Mercury Retrograde: What It Is and How to Survive It

What is Mercury Retrograde?

Mercury retrograde is an optical illusion that occurs when the planet Mercury appears to move backward across the sky. This apparent backwards motion happens about three to four times per year and lasts for about three weeks at a time.

In astrology, Mercury is associated with communication, travel, contracts, technology and information. When Mercury goes retrograde, astrologers believe its influence causes these areas to go awry. Problems with transportation delays, misunderstandings, and glitches with phones, computers, and other tech tend to increase during Mercury retrograde periods.

Mercury retrograde occurs because the speed Mercury travels differs from Earth’s. When the fast-moving Mercury passes by the slower-moving Earth, this creates an effect like two cars passing each other on the freeway. From our perspective on Earth, it looks like Mercury is changing direction.

How Retrograde Motion Interacts with the Zodiac

The zodiac is the path the Sun, moon and planets travel around the sky through the 12 signs of the zodiac. The position of Mercury in the zodiac as it goes retrograde highlights the life areas that will be affected.

For example, if Mercury goes retrograde while in Gemini, communication problems may be more likely because Gemini rules speaking and writing. If Mercury goes retrograde in the sign of Leo, problems with creative projects, romance, and leadership may occur because Leo rules these areas. Checking a natal chart to see where Mercury lands in your birth chart can provide clues about what specifically may be disrupted for you during any given retrograde period.

The Retrograde Period and Shadow Periods

Mercury’s retrograde period lasts about three weeks, but the associated astrological phenomena slop over on either side of the actual retrograde. The periods before and after the retrograde are called shadow periods.

In the shadow periods, Mercury’s movement slows before coming to a stop and turning backward, and then speeds back up after turning direct. The effects of Mercury retrograde are often felt in the shadow periods, sometimes even before the retrograde officially starts. The beginning and end dates of Mercury retrograde published in astrological calendars include the shadow periods for a complete look at the cycle.

Mercury Retrograde Effects

Mercury retrograde gets blamed for all manner of breakdowns, problems, delays, and frustration. However, not everything goes wrong during these periods. Still, it’s smart to allow some extra margin for error when it comes to things governed by Mercury during retrograde.

Here are some examples of classic Mercury retrograde problems:

  • Miscommunications, misunderstandings, unclear directives
  • Technology glitches, equipment breakdowns
  • Travel delays, lost reservations, traffic jams
  • Contracts or deals falling apart, important appointments being missed
  • Information getting lost or corrupted
  • Confusion about directions, facts, appointments

Luckily, the trickster planet also presents opportunities for:

  • Revising, rethinking plans & ideas
  • Reconnecting with people from the past
  • Rediscovering lost information
  • Resuming old projects or passions
  • Release of pent-up emotions
  • Resting, reviewing, recharging

Surviving Mercury Retrograde with Minimal Stress

The retrograde period is not a good time to launch new technology, sign contracts, start a new job, or make a significant purchase. But there are strategies you can use to navigate these periods with minimal frustration:

1. Review the details.

Triple check the fine print, your work, reservations, everything to avoid complications from overlooked details.

2. Allow extra time.

Don’t rush or leave things to the last minute because delays and problems are likely.

3. Have backup plans.

Make alternate arrangements in case something falls through. Have a Plan B, C and even D.

4. Double check communications.

Avoid miscommunications by confirming in writing over email or text. Verify people have the correct dates, times, meeting spots.

5. Back up data.

Save important data, documents, and files in multiple locations to prevent loss. Cloud storage or an external hard drive work great.

6. Hold off if you can.

When possible, wait until Mercury goes direct again to sign contracts, launch websites, start jobs, or make big purchases.

7. Use the energy for editing.

Use Mercury retrograde for releasing and clearing out the old and reviewing and revising projects rather than starting from scratch.

8. Allow delays.

When travel glitches happen, relax, know it’s temporary. Take a book or music to pass time in a delay.

9. Use humor.

When frustrations rise, try to keep perspective. Delays or mix ups won’t matter in the long run. Laughter helps keep stress down.

With preparation and adaptability, you can navigate Mercury retrograde periods with grace. They are excellent times for tying up loose ends, getting organized, and finishing ongoing projects. With focus and patience, Mercury retrograde can be a productive time.

For more guidance on making the most of Mercury retrograde, consult your astrologer. They can help you understand how it will specifically impact you based on your natal birth chart.

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