It seems to be that no matter how many Mercury retrograde cycles we live through (and since they happen multiple times per year, we’ve lived through a great many), getting through them tends to be a wild ride. But not to worry: Below find a refresher on what this planetary movement means for you, and an exhaustive list of what not to do during Mercury retrograde.
Remind me: What is mercury retrograde again?
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, that backwards-spinning motion is an optical illusion, but with the slowed-down speed, things can become a bit muddled in areas of life 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,” say 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 timeframe doesn’t have to suck, and knowing what not to do during Mercury retrograde can help ensure that’s the case. Keep reading for seven 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. Stay away from rigidity, in general
There are two ways of looking at this time: a dreaded, glass-half-empty period where everything goes wrong, or a glass-half-full approach that inspires you to get comfortable with going with the flow. Listen to your intuition instead of focusing on what you previously thought had to happen.
4. Avoid mercurial (lol) emotions and 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.
5. Don’t rely on technology
Be prepared for Zoom to fail mid-meeting and for phones to lose service unexpectedly. “Back up 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!”
6. 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?”
7. 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, 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.
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