How top media execs unwind

All of us face growing pressure on our work/life balance in the smartphone age, so Media Week asked leading executives for their tips on how to de-stress.

Nick Theakstone, UK chief executive, Group M 

"Cycling offers me a sense of freedom and escape to clear my head and resolve challenges. Last year, I did the Cols to Cannes cycle challenge and I’m training this year for a gruelling 16 days on the bike to raise money for the Dallaglio Foundation Rugby Works project. I also enjoy watching my daughters ride their horses, walking the dog, watching Chelsea, playing golf and weekend cooking."

Richard Desmond, chairman, Northern & Shell

"If I’m at home, it’s a cup of tea, listening to Ginger Baker play Toad on Fresh Cream, the band’s debut album released in 1966. A genius instrumental by one of the greatest drummers of all time. I say ‘one’ of the greatest! On weekends, it’s a walk on Hampstead Heath with my beautiful wife, Joy, and our young children, Angel and Valentine. We still love the Heath despite it being partly ruined lately by a Lottery-funded mud pit! Walking helps me think about our next big move in UK media and how that will define the follow-up chapters to my autobiography, The Real Deal, which is out in paperback in June."

Naren Patel, chief executive, Primesight 

"I have two approaches to de-stressing. The first is a great meal and copious amount of wine (currently Pinot). A cheaper but equally effective alternative involves pints of Guinness and a packet of crisps. Both should be shared with media friends with good listening and drinking skills. The second is to run up Primrose Hill. When I hit the top, I pause and wonder what all the fuss was about."

Solly Solomou, founder, The Lad Bible

"There are three things in my life. My relationship, my family and friends, and my business. The business is far more needy and greedy than the other two. When I am not planning, thinking and operating within the business, I spend time doing things that I enjoy in the other two areas. Shutting off from the world and being invisible for a while is one of those things."

Kathleen Saxton, founder and chief executive, The Lighthouse Company

"As a headhunter and psychotherapist, my life is all about people, so taking time for myself can be a challenge. But I have learnt from my studies that, when we reflect and quieten our minds, we become a better version of ourselves. I like to sit in my window seat in my cottage in Hampstead, or soak in my big bath, and read poetry, a novel or an autobiography to soothe my perilously fast mind."

Karen Blackett, chairwoman, MediaCom UK

"1 I physically remove myself from London at the weekend to my house in Nailsworth, near Cirencester. 2 A Star Wars battle in the garden with lightsabers with my six-year-old son – although he always makes me be Darth Vader! 3 Play classical guitar. 4 Design furniture. 5 Go into Gatcombe woods and horse-ride. 6 Aromatherapy relaxation oil is my saviour. 7 A glass of Mount Gay rum, Sprite and angostura bitters while watching the West Indies play cricket – preferably at the Kensington Oval, Barbados. (Although this can sometimes be quite frustrating!)"

Lorna Tilbian, executive director, Numis Securities

"I need a total distraction from the tyranny of the BlackBerry (yep, love the keypad), so flower-arranging, cooking or gardening fit the bill as I can’t multitask when it comes to the kitchen and the garden, unlike the office. Really relaxing for me is escaping to the Eastern Mediterranean for the spring or the West Indies in the winter."

Dominic Carter, chief commercial officer, News UK

"The best way for me to relax is to go for a ride on my motorbike. Inside your helmet, you’re anonymous and alone – there’s just you, the bike and the road. There’s no way that you can be distracted. All of your focus has to be on riding, so it pretty much forces you to stop thinking about work and to live in the moment."

Nick Ferrari, presenter, LBC

"I like to relax by plotting world domination and imagining life with Jennifer Aniston on a £200 million superyacht. Sadly, I then wake up."

Mark Howe, managing director, EMEA agencies, Google

"To switch off when I’m travelling, which is a lot, I only stay in hotels with a decent gym and preferably a pool. On planes and trains, I read autobiographies through my ears. At weekends, come the spring, I love squeezing into my wetsuit for a two- or three-kilometre lake or river swim or getting on my road bike. Fresh, non-recycled air is a must. But the mobile phone is never that far away."

Phil Georgiadis, UK chairman, Publicis Media

"The key is to find places where phones are not tolerated – although, strangely, some of these establishments accept people on laptops with earphones. Alternatively, go to a golf course, but some people still cheat the rules there. Recently, I was on a yacht not skippered by me and lost my phone to the sea after getting drunk on the first night. At the end of four days, I was more relaxed than I’d been since I was a student."

Roisin Donnelly, brand director, Northern Europe, Procter & Gamble

"The greatest way to unwind anywhere, any time, is humour. Laughter releases tension and makes the world a better place. Ideally, laugh with other people, but you can also do it on your own! I also follow the mantra of doing mental, physical, social and spiritual activity every day to stay in balance – particularly Steven Covey’s seventh habit to ‘sharpen the saw’."

Susanna Reid, presenter, Good Morning Britain 

"I find it almost impossible to turn off my iPhone, so I have to put it in a drawer – otherwise I can find that I will be sitting in one room and the children will be in another, all looking at separate screens. We have screen downtime, when no-one can look at phones, laptops or DSs. I do Zumba once a week since doing Strictly, as it’s lovely to be able to keep dancing. I have also signed up to the London Marathon next year. I’ve never really enjoyed running but it is a great way to de-stress."

Sir Peter Bazalgette, chairman, ITV

"A gripping TV drama in boxset form – preferably a contemporary thriller – plus a pot of taramasalata and plenty of crispbreads to dip."

Tim Brooks, co-founder, Media Week; chief executive, BMJ

"I’m lucky enough to live with easy access to open country. To keep things in perspective, nothing beats pulling on the Nikes at dawn, with Radiohead or PJ Harvey on the headphones."

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