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What, Exactly, Happens When Mercury Goes Retrograde — And How To Make It Through

Slow down.

Starting tomorrow, friends, Mercury goes retrograde until mid-April. (Sorry to be the ones to tell you.) Not familiar with the phenomenon? Well. You know those days (or weeks, even) when everything just seems to go wrong? You’re late, you slip, you trip, you forget—it’s non-stop. That is likely a time when Mercury is in retrograde, an actual real thing that is worthy of your blame for every mishap that occurs. Let’s be proactive this time around, however, and educate ourselves on what, exactly, happens when Mercury goes retrograde — and how we can make it through with our sanity intact.

The folks at Astrology Dictionary explain the periodic phenomenon as occurring when “the planet Mercury temporarily appears to reverse its normal course and move backward through the zodiac.” Now, how does a planet hitting reverse three or four times a year cause such havoc for us down on Earth?

Well, it doesn’t, actually, because the “reversing” planet isn’t actually moving backward. The analogy to best describe what is occurring when Mercury goes retrograde involves you sitting in a moving train or car: Think about when you overtake another vehicle at speed, moving in the same direction, and it appears that the slower vehicle is going backward, even though the other vehicle is still traveling forward, just as you are. Think also how it feels if you are traveling on the slow train and the high-speed express train passes you, buffeting you with the turbulence.

Astrologists often refer to the term, “As above, so too below.” In basic terms, the turbulence of Mercury as it speeds past the Earth during retrograde phase kicks up the dust and gives us a good buffeting. So the ultimate of effect many feel when Mercury is in retrograde is, at least in a sense, legit.

And what do many feel? Turmoil. Generally out of sorts. Frustration. The whole shebang usually lasts for about three and half weeks, and is said to affect everyone everywhere on the same level. Mercury is, after all, the planet that rules clear thinking, travel and communication. So, the big question here is, should we just stay in and hibernate at the first sight of Mercury playing up?

The answer is an emphatic no. While this is certainly a time of physical and emotional upheaval, it can also be a great time to slow down, reflect and reassess. To catch up on anything that you have left undone and just go with the flow.

Here, ten things to keep in mind starting tomorrow, when (reminder) Mercury goes retrograde. (As a heads up. the next ones are in late July to mid-August and mid-November to early December. Might want to add those dates to your calendar now.)

1. Err on the side of caution if you are launching any new endeavors. Allow extra time to get to important meetings, spell check emails and important documents. Don’t make important decisions or sign agreements during this retrograde period. It is generally tough to get others to commit at this time anyway, so better off leaving the significant stuff till after Mercury has recovered and gotten back on track.

2. It is highly likely that around Mercury retrograde you will have all sorts of issues with electrical equipment. Things like dropping your brand-new phone down the toilet or losing important online documents because the server failed or needing to take a camera back to the store after just a few days because it inexplicably didn’t work. Top tip here: Save your purchases of big electrical items until after retrograde, and, if you really can’t wait, make sure you keep the receipt and get a warranty. Make sure you back everything up ahead of time, too, just to be on the safe side.

3. Travel plans can be majorly disrupted when the planet hits reverse, so check your arrangements—and then double check them again. Get a good book and be ready for some hanging around at airports or train stations. Flight delays and lost luggage are rife during this period. Plan ahead. You have been warned. And, no, we are not being dramatic.

4. Mercury retrograde is often a turbulent time for relationships, as couples do a lot of re-evaluating around this time. It is common that partners will want to break up, only to decide a few weeks later that they want to make another go of it. If this is you, don’t rush. Wait until the planet has resumed normal service and then see how you feel.

5. Do use this time to slow down, reflect and reassess. Many people find themselves naturally want to take a look at their life and take stock. Think about what you would like to do differently and make plans, but remember not to put them into action until Mercury retrograde has passed.

6. People often get easily offended around retrograde, so don’t take things too personally, and, likewise, think before you speak.

7. Clear out your wardrobe and cupboards. Reassess if your clothing choices are a true reflection of you and, if they aren’t, pack up a bag for the charity shop.

8. Rejuvenate your living space by finishing off those unfinished D.I.Y. projects. Mercury retrograde is a great opportunity to go back and see what is still outstanding.

9. Reconnect with old friends and loved ones. You may hear from them unexpectedly, or you may feel the urge to drag out the old home movies and have a session sorting out old photographs. Reminiscing is a popular pastime courtesy of Mercury.

10. Forgive and forget. It’s time to move on.

All in all: Mercury retrograde will likely stir things up a little. If during these three-week periods you feel that you are being pulled in a strange and unusual direction, just go with the flow—chances are the universe has something to show you.

And it’s not all bad: When writing this article, I was surprised how many times I typed “re”. Reassess. Reaffirm. Revaluate. Reconfirm. Reflect. Reunite. Rejuvenate. Reverse. Recommit. Revisit. Reverse. Retrograde. It seems that Mercury truly has the ability to provide us with the opportunity to look back in order to move forward. Slow down and embrace the moment.

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