By Lauren Rubin
Mercury Retrograde isn’t easy. It dredges up sh*t from the past that we haven’t dealt with and it can throw your day way off track with delays and miscommunications galore. But Mercury Retrograde also gets an unnecessarily bad rap in mainstream astrology—(although it’s inclusion in pop culture has produced some pretty great memes).
It’s unfairly cast as a time of communication mishaps, travel snafus, and fear about contracts when it actually has some profound lessons to explore. Since I’m team “Pro-Merc Rx” I want to shed some light on the benefits—yes, benefits!—of this transformational period and help you survive the season with as few bumps as possible. But first, let’s dive into what this what this planetary motion we call ‘Mercury Retrograde’ actually means.
What exactly is Mercury Retrograde?
When you hear people talk about a planet being ‘retrograde,’ they’re referencing when it appears to be moving backwards as Earth laps it around the sun. Think about it like this: if you were running a race next to someone and they passed you, it would be clear they were going faster than you. But if that participant suddenly started to slow down and you end up passing them, when you turned your head to look back, it would appear as though that runner was moving backwards while you continued to speed forwards. This is what happens when Mercury (which moves much faster in its orbit than Earth) makes its cycles around the sun. When Earth catches up to lap it, it creates an optical illusion that looks exactly like our race-runner analogy: Mercury appears to be moving backwards, hence the name Mercury “Retro”-grade. (The prefix “retro” means ‘backward’ in Latin.) Capiche?
Now that you know what physically happens during a Mercury Rx period, let’s look at what this translates to astrologically. Astrologers like to use the phrase “as above, so below” to explain the significance of the celestial bodies on our human experience. Whatever is happening in the cosmos “above” affects our behaviors and our mindsets on Earth “below.” Mercury is the planet of communication (both written and verbal) and also represents how information is organized. It’s responsible for how we sort, analyze, and make sense of things, and it’s also the ruling planet of technology. So, when this celestial body is retrograde, you can expect some…issues related to things like communication, organization, travel, and technology. Below are some common ‘symptoms’ of a Mercury Retrograde period:
- Travel plans getting disrupted/off track
- Exes attempting to reach out and reconnect
- Missing the fine print in signed contracts or negotiations
- Technological issues: emails not sending, texting the wrong person, files crashing, etc.
- Time management issues such as being late or ending up in unexpected traffic
- Less detail-oriented—ex. turning in work with spelling errors, writing down a number incorrectly, etc.
- General communication misunderstandings that can lead to arguments or rumors spreading
For the most part, the common advice you’ll get during this phase is “don’t buy new electronics,” “don’t sign any contracts,” “expect your travel plans to get screwed up,” and “don’t text your ex.” While that advice may be doled out with the best of intentions, it promotes unnecessary fearmongering. Instead of hiding in your house and locking your phone for three weeks, turns out if you actually treat Mercury Rx with curiosity and reverence, there’s a lot you can learn.
Mercury Rx can be bumpy — but way less so, with these tips.
So, how can you “survive” this season with as little chaos as possible? It all starts with a little knowledge and a willingness to embrace what this period demands.
1. Be mindful of your communication.
Know that communication can be a little screwy during this period of planetary motion and prepare accordingly. Remind yourself not to overreact if you interpret a friend’s comment as hostile or rude: Mercury Retrograde might have caused you to misconstrue the tone. If you really DO want to text your ex, be sure to remember that this astrological influence might have more to do with your decision than you think. Try journaling what you want to say first, and wait a few days before sending anything so you’re completely certain and clear about your motivation for the communication.
2. Slow the eff down.
Slowing down and reviewing during this period is the best antidote to its potential mishaps—whether that means being slow to react to a situation that makes you feel angry, slowly scanning your presentation for mistakes before turning it into your boss, or taking way more time than usual to read ALL of the reviews and the manufacturer’s fine print before purchasing an electronic item. Repeat after me: Slow. Is. Key.
3. Review, review, review.
Remind yourself to double—no, triple—check your electronic communications. Proofread that email several times before sending, and be totally certain you’re texting the right friend before you mindlessly tap ‘send’ while you’re at a stoplight. Missing little details (which can turn into big problems) can happen during this period if you don’t take the time and effort to take an extra look. While we’re at it, it’s worth mentioning that I don’t believe you shouldn’t sign contracts during Mercury Retrograde. Instead, just be sure to look it over a handful of times and even enlist a few friends for an extra set of eyes.
