2016 was a year for the history books. Major, unforeseen political upheavals took place, which threw the establishment a curve ball. A mass populist uprising swept across the United States, resulting in one of the most unexpected events in modern times: President Donald J Trump.

Amid all the chaos, it has become increasingly difficult to retain a portion of sanity. It is easy to fall down the trap of getting lost and disheartened amongst the abundance of false news narratives, violent riots, and the total division of the nation. To that end, I’d like to offer you a few points of advice on how to stay sane following these events, and on how to remain hopeful for a future of unity:

Don’t believe the mainstream media: Headlines aim to invoke strong reactions. This is largely achieved by stating false, or whitewashed information. It’s important to stay level headed, think rationally, and remain skeptical of the things you read. More often than not, there is a hidden—or blatant, depending on how lazy the outlet is in attempting to hide their bias—intent behind the way a news story is presented. The mainstream media will always pick a side and remain partisan in favor of a particular political party and agenda. Therefore, the content that is shown to you will almost always be cherry-picked and biased. Particular media outlets will appeal to different demographics with a certain majority view point. Be aware that just because BuzzFeed reports “Oh my god! Trump is literally Hitler! White males are so toxic!” does not mean it’s accurate or true in the slightest. If we believed everything BuzzFeed reported, we’d all be cowering messes rocking in the corner, too afraid to walk outside in case we see gum on the ground and get “totally triggered” by the fact that this reflects the size of our tiny brains.

There is no excuse for violence based on political differences: It comes down to the fact that simply because you hold an opposing political view, this does not in any way justify or solicit acts of violence against those who do not agree with you. Regardless of the strength of your belief, using physical violence against anyone who disagrees is only counterproductive to your cause. It delegitimizes your view and will ring with nothing but connotations of inhumanity and dread. It’s all too easy to get caught up in a collective hive of one thought within mass protests, to succumb to violence amid the passion of your cause, but it will never achieve anything worthwhile and will most likely result in backfire against the questionable ethics of your ideology.

Know what you’re fighting for. Know why you subscribe to a certain view point: On countless occasions, protesters have vigorously proclaimed intense fervor towards a subject, and are eager to shout their opinions. However, upon further inspection, it’s clear that when they’re away from the masses—which act as reinforcement offering them safe spaces to crawl back into—and are politely questioned, they have no real knowledge of their cause or what they’re protesting about. Therefore, if you’re wanting to express your views publicly, it’s crucial that you have a broad and deep understanding of the topic, that your argument can stand up to scrutiny, and that you acknowledge you’ll probably experience backlash.

Stay inquisitive, expose yourself to different opinions: Staying inside an echo chamber of similar opinions will only give you a one-sided view of the world. While you might strongly believe in your view, it’s essential to step outside of that circle of thought  and to achieve a wider scope of knowledge. Talk to people, have productive discussions, and hopefully you’ll gain an understanding as to why they have their views. Although circumstances may appear more and more bleak in terms of engaging in peaceful debate, if we start with individuals, and build an open, free and diverse environment for dialogue, as opposed to violently screeching into each others ears and causing further division, hopefully we’ll see progress.

To conclude, 2016 was an interesting year for all of us, to say the least. However, there were some fundamentally vital life lessons we can take away from it. It’s important to remember that while we may have different views, we’re all human beings sharing this planet together. We’re all striving to better ourselves and the lives of others. The better we can communicate and collaborate together, the more chance we have of successfully bettering everyone universally. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But if nothing else, I hope these points have brought a little more humanity into the sphere of politics, and have given you some useful inspiration on how to survive all the weird and wonderful events that may occur in 2017.

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