What Is Mercury Retrograde?

When Mercury is in retrograde, technology, communication, travel, logic, and information all get disrupted, but understanding Mercury retrograde’s meaning, the risks and benefits behind it, the sign it's in, as well as how long it lasts can help you deal with astrology’s most nerve-wracking event.

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What Happens When Mercury Is Retrograde?

You’ve seen the memes: Mercury’s backward tour through the sky is a convenient scapegoat whenever a flight is delayed, laptop becomes glitchy, or an email goes awry.

The planet Mercury is associated with communication, information, electronics, travel, and clear thinking. So, when it’s retrograde, we have to be ready for a slowdown in all of those areas. Things break. Projects stall. We lose things. Breakups happen. Schedules are thrown off.

This planet's reputation for really screwing things up is real, but it's also due to the fast-paced lifestyle we're so used to living. In our technology-focused society where emails, texts, and reliable WiFi are everything, the planet of communication has a big job.

So when Mercury goes haywire during its retrograde phase, it hits us where it hurts. After all, you might be reading this article on your phone—all between Snaps, texts, booking flights, and mapping your route to the restaurant you made an online reservation for. Understandably, if your phone suddenly shuts down, a message gets lost, or travel is delayed, you’re majorly inconvenienced.

'Mercury Retrograde' Meaning

First, the name is deceptive. The planet isn't reversing its orbit. Simply put, Mercury retrograde describes an optical illusion during which the planet only appears to be moving backward from our viewpoint on Earth.

Mercury isn't the only planet to experience this. In fact, all planets undergo retrograde periods. During this perceived backward motion, the things the retrograding planet is associated with are cut loose—as its parent is no longer "on track." That's why we see upset with relationships, technology, or contracts when Mercury (the communication planet) turns retrograde.

Mercury Retrograde Benefits (Yes, Benefits!)

While this period may feel like it's shaking up your entire world (why did I have to run into my ex!?), Mercury retrograde isn’t just a run of bad luck. The harsh side effects of this transit are generally things that are meant to happen for the better.

This is astrology’s way of forcing us to review, recheck, and revisit. Given that Mercury retrograde isn't a time to start something new, it makes sense that we should slow down and recalibrate our lives. That said, you may be thinking about everything ranging from health to career moves. Knowing what to do and expect ahead of time is one of the best ways to handle the inevitable surprises that Mercury brings.

Mercury Retrograde Survival Guide

How can you get Mercury retrograde to work for you instead of against you? First, take a deep breath. Despite the serious frustration and even terror that comes with a Mercury retrograde cycle, it’s not the end of the world. While it may be an inconvenience to deal with for close to three months every year, it’s not unmanageable.

In fact, Mercury retrograde can be a rich period of creativity and connections; if you're able to be flexible and avoid getting buried in the details, you’ll emerge without a scratch. That said, you can sign contracts, make major financial decisions, or even start a new job in this time period, if you're careful. Double checking everything, moving slowly, and following our list of "dos" and "don'ts" will keep you out of trouble.

Mercury Retrograde Dos and Don’ts


  1. Brainstorm. Think of every available solution to the problems you’re facing—one of them has to work eventually.
  2. Be flexible, adaptable, and patient. You may have to step outside your comfort zone to come up with the right fix.
  3. Think in broad terms. The bigger and farther reaching the solution is, the more likely it is to work.
  4. Stay updated on delays and cancellations while traveling.
  5. Keep an eye on your car. Check warning lights, schedule maintenance appointments, and monitor that gas tank (that little arrow pointing to F or E might not be as accurate as you think).
  6. Back up your computer and phone so you don’t lose important data if they shut down without warning.
  7. Revisit persistent issues from the past. You know that one thing that’s really been on your mind lately? This is the perfect time to address it and try to resolve it once and for all.


  1. Get into a negative thinking cycle. Things may be falling apart around you but stay positive and remember this is just a speed bump. You’ve got this!
  2. Be a lone wolf. When things break, make an appointment with a professional to get them fixed and then sit tight rather than trying to DIY it.
  3. Exaggerate. Things are bad enough without stretching the truth, aren’t they?!
  4. Plan a big presentation or draft up important papers (especially legal documents). If you can’t avoid tasks like this, pay close attention to the details.
  5. Rely only on technology. If you have an important meeting coming up, write down or print out the info you’ll need.
  6. Rush. Slowing down the pace can help you eliminate costly mistakes.
  7. Have unrealistic expectations. Because of misunderstandings and mix-ups, things may not turn out as you’d planned. Avoid disappointment by keeping expectations relatively low.
  8. Set unrealistic timelines. Red tape can keep documents in a holding pattern for a long, long time.

How Mercury Retrograde Affects Your Health and Mood

When you’re stressed, you have a harder time getting to sleep—and during Mercury retrograde, your stress and anxiety levels can be through the roof. Lying awake at night, anxiously wondering how you could have prevented the day’s mistakes or about what could happen tomorrow, will take a toll on your health.

And to make matters worse, sleep deprivation can cause even more problems. Why? Wallowing on negative energy only makes it that much more prevalent. So, being tired, anxious, or distracted can further Mercury retrograde's effects! For instance, your exercise routine may be thrown off by your wireless headphones dying. Or making lunch can become problematic if the fridge or freezer breaks down, stove malfunctions, or microwave freaks out.

Have no fear, though. We've got some great tips to keep your mind and body in tip-top shape during this period of unpredictability.

Mercury Retrograde Self-Care Tips for Your Body and Mind


  1. Make sure your alarm is set properly before going to bed so you don't wake up late and feel rushed.
  2. Listen to quiet music, put on noise-canceling headphones, or wear a sleep mask—anything that'll shut out distractions and let you drift off to sleep.
  3. Plan a digital detox. If there's ever a great time to take a break from your electronics and close out of your social media apps, it's Mercury retrograde.
  4. Practice some breathing exercises to utilize when you're having a technology or travel snafu. There's no use getting worked up about something you can't control.


  1. Plan elaborate meals using fancy kitchen gadgets.The simpler the better.
  2. Watch the news or violent TV shows/movies right before bedtime.
  3. Use your phone or other bright electronic devices in bed.
  4. Drink caffeine or eat anything spicy that might keep you up past bedtime.

Mercury Retrograde in Your Birth Chart?

You're not alone! In fact, it’s estimated that almost 25 percent of us were born during a time when Mercury retrograde occurred. But what does that mean, exactly?

Opposite of what most people think, the significance of Mercury retrograde in a birth chart is not related to karma.

If you are a Mercury retrograde baby, lucky you! This means you're somewhat better equipped to deal with communication-related anxiety. While you might have trouble keeping all your thoughts straight and can get frustrated when you can’t articulate them, you face and conquer miscommunications with ease.

You're also a big thinker. And the great news is that you have a philosophical, reflective nature that helps you deal with negative energy better, so you may be better equipped to deal with Mercury retrograde than the rest of us.