away from the center of London. Our family eventually grew to 9 children and so we settled in west London a place called Ruislip, once home to the likes of Andy Serkis (Lord of the rings) and Tom Fletcher (Mcfly).
I was a chubby child growing up, I disliked school and suffered from severe anxiety, I was bullied and felt like I didn’t fit in, It wasn’t until I reached 15–16 years that I started to become confident in myself, enjoy studying and learning and become truly independent.
I started my first job at 16 working in Curves as a receptionist, I was a bit of a nerd and went to bed at 9 and woke up at 6 to get to the library to revise. I eventually ended up not doing very well in my A-levels (grades just before University) despite all the hard work, exams testing was not my thing. I wasn’t born academic…until I went to university. I thrived, won various career awards, was nominated as valedictorian and traveled around the US, Italy and Croatia in between my studies.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.
I don’t really have anyone that originally inspired me. I just always knew I wanted to be my own boss. I had the right support growing up, my parents always encouraged me to follow my dreams, as long as it made me happy, I should do it. I guess in a way my parents were the people who showed me that I can do anything that I put my mind to. They would be my inspiration and still are! In fact, during my childhood, they weren’t self-employed but now that we are all grown up and they don’t have to care for 9 small children my mum has had the chance to become a life coach and my dad started a construction business.
Influential entrepreneurs that I currently look up to are Grace Beverly (Shreddy & Tala), Joe Wicks and Phil Carr (My PT Hub). They are all fitness entrepreneurs who have used innovation to stand out, which is what I hope to accomplish one day.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Well, I guess this leads on from my inspiration. My mum (Tracey) has and will always be my biggest fan, no matter what she is doing she will always listen to my pitch practice, nominate me for business awards, refer me to likeminded individuals and cancel her own plans to work on a last-minute project with me. My parents were very strict and kept me disciplined growing up, although I hated at the time, I am so grateful for their teachings. I strongly believe that if I didn’t have the Barreto upbringing I wouldn’t be as driven and determined as I am today. I started my business at 21 years because I felt invincible, this feeling of self-confidence was instilled in me by my parents who told me that there are zero limits to what you can achieve if you work hard and stay persistent.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I was still paying off my student account, had quit my part-time job to go full time self-employed and was in a car accident- this car just happened to be a new car that I had been saving up for about 3 years, I loved this car and through no fault of my own, it was written off. The insurance pay-out was pennies and I needed money fast to replace the car. So, I started a coaching program which promised high paying clients quick! I soon learned that this was not my passion, the whole experience made me anxious, stressed and turns out I was paying more out than I was getting back. To be honest, the program was not fool proof, and I turned to this in desperation. I managed to wiggle my way out of a contract, but I learned a lot. 1. Do not do anything you don’t love 2. Money should not be your sole focus as to ‘WHY’ you do what you do (or want to do)
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Being a young person myself, I would say start as soon as possible and do not procrastinate. There aren’t many 23-year old’s out there who LOVE their job, not to mention running a successful business. Just because others aren’t doing it doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t.
My top tips for starting a business is 1. Networking is key! It’s a little bit about what you know and a whole lot about who you know. 2. There will be tears! It’s hard, but worth it, don’t be afraid to show your emotions, your loved ones are there to love you when you are feeling low so make sure you manage your low days and celebrate you high days with them. 3. Continually develop your own skills and knowledge, this will help you scale and grow the business. Do not be naive and think ‘I’ve got a degree/vocational qualification, I know it all’, because you don’t.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I wouldn’t say book, more like a podcast! The coaching masters podcast reassured me that no matter what has happened in your life you can still come out of it strong! It’s one of the only podcasts that I get excited about. The podcast has brought tears of laughter and sadness to my daily life, I have connected to it on an emotional level. But most of all it is all about business and has taught me invaluable lessons. Some of the topics that have really resonated with me on a business level are creating a vision, ways to scale the business for free and the importance of being online and digital appearance.
