Often regarded as a cosmic puberty of sorts, a person’s Saturn return transit in astrology has a reputation for being intense. And that’s not unwarranted: The transit—which occurs about every 29 years when Saturn returns to the place in the sky where it was when you were born—can “make you feel like you’re at the crux of a crisis long in the making,” says astrologer Stefanie Iris Weiss, author of Surviving Saturn’s Return. But in reality, the event is more like a celestial dose of tough love, she says, and learning what to do (and avoid doing) before your Saturn return can help you integrate its lessons more effectively.
The core reason why Saturn’s return can feel so challenging in the moment comes from the life themes over which Saturn rules: “Saturn is associated with maturity, authority, lessons, deep wisdom, challenges, and constriction,” says Weiss, who’s studied the planet for the majority of her career. Though many of these things may sound tough to manage (because they are), they’re also all tied to personal growth. And ultimately, that’s what your first Saturn return is destined to help you do: figure out who you are and who you’re meant to become.
“Saturn shows us our wounds to teach us how to move forward empowered.” —Stefanie Iris Weiss, astrologer
That’s why Weiss advises thinking of Saturn not as your enemy but as your ally. “Saturn shows us our wounds to teach us how to move forward empowered,” she says. “[Saturn return] can feel like complete crap while it’s happening, but if we take the lessons seriously and do the work, Saturn often gives us an awesome parting gift at the end of the transit.” And by that, she means a renewed and fuller sense of self, identity, and life goals.
Effectively weathering the storm before that calm isn’t just about waiting it out, though. “Saturn rules over time, and before your Saturn return, you may feel like you’ve got all the time in the world—but the transit tends to arrive in a flash,” says Weiss.
So, how can you prepare? According to Weiss, there are things you can do before and during your Saturn return to ensure you don’t take a more challenging route than necessary or miss out on key lessons from the planet along the way. Below, she shares what to do and avoid doing before your Saturn return arrives (and while you’re in the thick of it) to make the most of the cosmic upheaval.
5 things to do before your Saturn return hits in order to soften the blow, according to an astrologer
1. Check your natal Saturn placement
Knowing the sign and astrological house that Saturn occupied when you were born can lend major insights into the vibe of your Saturn return (sign) and the areas of life in which you can expect to do the most growing (house), says Weiss. (You can find this intel by plugging your birth date, time, and location into a birth chart generator like this one, and then looking for the details on Saturn.)
Though you’ll share the same Saturn sign as anyone born within about two and a half years of you, the house of your natal Saturn will be more unique, and “will home in on wounds, experiences, and relationships that have shaped you up until this point,” says Weiss. It’s those particular themes that you can expect to surface during your Saturn return.
For example, if your natal Saturn is placed in the second house of financial resources, chances are, your Saturn return will, in some way, tackle your relationship to money and earnings, she says. If it’s in the seventh house of relationships? You could find yourself unlearning unhealthy habits around one-on-one relationships or commitments. And if it’s in the 11th house of social networks, your growth might come in the form of releasing damaging friendships or changing your mindset around fitting in. In any case, you get the idea: Knowing the house of your natal Saturn gives you information on how your Saturn return will likely shake up your life—which can help you mentally prepare for it.
2. Reinforce your boundaries
Generally, Saturn is the planet of boundaries, says Weiss. “It acts as the boundary between the inner or personal planets and the outer or transpersonal, generational planets,” she says. As a result, one of its biggest lessons across the board is about owning your power to say “no” to things that don’t align with your values or interests. That could mean turning down additional (read: unpaid) responsibilities at work, finding personal space in a relationship, or scaling back your social calendar so you’re only attending the gatherings that bring you joy.
Speaking of your calendar, it’s also a good idea to give it some extra love while you’re preparing for your Saturn return or during it, says Weiss. As the zodiac’s taskmaster, Saturn is the aforementioned ruler of time “and loves it when you pencil everything into a calendar, even napping or sheet-masking,” she says. The act of doing so can also help you get organized in your efforts to say “no” or enforce your boundaries when it feels right.
