Not only do I practice many well-being techniques in my own life, but I coach others as well. One of my favorite concepts to teach and practice is the importance of sleep for the brain. Every day, your brain cleans itself to remove neuro-trash buildup (sleep = dishwasher for your brain!). That’s one of the reasons why getting enough sleep each night is so important for mental well-being. One Microstep I use to get better sleep is to turn my phone on airplane mode in the evening to cut off work emails, reminders, and messaging. On top of restorative sleep, your brain also needs water, especially water before coffee in the morning. Hydration is the key to improving energy, cognition, and mitigating brain fog. 

I initially started delving into mental health early on after facing some challenges with my son. As a toddler he acted the same as other kids, but he began to experience heightened anxiety and distractibility as he grew older. After a few second opinions, I had four different diagnoses and labels from four different doctors that ranged from ADHD to autism. Not one of them could tell me why or the root cause of the symptoms, setting me on a path of discovery for relief. 

After much research, therapies, and trial and error, I transformed my lifestyle for my son and my family to build routines at home that support brain health. The root cause turned out to be multi-faceted, including compromised gut health, retaining primitive reflexes, and a dopamine deficiency that all the doctors never mentioned. 

I’ve never said this before, but I’ll partially credit Cisco for teaching me to be curious, continuously learn, problem-solve, and tackle the root cause, not the symptoms. Cisco is at the speartip of innovation and change. From working here I learned how to persevere boldly, with positivity and a growth mindset. Because of that, I was able to navigate from that feeling of helplessness to empowerment and critically problem-solve and seek out the root cause of my son’s challenges with mental health.

From this experience, and the years of practical neuroscience and teaching, I have a few top tips for better brain health for work. Again, hydration. We now know that the brain is made mainly of water, and it needs to stay hydrated to function properly. When you don’t stay hydrated, your brain shrinks significantly, impairing your cognition. As a result, your brain must work much harder to perform the same tasks. 

So when you hydrate, think of it as fueling your brain. I would also recommend high protein breakfasts instead of high sugar breakfasts. You’ll have more balanced energy levels for the rest of the day and avoid sugar crashes and cravings that steal your focus. I know this can be difficult! My daughter is a Girl Scout and I FEEL the cookie season! It’s OK to have a little bit of sugar here and there, but it’s best to limit sugar as much as possible because of its inflammatory qualities. And make sure you’re getting good, restorative sleep. Figure out any sleep problems for yourself or your spouse (i.e. snoring) to maximize your physical and mental health. Happier, more successful lives and careers come along with healthy brains.


  • Daneen West

    Customer Success Executive


    Daneen, a Customer Success Executive for Cisco, has been with Cisco since 2000. As a Cisco leader and formally trained speaker, she is a personal advocate for mental well-being and brain health within and outside of Cisco. Daneen leads a Brain-Boosting Book Club and group coaching with over a decade of talent development experience from Cisco, The NeuroLeadership Institute, and a clinical certification from Amen Clinics.