What Happens When Mercury Is In Retrograde?

Of all the astrological phenomena that occur in a given year, Mercury retrograde gets the worst reputation for up-ending communication, causing technology to fail, and even bringing back unwanted exes. And given that Mercury spends roughly 20% of its cycle in retrograde motion (via Astrology.com), there's a very real chance that at least some of your problems can be blamed on the planet of communication. However, there's much more to both Mercury retrograde and retrogrades in general than meets the eye. And they might actually provide a portal for some serious self-growth if you know how to play your cards right.

Forget what you've heard about retrograde energy being unpredictable and chaotic. The truth is that these planetary illusions are not as rare or world-ending as you might think. "Retrogrades are a commonplace occurrence in astrology, we usually have at least one planet retrograding at any given time," astrologer Brittany Burger tells Bustle. In fact, other than the sun and moon (neither of which are technically planets), every planet in astrology experiences retrograde motion and brings about changes to our lives. The trick to "surviving" your next retrograde is learning how to embrace the unpredictable and equip yourself with tools for making the most of things.

What happens during Mercury retrograde?

When a planet is in retrograde, Earth is passing it in orbit, and that planet appears to be moving backward from our perspective. This shift means that the energy of the planet that is retrograde experiences significant delays (via Best Life). Mercury influences our day-to-day interactions, technology issues, and relationships in general, so when it goes retrograde, it indicates a collective slow-down in all of the above. You can expect to deal with plenty of small communication issues, small electronics going on the fritz, or just feeling as though it's difficult for you to form a complete thought.

However, there's more to Mercury retrograde than bad luck and mishaps. In fact, many astrologers agree that retrogrades are a good time to see things from a new perspective and gain clarity. The slowdown brought on by a retrograde offers the chance to pause and reflect on your current situation. It gives you a break from the daily hustle and bustle and allows you to analyze what needs to be done. "When Mercury is on its backwards journey, it offers the chance to get things done with greater care and mindfulness to negate any room for error," astrologer Sheetal Shaparia tells Vogue.

When is Mercury retrograde?

Although every planet in astrology experiences retrogrades, Mercury often bears the brunt of people's frustration. The reason for this is not necessarily that Mercury retrogrades are worse than other retrogrades but rather that Mercury goes into retrograde more often than any other planet due to its closer proximity to the sun. According to Astrology Zone, Mercury will be in retrograde four times this year; the first two retrograde cycles occurred from January 14 to February 3 and again from May 10 to June 2. Now, the remaining two retrograde cycles will take place from September 9 to October 2 and from December 29 to January 18, 2023. 

While it's important to stay focused on the dates of retrogrades, there's actually a larger period of time during the retrograde cycle of which to be mindful. The energy of Mercury retrograde wreaks havoc for a few weeks before and after Mercury's regularly scheduled backspins in phenomena known as the pre-shadow and post-shadow periods. "Messy and wonky things happen during the retrograde shadow periods, thanks to the fact that Mercury is feeling more like a trickster than ever," astrologer Lisa Stardust tells StyleCaster. The Mercury shadow period takes place two weeks before and two weeks after the actual retrograde, so if you're feeling a bit off before Mercury actually starts to move retrograde, now you know why. 

How to thrive during Mercury retrograde

Mercury retrograde can be divided into three key phases (via Cosmopolitan). First is the pre-retrograde shadow, where Mercury begins its backspin through the zodiac, slowing down and coming to a complete halt. This period of time is when everything around you will start to slow down, or you may notice minor inconveniences begin to pop up. 

Next, Mercury darts through retrograde motion and moves through the same section of the zodiac for a second time, only this time it goes backward. This backspin may cause you to rethink your plans and current situation. Finally comes the post-retrograde shadow, which is when Mercury moves forward through the same part of the zodiac for the third and final time. This period of time will close out the themes and cycles that retrograde brought up and clear the path for a new way forward.

In the end, there's only so much you can do to prepare for something unexpected. You should expect any retrograde cycle to be filled with twists and turns that might derail or stall your plans for a bit. "Use this time of turmoil to pause and reflect. Identify the areas in your life that may need a change after the retrograde has ended. As experts detailed to Oprah Daily, big life decisions shouldn't be made during retrograde, so don't be afraid to wade things out. The most important thing you can do is remain centered during this time and do your best to remain optimistic and flexible. Instead of letting it freak you out though, try embracing the unknown and allowing yourself the chance to see a new perspective.