Retrograde Rescue

The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Mercury Retrograde in 2020

Everything you need to know to get through Mercury's backward spin this year.
Planet Mercury on a blue sky
Getty Images

Here's the lowdown on how to subscribe to Allure's print edition for more beauty routines, recommendations, and features.

Suffering from a bad case of saying the wrong thing at the worst time? There's an explanation in the stars, and its name is Mercury retrograde. Here's everything you need to know about this cosmic event and what's in store for you when it happens in 2020.

On Sunday, February 16, Mercury (the planet of communication) goes reverse in watery Pisces, entering its first retrograde of 2020. This is the same day that Mars, the planet of action and desire, enters career-oriented Capricorn. When the swift-moving Mercury cruises backward, we can expect frustrating miscommunications, technology meltdowns, and travel mishaps. Thankfully, with the warrior planet Mars in hardworking Capricorn, we get a motivational boost to help us survive Mercury's infamous retrograde.

Mercury will moonwalk through Pisces, traversing the sensitive astrological sign associated with dreams, spirituality, and creativity through Wednesday, March 4, when it changes gears and enters eccentric Aquarius. An air sign, Aquarius is rational and intellectual. The planet is happy in this sign, where it stays until it goes direct on Monday, March 9. However, that's not the only Mercury retrograde of the year, and you'll need to know a bit more about this cosmic event so you can buckle up and make the most of it.

So what’s the deal with Mercury retrograde anyway, and what are the best ways to combat (or at least survive) it? Read on for what you need to know to sail out of this cosmic facepalm intact.

OK, so what exactly is Mercury retrograde?

Mercury — named after the Roman deity who served as a messenger to the gods — is the quick-moving planet that governs communication, travel, and technology. It helps us transmit messages by controlling both what we say and how we process what we hear from others. Three or four times per year, Mercury appears to go backward in the sky. While other planets also go retrograde, this particular retrograde has the potential to screw up all things related to communication and transmission. Shakeups aside, when Mercury rests, it gives us time to take a breath.

This time period is the planetary reflection of "measure twice cut once," and offers three chances to make sure our work is perfect. The first occurs when Mercury initially crosses a degree in the sky during a period known as its pre-retrograde shadow. The second happens when Mercury is retrograde and reverses over this degree, which is when mistakes may be reviewed and corrected. Our final chance to move forward is when Mercury makes its final crossing over the degree, during what is known as a post-retrograde shadow. Basically, the effects of Mercury retrograde start to kick in about two weeks before the planet begins to appear to move backward from the earth, and clean up continues for up to two weeks after the retrograde ends.


During a Mercury retrograde period, we need to be extremely careful with our language. Triple-check every text, email, and DM, and take the time to carefully explain your intentions. Spelling errors and Freudian slips are bound to happen. Mercury retrogrades also muddle our decision-making, so avoid signing any major contracts during this period (although, if you must, be sure to thoroughly read the fine print). When it comes to technology, Mercury retrograde is to blame for massive electronic meltdowns, so it's advisable to not buy any new gadgets for the next three weeks, and if you do, make sure they come with a warranty. Travel can be extra frustrating during Mercury retrograde, too, so prepare for delays, cancellations, and lots of headaches.

Last, but certainly not least, we can always expect people from the past — including old flames — to reemerge during Mercury retrograde. In many cases, it's best to kindly decline unexpected coffee invites and "innocent" proposals to grab drinks.

Getty Images

When is Mercury retrograde in 2020?

There are three Mercury retrograde cycles in 2019. They are:


February 16 to March 9: The pre-retrograde shadow begins February 2, post-retrograde shadow ends March 29.

June 18 to July 12: The pre-retrograde shadow begins June 2, post-retrograde shadow ends July 26.

October 13 to November 3: The pre-retrograde shadow begins September 23, post-retrograde shadow ends November 19.

How can I survive Mercury retrograde? Is there anything good about it?

Surviving Mercury retrograde is pretty simple: Remember to proofread everything, choose your words carefully, avoid signing contracts (or review them extra carefully), back up your data, and plan for travel mishaps. The truth, cosmic warrior, is that Mercury retrograde isn't all bad; in fact, it can serve as your quarterly self-assessment. How prepared are you for inconveniences? How zen are you feeling these days? Although Mercury retrograde isn't a great time to make huge changes, it is ideal for reflection.

A central theme surrounding the first Mercury retrograde of the year, which starts on February 16, is getting lost, as directions are a little more challenging to follow. This retrograde is fueled by the spirit of Pisces' traditional planetary ruler, ambitious and expansive Jupiter, so our general direction will be right, and our intuition is spot on, but without Mercury's typical tact for following instructions, we will have no choice but to enjoy the journey.

When the planet enters logical Aquarius on March 4, life gets a little easier. Mercury is happy in the intellectual air sign. Aquarius is the humanitarian of the zodiac and turns our communication to look at those around us and in our neighborhoods. This detached, logical energy will help us keep our emotions in check during the retrograde, which is notorious for turning us into emotional and indecisive messes. Try to remain optimistic: enjoy the extra space Mercury has cleared, taking a moment to read or enjoy a podcast. This too shall pass.

This summer's Mercury retrograde moves backward through Cancer, starting on Sunday, July 7, asking us to reconsider our attitudes and offering the space to organize our thoughts and emotions. While Cancer gets a wholesome reputation, the sign does side-step like a crab and can be indecisive. Use this Mercury retrograde, which ends in Cancer on Sunday, July 12, to get in touch with difficult emotions and make a plan. You don't have to take action during the retrograde, but use the time for healthy introspection.

When Mercury spins backward in Scorpio on Tuesday, October 13, we may become increasingly nostalgic and sentimental. Especially during the last week of Mercury retrograde, allow yourself to revisit old journals, yearbooks, and photo albums. How has your life changed over the years? Are you happy with your current direction, or do you need to switch gears? Find inspiration from past lessons and experiences and use this time to strategize about how to best achieve your goals moving forward. Scorpio can be obsessive, so be careful of getting caught in unhealthy thought patterns. Self-awareness will help you turn this period into a fruitful moment of reflection that precedes renewal.


The retrograde enters Libra, the sign of relationships, on Tuesday, October 27. Beware of old flames hitting you up during Mercury retrograde in Libra, and watch out for becoming the ex who texts in the middle of the night yourself. Yes, Libra craves romantic attention and loves to flirt, but don't let the retrograde trick you into old unhealthy territory. Mercury goes direct on Tuesday, November 3, which happens to be Election Day. Yes, that sounds awful, but at least it's not smack dab in the middle of the retrograde.

Communication is a huge part of our daily lives, so when the messenger planet goes reverse, major issues are to be expected. But it's important to remember that while retrogrades are extremely annoying, they're not the end of the world. Swift-moving Mercury goes retrograde three or four times per year: You've been through it before, and you can get through this retrograde, too. Relax, take deep breaths, and remember that if shit does hit the fan over the next few weeks, you can always blame Mercury.

Read more stories about the impact of the cosmos on your daily life:

An astrologer's guide to which signs you're most romantically compatible with:

Find Sophie on Instagram andTwitter.