There's a cosmic reason you might experience a bit of brain fog or have misunderstandings with friends, family, or colleagues before (and after) Mercury's dreaded retrograde. The planet of communication wreaks havoc for a few weeks at a time at several points during the year, but as it turns outs, the weeks before and after Mercury's regularly scheduled backspins — known in astrology as shadow periods — can be just as susceptible to the planet's celestial theatrics.
"In general, during the pre-Mercury retrograde shadow period, we feel things begin to slow down," astrologer Lauren Ash tells POPSUGAR. "On the other hand, the post-Mercury retrograde causes things to speed back up." And, while these shifts are happening, you might feel like you've fallen into a bit of a funk. Here's what you can expect during the Mercury retrograde shadow periods and how to navigate their tumultuous energy.
What Is the Mercury Retrograde Shadow Period?
Occurring approximately two weeks before and after Mercury retrograde, the shadow periods mark an especially confusing time, filled with some of the same mishaps and malfunctions you'd expect out of Mercury's periodic rewind. "When Mercury slows down, we're prone to miscommunication and technology problems," Ash says. "So, during the pre- and postshadow period of Mercury retrograde, expect technical glitches and slowdowns and miscommunications between friends."
According to Ash, the hiccups you experience during the shadow period leading up to Mercury retrograde can foreshadow the effects you'll experience once it starts. For example, if you're feeling tension within your relationship during this time, you'll likely see this theme when Mercury begins to slow down and seemingly move backward. The post-shadow phase is about tying up loose ends and finding resolution for the conflicts that occurred during retrograde.
How to Prepare For Mercury Retrograde's Shadow Periods
While nobody is safe from Mercury retrograde's mischievous antics, its shadow periods can act as a compass that can help you sail through its chaotic waters. Ash recommends paying attention to your environment in the weeks leading up to Mercury retrograde, as this can help you understand the themes and motifs that will follow, so you can be prepared.
On the other hand, you should expect post-shadow periods to be rife with technical hiccups and misunderstandings as the planet of communication catches up to speed. That said, the shadow period following Mercury retrograde is a great time to reflect on what you've learned and how you've grown during Mercury's backspin.
Now that you're aware of the shadow periods, you have an opportunity to better navigate them — and maybe even push through Mercury retrograde itself, one of the most intense periods in the astrological calendar, with minimal harm. "Keep an eye out for potential messages from the universe, and take extra precautions around your technology and communications," Ash says. "You have the chance to shield yourself from unnecessary drama."