It has also resonated with me on a personal level, the topics that stood out to me most of all are embracing masculine vulnerability and blocking out the haters. When you run a business it does become personal, it’s important that you learn not only about your business needs but your personal needs are when it comes to your career. I had a bit of a dip in self-esteem in February 2020 I felt like I had lost my sense of purpose, this podcast helped me back ono my feet again and refocused me. The podcast made me realise that I had been neglecting my own professional development which is why my drive and motivation had come to a standstill. “Never regard study as a duty but as an enviable opportunity to learn to know the liberating influence of beauty in the realm of the spirit for your own personal joy and to the profit of the community to which your later works belong.” Albert Einstein
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Adapted Serenity prayer:
Grant to me the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other”
I often become frustrated with the way things are so slow in business, I like change to occur quickly and efficiently but unfortunately, that is never the case. Whenever I feel anxious or frustrated, I say this to myself. It helps remind me to be patient as well as remind me that I am doing my best and that even if things aren’t going my way for now it’s not because I am not doing what’s right its most probably because by this point I have done everything in my power and need to be patient. Everything happens for a reason.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
My biggest and most exciting project is aimed at tackling social isolation and the prevention and management of chronic disease in later life. The project is utilizing data science and artificial intelligence which is a long process. We are currently collecting data from the 60+ community and investigating which machine learning patterns are best to use. I hope to modernize clinical physical rehabilitation and mental health improvement programs with the use of modern technology. Since Covid19 the need for social connection has been emphasized. Depression and suicide associated with loneliness and feelings of vulnerability have increased, although we have the means to prevent this, we don’t use them, which is why I initiated the project. Although this idea has been in progress for over 18 months it has only really come to life in the past 3 months. I am very excited for what is to come as I will be working alongside some fantastic organizations.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?
Exercise has and will always be top priority. The power of exercise not only supports your physical wellbeing but also your mindset and mental health. Just like our physical health, mental health should regularly be cared for! I regularly struggle with anxiety and have had depression in the past. As someone who has high aspirations, I frequently put pressure on myself to perform, often too much pressure. I find that exercise helps me relieve this pressure. It gives me the opportunity to focus my energy on something else, clear my brain and feel refreshed.
When I have been under pressure for prolonged periods of time in the past, my body usually shows it! I get stress spots; eczema and I look exhausted and drained. By this point I know that I need some ‘me time’ and one of my favorite things to do is pamper myself. I’ll get a facial, de-stress massage and maybe even treat myself to some aromatherapy. Feeling attractive is important to me, it enhances my confidence when public speaking and promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Tapping is “a combination of Ancient Chinese Acupressure and Modern Psychology that works to physically alter your brain, energy system, and body all at once. The practice consists of tapping with your fingertips on specific meridian points while talking through traumatic memories and a wide range of emotions.”-Nick Ortner
Dr. Dawson Church says, “Acupoint tapping sends signals directly to the stress centres of the mid-brain, not mediated by the frontal lobes (the thinking part, active in talk therapy).”
I was introduced to tapping by Mum as a way to calm myself. Although I am no expert, I often find myself doing it without realising now. The concept is that it accesses stress on physical and emotional levels. I personally find that it helps!
When stressed, make sure you are getting enough sleep! I cannot emphasize the importance of sleep enough. If we are overloading our brains on a daily basis your mind needs to process this, to be able to process information we need to sleep. When we spend our days walking and doing physical things like going up stairs our body also needs rest. I would recommend delving into some books and learning about why we need sleep because you will rapidly realise how important it is. I would also suggest learning about how many hours of sleep you need personally. I know that mine is 8–9 but most people ate 7–8. Its trialing what works with you and seeing how well you function depending on total hours of sleep!
Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
Fueling my body and mind is vital for peak performance. My brain turns to mush if I eat mush. There is a lot of science supporting the concept that processed food which is high in saturated fats stimulates feelings of tiredness. It’s important to energise your body at all times but especially before a high pressure moment as it’s important to facilitate the adrenaline pump. We underestimate the power of food on the mind. Having a body water deficit of 1% can impair cognition, which is why you will always see me with a protein shaker full of water!
