Don't say I didn't warn you: Mercury is in retrograde, and weird things are happening. My wife, Van, who is a lot smarter than I am and an expert in numerology and magick, brought this to my attention when I recently missed a flight. She's told me about this phenomenon before, but I'd never paid much attention. This time, other weird things kept happening. A very trusty lock broke, some clients experienced surprises, my poodle was acting strangely....

According to one of my favorite mnemonics, "My very excellent mother just served us nine pizzas" (or "served us nachos," for those of Pluto-as-dwarf-planet persuasion), Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. By the way, please don't try to go looking at Mercury without proper protection--you'll burn your eyes out. A planet is in retrograde when it briefly appears to have reversed its direction of orbit. This apparent retrograde motion is really just an optical illusion, but according to astrologists, its impact is anything but illusion.

Sure, there are plenty of skeptics, but better safe than sorry. So while Mercury is figuring it out, here's how you can take advantage of the time and avoid--wait for it--Mercury poisoning:

1. Expect Delays, Mental and Physical

While Mercury is in retrograde, you may well feel exhausted. Your body could be tired, and you may feel like you have no mental capacity. Give into it and don't tax yourself. You may also find that things aren't happening on time. Appointments could be delayed, transportation and technology might break down, deadlines may be missed, and you could have a hard time getting in touch with people. Accept it, and find productive ways to use the time instead.

2. Be Careful With Critical Decisions

This one makes a lot of sense because of the physical and mental slowness you might experience. It doesn't mean you have to become paralyzed with indecision--it just means that you should think carefully and critically about any decisions you do have to make. With your brain functioning a little slower, don't rush into anything. Instead, take the extra time to discuss long-term strategy. Let ideas bake thoroughly in your head before taking action.

3. It's OK to Feel Frustrated

With all the delays and the exhaustion, you need to prepare yourself now for how frustrated you may feel. If you feel like you want to put your head in a pillow and scream, do it. It's normal! So give your brain a break. Spend time being quiet. Watch a mindless movie, focus on gratitude, or meditate. Let your subconscious mind speak to you. Also, remember that what's happening to you is happening to everyone else, too, so have empathy for their struggles.

4. Watch Your Communication

Another unfortunate result of Mercury in retrograde is that miscommunication can happen often. Take an active role in preventing and neutralizing this. Double check what you think you hear, and repeat it back so you can make sure it's right. Speak and write clearly, and ask for confirmation. Don't be afraid to repeat yourself, because the message could get very twisted otherwise.

5. Focus on You

There's some poetry in this one. Just as Mercury seems to be retracing its course, this is an excellent time for self-assessment. Do you need to redirect your own course in life? Just like Mercury in retrograde, things aren't always how they appear, so thoroughly explore your truth. Even if you don't believe Mercury's apparent reversal has impact, think of it as spring cleaning for your life. Don't react quickly! Listen and reflect instead.

6. Tie Up Loose Ends

Part of the process for any spring cleaning is clearing out the old in favor of the new. Close all the open loops in your life. If you have a half-completed project, finish it so you can close that chapter. Answer old emails. Organize your physical space and give away things you don't need any more--thereby giving those things a chance to start anew, too. The more chaotic your life, the more difficult this time will be for you.

7. Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces, and Gemini: Give Into the Waves

The most intense impact of the retrograde for everyone will occur March 24 to 28. But these four signs will feel it more than others. And unfortunately for Sagittarius and Virgo, you've got two more weeks after retrograde to deal with these challenges, when Mercury goes into shadow. Don't fight what is--just enjoy the ride.