4. Back it up, baby.
On the subject of electronics, be sure to obsessively save documents you’re working on every few minutes. Make sure you have more than one digital copy of the things that matter to you—be it favorite photos or a draft of your beloved screenplay. This is also the perfect time to finally back things up to an external hard drive. I know you’ve been putting it off all year (because I have, too) but trust me: this is the best time to break out the hard drive and get a fresh back up loaded. You’ll thank me later.
5. Leave early — for everything.
Remind yourself to add at least an extra 15 minutes to any transit time during this season. Even if you’re always early to things, Mercury Rx can conjure up mysteriously crazy traffic or unexpected delays like accidents. You should also follow your mom’s advice and actually arrive to the airport 2 hours before your flight this time; flight delays, hellish security lines, and getting dropped off at the wrong terminal have all happened to me during a Mercury Retrograde period. No excuses. An Apple Watch or investing in a mid-year weekly planner can help with punctuality.
The positives of Mercury Retrograde? Yes, they exist.
It’s totally possible to get through a retrograde smoothly. All this period requires is some mindfulness and respect. In fact, if you hide out and resist during a retrograde, you’ll actually miss the juicy magic that’s available to you.
This brings me to my next point: how to magnify the (oft ignored) blessings, benefits, and lessons of Mercury Rx.
1. Pay attention to the past.
When Mercury is retrograde, it gives us a chance to slow down, take inventory, and review. Instead of being future-focused during this period, take a 180 and look to the past: What patterns are you ready to break? What blockages have kept you stuck? What areas of your life need a little more work? What unfinished projects are calling your name? (For me, it’s cleaning out my closet, working on an art commission I’ve been putting off, and updating my resume.) See how re-viewing your past during a retro-grade can actually create some positive motion?
2. Reconnect — if it feels right.
Ghosts of all sorts can reappear during a retrograde, so expect old friends, coworkers, and lovers to come out of the woodwork. It’s definitely important to proceed with caution and use your best judgment (i.e. that toxic ex probably hasn’t changed, and doesn’t deserve a coffee date) but do remain open in general to reconnection. Your former boss just might have an exciting new career opportunity for you. That old friend from high school might feel like a soul sister after all these years. That person you never went on more than one date with might be just what you’re looking for these days. Remain open to the magic of reconnection during the retrograde.
3. Relax and recharge like your future depends on it — ‘cause it kinda does.
The goal of a Mercury Retrograde is to review and recharge so that when the planet stations direct, you are your freshest, clearest self, ready to hit the ground running. This period of slow action is meant to prepare you for lots of forward motion once the retrograde ends. That’s why it’s an amazing time to focus on taking care of YOU. Say “no” to plans if you really need to rest; take ample time to journal about your past and the lessons you can learn from it; make daily meditation a mandate; and be sure you’re getting enough sleep. If you lean into restorative relaxation and self-care, you’ll be supercharged once the cycle is over.
4. Repeat after me: remember, release.
You might feel pulled to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane during a retrograde. Since Mercury rules communication, information, and technology, it’s fun to re-read old yearbooks, dig up old love letters, and listen to old playlists. Remembering why those things were (or are) special to you can be a healthy practice during this backwards-looking cycle. However, it’s also important to see what comes up around release: Are you still clinging to that ex who wrote you the love letters? Does that song remind you of a friend you still carry resentment towards? Does that poem you wrote a decade ago still make you feel inadequate as an artist? Release, release, release. Feelings like bitterness, shame, and regret can fester and rot, so release what’s no longer serving you to make space for better and brighter things to come.
5. Re-organize. Re-write.
Because this is a period characterized by slowing down, Mercury Rx gives us a chance to get all of our ducks in a row. Ideally, it’s a time for you to focus on preparing or re-doing anything that need attention. Thinking about moving? Use this period to research new areas to live, without actually signing the lease yet. Looking for a new job? It’s the perfect time to review and re-write your LinkedIn profile so that when Mercury stations direct, you’re ready for recruiters to come knocking.
Lean in to the season’s lessons.
Let’s all say it together now: “Mercury Retrograde doesn’t have to be scary!” It’s okay to accept that dream job (as long as you triple-check the contract); it’s okay to take a vacation—as long as you get to the airport extra early and make sure you’re booked on the right flight. If you embrace the blessings of this period and honor its slow flow, you’ll gain all the goodness that Mercury Retrograde has to offer.
And if you do encounter any retrograde-related challenges…guess what? Discomfort is our teacher. That’s actually good news. Let any difficulties that come up be responsible for your transformation. In the wise words of Glennon Doyle, “first our pain, then our rising.” See you on the other side!