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Braintrophy--How I Stay Sharp Over Winter Break

Winter break is something I look forward to every year! There are a plethora of holidays, lots of treats, and a ton of family time. Unfortunately winter break is also a time for my brain to try its best at atrophy. It's easy peasy to forget about everything from the previous semester. Thankfully, I've figured out how to keep my brain ready for the start of the next semester.
There are three areas that my brain seems to struggle with:
1. Focus-- When I get back from the break, I'm much too preoccupied with all the things that just happened (and how boring sitting in class can be) to actually listen to the lecture, read the assigned reading, or even hold a discussion. Three weeks of lounging on my own schedule makes the transition back to school schedule rough.
2. Memory-- What did I learn before break? I don't know. I mostly remember snowmen, presents, and the number of times I watched Muppet Christmas Carol
3. Motivation-- I don't know about you, but desks are much less comfy than my bed and blankets--especially when hot chocolate and a Harry Potter reread are long overdue. 
I know I'm not the only one suffering from "braintrophy" and post-winter break ho-hums, so here's how I've learned to defeat and excel.

(PS I'm writing this from the standpoint of a three week break. You are more than welcome to adopt these ideas into your own schedule.)

Focus
The first thing I've learned for sure about any break--by the time it comes, I am in desperate need! So I give my brain a rest and I spend the first week watching Christmas movies and eating baked goods. Oh, and finishing any last minute seasonal decoration that needs to be done. My brain loves it; my emotions love it; my body does not. By the end of the first week, I become fidgety and I struggle with finding joy in my veg-routine. 
The second week, I look over the homework I've been assigned over break (if any), and I set up a schedule. I try not to overload myself--and keep lots of playtime planned in (it is break, after all). I try to leave the last couple days of break totally empty for goofing-off. I play video games with my brother and hike in the snow.
Spreading your homework out over break ensures plenty of playtime, but keeps your brain active. Keeping your brain active is important in being able to stay focused at the reboot of schooling. This means that if I don't have any homework over break, I'll pick up sudoku or crossword puzzles--anything to work my brain.
Another trick I've learned for focus is to make a special emphasis to go to bed at the same time I do during school for he last week of break. This gets my body and brain adjusted to my school schedule, and helps me to be well-rested when school starts. Being well-rested is the most important thing I know for being a focus queen.
Finally, a day or so before school reboots, I cut back on the sweets. I don't have the self-control to cut them out entirely--what's a holiday without sweets!?--but minimizing my sweet intake helps me to focus more. I'm not sure of the science behind it, but I suspect it's because I'm replace less-nutritious food for more-nutritious food--and your brain loves nutritious food.

Memory
So how do we remember what we've learned prior to break? Well, do you remember the homework routine I talked about in the previous section? That's how you remember! By spreading it out, we don't overload our brains. And we keep working on it through most of the final week of break so we don't have a week to forget everything! With a couple days set aside at the end of break for no homework, you'll come back rested, and still have some memories of what you learned prior to break--it'll feel like you've been through a weekend instead of three whole weeks, memory-wise.
I also make a point of getting to class a little early and skimming my notes. This way I feel extra prepared.

Motivation
Now that we're able to focus on and remember our schooling, how do we get ourselves out of bed (and our pajamas), away from the TV (and our sweets jar) and to school?
Very carefully. I'll admit it, this is the hardest part for me. The only way I've managed to handle it is psyching myself mentally. I'll make sure all of my laundry is ready, and lay out my favorite outfit. One that's warm and comfy, but makes me feel like I own the world. If I feel comfy and cute, I'm more likely to want to show up to school. I'll prep my backpack the night before so I don't have to worry about forgetting anything. I prep to pack my lunch the next morning, and I prep my breakfast so I can lay in bed as long as possible and roll-out at the last minute.
Ultimately, though, I'm just excited for school--and knowing I have all of my homework done and ready to turn-in is enough to get me out the door and heading to school.

There are many other tricks I've heard from my friends. But these are the ones that work for me, so these are the ones I've shared. I hope that these are in someway helpful because feeling unprepared and lost on your first day back is never fun.