How to Survive Saturn Return, AKA Your Astrological Quarter-Life Crisis

The personal astrological event has a bad rep — think Sunday scaries, but apply it to turning 30 — but it’s meant to catapult you toward your future.  

Close up photo of a person's face, looking off into the distance, with dark hair falling into their face
Photo: Alexey Isakov/Eyem/Getty Images

These days, even astrology skeptics can likely tell you their sign and have a very basic understanding of Mercury retrograde. But as the language of the planets and our sky becomes more popular, people are getting more curious about more "next-level" astrological occurrences.

One you might have heard thrown around lately, especially if you're roughly 29 years old: Saturn return.

Saturn, the taskmaster planet, oversees rules, restrictions, limitations, boundaries, discipline, authority figures, and challenges. Yep, it sounds like the biggest bummer planet ever, but you can also think of it as one of the most powerful mentors of the zodiac. And there are usually some fairly significant lessons to be learned around the time that it "returns" to the location it was in when you were born. And given the speed with which the slow, outer planet moves, this generally happens around the time you're 29, 58, and 89 years old.

Here are all the details on the astrological milestone, how you can best take advantage of it, and what it means if you're going through your Saturn Return this year.

What It Means to Experience an Astrological Return

If you know the exact time and location you came into the world, you can create an accurate snapshot of the sky at the time of your birth, and this is referred to as your natal (or birth) chart. Not only does your chart offer helpful insight into how you're wired astrologically, but it can serve as a tool for better understanding shifts, changes, and experiences that will occur over the course of your lifetime.

Every time the sun, moon, or any of the planets comes back to the precise location it was in when you were born, you'll experience its return. The frequency with which you'll experience those returns depends on how quickly each celestial body moves. And the way you'll experience each return will be informed by the aspects of life that the planet rules.

Basically, all returns offer an opportunity to review your progress on the lessons that planet has to teach you and look ahead to a new cycle, which could also be thought of as the next level of your life curriculum.

For instance, because the moon moves so quickly and spends about 2.5 days in each sign per month, you get a lunar return roughly every 27 days. A lunar return chart can offer insights into how you'll feel, intuit, and cope with everyday life over the course of your next, monthly emotional cycle. Because the sun takes 12 months to complete its full trip through the signs, your solar return happens annually around your birthday. Your solar return chart can help you pinpoint themes you'll encounter in the year ahead, especially in terms of developing your identity and confidence.

Why Your Saturn Return Is Billed as a Big Deal

While professional astrologers might look at your solar return chart with you annually or pinpoint that a particularly intense eclipse is hitting your chart during the coming year, you get a Saturn return far less frequently. It happens just two or three times in a lifetime because the ringed planet moves so slowly. It takes about 29 years to circle the sun, so Saturn returns occur around the time that you're 29, 58, and 89 years old.

It's the planet of work, responsibility, and structure, urging you to do the work, take on the responsibilities, and create the structures necessary to "graduate" to the next phase of life.

From Mercury's influence on your communication style to Venus' coloring of your love language, there's a lot to learn from all of the planets, but as the disciplinarian planet, Saturn is particularly concerned with putting your nose to the grindstone and coming away more mature, more knowledgeable, and ultimately, more prepared for what lies ahead. It's the planet of work, responsibility, and structure, urging you to do the work, take on the responsibilities, and create the structures necessary to "graduate" to the next phase of life.

And again, because Saturn moves so slowly, spending about two and a half years in a sign, you'll feel the effects of your return for far longer than you would the return of a faster-moving planet. In fact, you might feel it as long as it is in the sign it was in when you were born. That said, your first Saturn return can generally be felt between the ages of 27 and 30. And it could get more intense or pronounced as Saturn hangs in the exact spot that it was in when you were born. This will be denoted by degrees and a sign. (For example, mine is at 1 degree Scorpio.)

How might it get more intense or pronounced? Because the taskmaster planet tends to force pragmatic reality checks, your first Saturn return could steer you away from dreams that no longer seem doable. It also has a way of turning up the volume on that feeling that you need to accomplish certain society-prescribed goals of adulthood (a career path, marriage or a long-term relationship, having kids, buying a house) as well as lay practical groundwork that'll serve you through the rest of your life. In other words, take the Sunday scaries, and instead of thinking about heading into Monday, apply it to turning 30. Your head could be swimming with all the things you said you would do but haven't, things you want to do but aren't sure about, and how you're faring with adulthood thus far.

Saturn offers you a moment to get clear on what you really want to achieve and how you want to set your life up for success.

Saturn's terrain can absolutely feel daunting — even gloomy — but, like most things in astrology, Saturn returns don't deserve a wholly negative reputation. They're not meant to feel like meaningless torture from the sky. Instead, Saturn offers you a moment to get clear on what you really want to achieve and how you want to set your life up for success. And while Saturn tends to make us grapple with our acceptance of what society deems traditional, the structures we create under its influence can be whatever we want them to be. We can find we're perfectly satisfied living with a long-term partner for decades instead of tying the knot or opt-out of full-time, salaried positions in order to start a small business instead. The point is merely that, no matter what structures you're drawn to, you own and commit to them.

What Your Saturn Return Could Feel Like If It's Happening Now

If you are on the brink of 29, 59, or 89, then you may be feeling the signs of the Saturn Return. With your natal Saturn in the convention-loathing, progressive air sign fixed Aquarius, which is the ruler of the eleventh house of networking and long-term wishes, chances are you work hard on humanitarian, forward-thinking projects, tend to be science- and tech-minded, and are a very loyal friend who takes your relationships — especially platonic ones — very seriously. But it's possible you've also experienced restriction and adversity while working within groups and struggle to take risks, as you prefer to stay within your comfort zone.

Your Saturn return could help you set the stage for groundbreaking, unique achievements — and have you feeling like a force to be reckoned with. 

Your Saturn return is likely going to nudge you to zero in on these particular challenges, bolstering your willingness to connect with people outside your typical circle — especially on issues related to championing the greater good — and urging you to set bolder goals that might initially feel like they're out of your wheelhouse. You could find that you're truly empowered by a newfound willingness to innovate and explore outside the boundaries you set for yourself earlier in life.

By striving to be more open-minded and hopeful, especially while working with others toward a common goal, your Saturn return could help you set the stage for groundbreaking, unique achievements — and have you feeling like a force to be reckoned with.

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