2. Positive affirmations
Reassuring oneself by using affirmations instils self-confidence and is a motivation strategy. I find that it boosts my mood prior to a high-pressure situation by changing negative thought patterns into positive ones. Finally, I have read that affirmations have the power to influence the sub-conscious mind to access new beliefs, psycho-support is has so many valuable powers!
3. Practice & repetition
The more you practice the better you become, take the 10000-hour rule, it’s the same in business. It’s good to practice what you are going to say and do but its even greater if you do this out loud. In the past, it has improved my proficiency when pitching to investors and giving talks to crowds. The more confident you are in yourself the less you have to worry about.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.
I am heavily influenced by ‘the breath guy’. He once said in an interview “Breathwork is the science and art of becoming aware of your breathing and using it for a physical, mental or emotional benefit. This definition encapsulates all the different techniques and modalities where your breath is the primary focus, from simple two-three minute techniques to help you feel relaxed, techniques to relieve chronic back pain or learning to breathe to quickly induce meditative flow states.” Understanding the importance of breathing is one thing and implementing regular breathing strategies into your daily life is another. The latter can be omnipotent, which is why I include 2 minutes of deep breathing whenever I feel anxious and especially before a public-speaking event.
Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?
When I am focused, I am focused! Rather than have a technique I ensure that anything that is not important on that day is rescheduled or cancelled. I don’t want any distractions. Additionally, talking to someone about what I am about to do and practicing my speech or pitch on people who will be completely honest and not fluff me up (usually my family) will point out improvements that need to be made before important meetings.
We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
The best and most important habits to me are planning, sleep and exercise. Preparing and planning before an important meeting or talk has always proved to be the best way to go, rather than winging it on the day. I like to make sure I know who I am speaking to, what I will be discussing and how we can collaborate. This also saves time, when you run a business time is especially precious!
What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?
Supposedly it takes 66 days to create a habit!
- I would suggest start small and build it up, for example, if you want to start waking up at 5:30 am every morning start by doing that 3 times a week, the following week increase it to 4 days and so on
- Check if it’s realistic! For example, if you want to plan your whole month of work at the beginning of the month, that might not be possible. Firstly, it might take a few days to complete this task and secondly a lot can change within a week!
Once you know the specific habits you want to achieve then set yourself goals which include a deadline. I wake up at 5:30 am 4 days a week (sometimes more) It took me 3 weeks for it to become ‘easy’ and 4 weeks to become even easier. Habits are hard to start but it gets simpler, when you do not feel like doing what you’ve planned remind yourself WHY. Why do you need to get up early? — is it to create your own business empire? Well then, you better get up! I would highly recommend watching Mel Robbins ‘ 5-second rule’ video on YouTube.
Stopping bad habits comes down to mindset. You need to boost your mindset with knowledge, wisdom, and drive! This could be through reading or listening to podcasts, watching videos, or attending conferences. A great way to change bad habits is breaking them down and understanding why you do them in the first place.
As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
I usually enter a state of flow when I am slightly outside my comfort zone but not too far outside that I feel overwhelmed. When you are succeeding at something that challenges you, you gain a sense of accomplishment, an intrinsic reward that cheers you on! If you feel as if you have hit a wall, then something must change. Striving to be consistently innovative and be creative ensures personal and professional growth. Always aspire to surprise yourself and don’t lose sight of your next goal!
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I have always envisaged an intergenerational holistic health movement! I think it important that 80-year old’s and 18 year old’s interact. I have been able to nurture my soul by learning and building friendships with older adults. Life should be valued and so many people ignore that, health is key to happiness. I recently heard someone say ‘you don’t want regrets on your death bed’ so why is it that most of the population don’t live life to its fullest! There is so much to learn from older adults and adults have so much to learn from young people. One day I will facilitate an intergenerational health movement.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would love to have a pain au chocolate and tea with Oprah! She inspired me to make my first vision board and overcome rejection. Oprah said ‘You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job for free’ as a Black female entrepreneur she has had to jump millions of hurdles to get to where she is, she encourages me to have a must do attitude!
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Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.