If you’ve ever heard anyone complain that nothing in their life is going to plan, they might blame it on a little something called “mercury retrograde.” If you’ve casually laughed along while having no real understanding as to what this actually means, we feel you.

Mercury retrograde is like the Murphy’s Law of astrology — basically anything that can go wrong at this point in your life, will. From minor things like forgetting your keys to major blows like being dumped, nothing is off limits.

Why, though, has this weird time in the stars earned itself such a bad reputation? And what exactly is going on up there during this period? We did some digging and we’ve finally figured it out. Strap yourselves in for the ride.

What does mercury in retrograde mean astrologically?

Without getting all astrologically technical, retrograde motion is when a planet appears (when observed from earth) to reverse in direction. This is due to an optical illusion caused by differences in orbit. In the astrology world, retrograde motion has negative connotations which is why things are believed to go wrong during this period of time. The planet moving backwards equates to your life taking a misdirection.

In case you didn’t know, mercury is the planet which is said to rule communication. When it’s in retrograde, people typically expect things like misunderstandings, falling outs, and scheduling issues to occur during retrograde. Mercury is also the fastest planet in the solar system, so it appears in retrograde motion between 3-4 times a year, each lasting about 3 weeks at a time. That’s actually a pretty long time when you think about it, so mercury retrograde is a pretty good scapegoat for any and all misfortunes.

If you’re ever curious to know if we’re currently in retrograde but can’t be bothered figuring out the timeline, you can check out this website. This will give you a super clear yes or no answer as to whether or not you can blame your bad time on the stars. It’ll also tell you when the next retrograde is scheduled to occur so you can brace for impact.

How does mercury retrograde affect technology?

Unfortunately it’s not just physical communication that can take a hit during this time. Technology is another aspect of our lives that can be impacted by the retrograde, with glitches in our technological lifelines like phones and computers happening frequently. You might accidentally send a text message to the wrong person, forget to save an important email or lose a document that can never be replaced. If all of these scenarios send a shiver up your spine, there are a few ways you can protect yourself.

You’ll want to be more diligent with the way you use technology during retrogrades as there’s no shortage of things that can go wrong. Things like backing up files, checking your emails have actually been sent and being extra clear in your text messages are a few small remedies.

If all else fails, just take a technology break for a little while. That way, you know you’ll definitely be spared from the seemingly never-ending series of glitches being hurled your way.

What should you not do during mercury retrograde?

Okay, now that we know what Mercury retrograde is and how it impacts our lives, it’s time to think about the things we should avoid during it.

Pretty much everyone will tell you not to make any major life decisions during this time. Given how much chaos could be going on, you won’t be in the right headspace to make a clear, rational choice.

Don’t sign any contracts, make a big investment, have intense conversations or get in touch with people from the past (yes, delete that draft text to your ex immediately). Above all, be really slow and considered in your decisions and think things through before you actually say them. This is the best way to avoid any potential misunderstandings.

If you’ve got to the end of this and are feeling completely panicked by Mercury retrograde, don’t be! It doesn’t have to be a terrifying time, and (if approached in the right way) can actually be a really good thing. If you’re willing to slow things down and take some time for deep reflection, it can be an amazing time to figure out what is and isn’t working for you. Once you’ve reassessed, you can come out the other side feeling clearer than ever before.

These tri-annual backspins don’t have to be a head spin, and we’re all going through it together. So, let’s reframe Mercury retrograde from a big cosmic bummer to a great time for personal growth.