Can Mercury Retrograde Actually Affect My Mental Health?

How a planetary phenomenon may indirectly stress you out

Woman looking up at Mercury in retrograde.

Getty / Arman Zhenikeyev

Mercury in retrograde is a phenomenon that occurs when the planet Mercury appears to be moving backward in its orbit. This phenomenon has been linked by astrologers to a variety of behavioral and psychological changes in people. For example, some claim that during this period of retrograde movement, it is easier for us to become more irritable, unfocused, prone to misunderstandings and conflicts, and even experience mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.

While the visual illusion is unambiguously real, the beliefs around its impact on us are based in astrology, a pseudoscience lacking in evidence-based supporting research. It does not directly affect our mental health, according to experts.

Many people do believe in astrology to some degree, at least as a method of introspection or even just a fun way to analyze oneself. While it is helpful and insightful to be aware of your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors at a certain point in time, it's best not to let your actions be guided by something so fully outside your control. It's OK to be interested in astrology, but try to use it as a way to be more mindful and reflective—to take control of your actions and live your best life as you see fit, rather than by what someone sees in the stars.

What Does It Mean to Have Mercury in Retrograde?

Retrograde means that Mercury appears to be moving backward in its orbit around the sun, but it is not actually going backward, It simply looks like it is because of an illusion caused by the relative positions of Earth, Mercury, and the sun. Mercury in retrograde occurs three times a year and lasts for approximately three weeks each time.

What Are the Mercury Retrograde Dates for 2023?

The Mercury retrograde dates for 2023 are as follows:

  • April 21 to May 14
  • August 23 to September 14
  • December 13 to January 1, 2024

How Does Mercury Retrograde Affect You?

"There is absolutely no connection between Mercury's retrograde orbit and your mental well-being," states Tom Vassos, an astronomer and Founder of Cosmologists Without Borders. "People think a retrograde motion means that Mercury has changed direction, but it has not. It simply appears to change direction based on our view from planet Earth as we both orbit the Sun."

While no scientific evidence proves any link between Mercury's position and our psychological well-being, believing in this phenomenon may lead to heightened stress, confusion, and tension. In essence, worrying about the effects of the phenomenon may be the thing that causes some of the effects you were worried about in the first place.

Does Mercury in Retrograde Affect Emotions?

"People may care about Mercury retrograde and other astrological phenomena for various reasons" notes Ellie Borden, BA, RP, PCC of Mind By Design. "They may believe that celestial body movements can influence human events and that studying astrology will help them better understand themselves and their relationships with others. Others may take solace in the concept of a higher cosmic order or believe that astrology can bring guidance and insight into key life decisions."

This belief could cause you to be more sensitive and vulnerable to your thoughts and feelings. This could lead to an increase in negative moods such as anger, resentment, or sadness.

It is important to remember, though, that these feelings are not caused by the actual position of Mercury; they are more likely due to an individual's expectations and beliefs about the phenomenon.

How to Prepare for Mercury Retrograde

Preparing for Mercury retrograde can help you avoid some of the potential pitfalls associated with beliefs or anxieties about this phenomenon. Some tips include taking time to reflect and practice self-care, learning how to better handle communication difficulties, being mindful of your own emotions and reactions, and looking for opportunities to grow from any challenging situations that may arise.

Additionally, make sure to plan ahead by scheduling your activities in advance and allowing for plenty of extra time for tasks to be completed. Doing so will reduce the chances of feeling overwhelmed or frustrated during this period.

Things to Do and Not Do During Mercury Retrograde

While Mercury is in retrograde and you're concerned about what it could mean for you, it may be beneficial to focus on self-care and taking things slow. Don’t make any big decisions or start any new projects until after the cycle has ended. Additionally, try to avoid getting into arguments or confrontations with anyone as misunderstandings may be more likely during this period or emotions may be heightened.

Furthermore, if you feel overwhelmed by your emotions and stress levels are high, take a break and practice some deep breathing exercises or meditation to help relax your mind and body.

Remember that even if you don't believe in any effects of this phenomenon, other people in your life might, so take care to be supportive and non-judgmental.

Things to do:

  • Take time for reflection
  • Practice self-care
  • Be mindful of emotions and reactions
  • Plan ahead and allow extra time for tasks

Things not to do:

  • Don't make any major life changes or decisions during this period if you feel you're in a heightened emotional state
  • Avoid getting into arguments with people
  • Try not to take things too personally
  • Avoid starting new projects that require a lot of effort or energy

Can Planetary Alignment Affect Mental Health?

Ultimately, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that planetary alignment has any direct impact on mental health. However, it can be helpful to take Mercury retrograde into account when assessing your feelings and reactions during this period of relative movement.

"Although no scientific evidence supports the notion that Mercury retrograde directly impacts mental health," notes Borden, "the stress and worry associated with this phenomenon may aggravate pre-existing mental health disorders."

It may also be beneficial to practice self-care techniques such as journaling or mindfulness meditation in order to manage any potentially heightened emotions or stress levels that may arise due to the shift in energy.

In general, it is wise to remain mindful of your thoughts and feelings regardless of whether you believe in astrological influences or not. This will help you stay connected with your own inner wisdom and better understand yourself and your environment overall.

What to Do If Mercury Retrograde Is Stressing You Out

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stressed due to Mercury retrograde, it is important to remember that the planet's position does not dictate your emotional state. In fact, it is still possible to make progress and move forward in life during this time if you take appropriate steps and remain mindful of your thoughts and feelings. If you feel like the stress is becoming too much, talking with a professional may be beneficial.

Don't Let Astrological Concerns Run Your Life

Some people may use Mercury in retrograde as shorthand to explain away behavior that could be better explained by other things. For example, the thought "Mercury is in retrograde, I'm going to be useless today." This type of thinking could lead to further feelings of defeat and unproductivity, while in reality, it is the individual's response to small obstacles that determine the outcome.

Additionally, it can be easy to blame external circumstances for one’s own missteps or mistakes, rather than taking personal responsibility for them. Therefore, it is important to take ownership of your feelings and actions during this period rather than lay the blame on something completely outside your control.

The concept of Mercury retrograde should not take over your life. If you find yourself worrying too much about this cosmic phenomenon, it is a good idea to take a step back and reassess the situation. Remember that despite its influence, you still have control over how you respond to various situations in your life.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. NASA. What does it mean for Mercury to be in retrograde?

  2. NASA. Planetary Motion: The History of an Idea That Launched the Scientific Revolution.

  3. Das A, Sharma MK, Kashyap H, Gupta S. Fixating on the future: An overview of increased astrology useInt J Soc Psychiatry. 2022;68(5):925-932. doi:10.1177/00207640221094155

By Arlin Cuncic, MA
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology.