Spiritual Health

What *Not* To Do During Mercury Retrograde Cycles

Photo: Stocksy / Lauren Lee
Did you recently get a DM from an old flame, completely out of the blue? Or did your long-awaited vacation plans suddenly fall through at the last minute? If so, you may want to check your cosmic calendar because according to the universe, when Mercury is in retrograde, occurrences of this sort are basically to be expected.

Curious where we currently stand in relation to retrograde? We’ve compiled a list of 2022 Mercury Retrograde dates (so you can finally stop asking yourself, ‘Is Mercury in retrograde?’). The good news? Two of the cycles have already passed. The (potentially) bad news? Two retrograde periods are on the horizon, with one occurring from September 9 to October 2, and another from December 29 to January 18, 2023.

While you may be able to anticipate that certain snafus may occur during this timeframe—after all, considering retrograde cycles happen multiple times per year, we’ve lived through many—it's also helpful to know what not to do during Mercury retrograde so you don't unnecessarily press your luck. That’s where we come in. Below find a refresher on what this planetary movement means for you, and an exhaustive list of what not to do during Mercury retrograde.

What is the meaning of Mercury retrograde?

Mercury is the fastest moving planet in the solar system—it's the closest to the sun, making its orbital path a little more speedy than its neighboring planets. When it passes Earth (which happens three or four times a year), it slows down a bit, making the planet of communication appear as though it's spinning backwards—with the operative word being "appear." In actuality, it's not actually spinning backward, but its slowed-down speed is connected with a variety of things in life becoming a bit muddled in the areas of life that Mercury rules: communication, travel, and technology.

"We can experience technical or mechanical issues, and our wires can feel crossed in all our forms of communication," says Ellen Bowles, an astrologer and co-author of Astrology SOS. "Planetary retrogrades are moments of collective pause and reflection. When Mercury retrograde occurs, we are being asked to slow down and double-check the details." That impetus to finely comb over all the details extends beyond the three-to-four-week period of retrograde itself. Mercury's shadow period, aka "retroshade," occurs for a week or two before and after the retrograde itself, and the same rules for what not to do during Mercury retrograde apply during this time, too.

That said, Mercury retrograde isn't all bad. Despite its rough reputation, it actually offers benefits and can be embraced as an opportunity to lean into the moments of pause it inspires. As astrologer Susan Miller previously told Well+Good, Mercury retrograde periods welcome an opportunity to slow down, remember, and reconnect.

In short, the astrological time frame doesn't have to suck, and knowing what not to do during Mercury retrograde can help ensure that's the case. Keep reading for six tips to help make that happen.

An exhaustive list of what not to do during Mercury retrograde

1. Hold off on signing any contracts

Making a big purchase? You might want to wait. Since Mercury rules communication, a retrograde can cause contractual agreements to get muddled. "If you have no other choice, double-check all the fine print or get a second opinion before signing the dotted line," Bowles suggests. "You don’t want to end up stuck in legalities you cannot get out of when Mercury stations direct."

2. Be prepared for traffic and other travel mishaps

Brace yourself for last-minute cancellations, traffic jams, travel-plan changes, and last-minute mishaps. "See them as a divine redirection rather than a hassle," says Bowles. "And don't skip travel insurance policies!"

3. Avoid situations primed for misunderstandings

Expect a lot of, "that's not what I meant..." type of conversations throughout any Mercury retrograde period, because the time is notorious for confusion, heightened emotions, and misunderstandings. Knowing that going in can help you remember to give people the benefit of the doubt and avoid getting upset when you might normally be triggered.

4. Don't rely on technology

Be prepared for Zoom to fail mid-meeting and for phones to lose service unexpectedly. "Backup all your technology," says Bowles. "It’s common to have files go missing, technology crashes, or software malfunctions during this time. Better safe than sorry!"

5. Delete that "U Up?" text from a toxic ex

Bowles says Mercury retrogrades are great for self-reflection, but returning to past situationships or karmic partners may not be the way to get the healing you desire. "Instead, journal or talk out your relationship thoughts with a trusted friend," Bowles says. "Reflect on why these old connections are being addressed now. What do you still have to learn from them?"

6. Refrain from starting anything new

Similar to signing a contract, now is not a great time to start a new project or dive into any other novel plans. Instead, pick up a project you previously set down, whether it's a book you're writing, a blanket you're knitting, or anything else. “You go back, and you have a second chance to do better,” Miller previously said. So, finish what you've started, and prepare for new beginnings, come the end of the retrograde cycle.

When Mercury in retrograde ends...

In addition to asking yourself ‘when does mercury retrograde end?’ you may also be wondering how to proceed with your life once it does. Basically, anything you put on the back burner during Mercury’s muddled madness can be safely and confidently reinstated once the planet rights its speed. So, if you paused your travel plans, refrained from embarking on a new project, or held off on having an important conversation in fear of Mercury retrograde complicating things, there’s no time like the present to face those scenarios head-on.

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