3. Consider starting (or restarting) therapy
Having a trusted therapist in your corner is an invaluable resource as you approach a time that’s destined to be at least a little chaotic. That’s why Weiss recommends that anyone start or restart regular therapy sessions in the months leading up to and during their Saturn return. (Virtual therapy options make it easier than ever to find affordable and accessible support.)
In particular, she suggests using this therapy time to discuss any parental wounds you may have, as soon as it feels comfortable, says Weiss. “This is often where the psyche is headed during Saturn return, so it’s wise to get a grip on these things ahead of time.”
4. Book a reading with a professional astrologer
Sure, Weiss might be a little biased, but she says the lead-up to your Saturn return is a great time to see an astrologer. “An astrologer can tell you much more about your Saturn placement and any other planets that Saturn impacts in your chart, as well as the way all your previous Saturn transits (square, trine, opposition) have hit you across your lifetime, every seven years,” she says. Having all this additional context can help ease any Saturn return-related struggles you may be anticipating or experiencing.
5. Acknowledge that this, too, shall pass
Astrology works in continuous cycles—and no cycle lasts forever. So, if you’re currently “feeling as if you’re trapped under Saturn’s steel-toed Doc Martin,” or you’re dreading the planet’s return to come, “it’s important to remember that there is an endpoint once you turn 30,” says Weiss. “This simple fact can help you breathe through it and process its lessons.”
4 things *not* to do before your Saturn return arrives or while in its midst
1. Do not practice relentless ambition
While it’s certainly good to have goals, Weiss concedes, “exhausting yourself, ignoring self care, or going too hard in pursuit of a career or personal mission is never healthy as you approach your Saturn return.”
There’s a common tendency to put a lot of pressure on a 30th birthday—as in, “I must achieve X or Y thing by the time I’m 30”—but focusing too much on this kind of deadline can lead you to sidestep important learnings along the way. “Remember, Saturn doesn’t want to ground you down,” says Weiss. “Saturn wants you to become a better version of yourself, which takes time.”
2. Do not force maturation
“One of the biggest myths that our culture foists on us before the Saturn return is that we are adults at age 21 or when we graduate college or get our first big job,” says Weiss. “Astrologically, you’re not really an adult until after your Saturn return.” Until then, “you’re in a transitional stage, in which you may not feel quite like an adult or quite like an adolescent,” she adds. And in that state, pushing yourself to do “adult” things that don’t feel right won’t serve you, just the same way that resisting maturation won’t, either.
Instead, understand that your personal ripening will happen on its own, says Weiss, and in the meantime, simply embrace the fact that you’re in limbo between astrological childhood and adulthood. “It’s a liminal state, and that’s why it can feel so weird and uncomfortable and scary at times,” she says.
3. Do not make major, life-altering commitments, if you can help it
Unfortunately, the timing of making big life changes often aligns with the lead-up and arrival of a person’s Saturn return, around anywhere from 28 to 30 years old. But Weiss advises against making any big commitments during the height of your Saturn return, from the ages of 28 and a half to 29, in particular.
“If you can wait until after your 30th birthday to get married, move across the country, become an expat, or take some other radical step into a new life, it’s wise to do so,” she says. “This way, you’ll be making that call once the existential phase of your Saturn return has calmed or entirely cleared.”
That’s important because when you’re in the midst of your Saturn return, you may be more reactive than responsive, says Weiss. “While it’s certainly okay to end things that are harming you during your Saturn return, like a toxic relationship or job, committing to something as a reaction to a crisis isn’t usually fruitful.”
4. Do not succumb to peer pressure
It’s pretty tough to embrace Saturn’s lessons of personal growth if you’re busy acquiescing to others’ requests or doing things because all your friends are doing them, too. “If you think, ‘Oh my gosh, all my friends are getting married,’ and you get engaged on that basis, for example, you’re not doing the growth work of your Saturn return,” says Weiss. “You’re avoiding it.”
Instead of following in others’ footsteps, consider how you might own your personal authority and write the script of your life, says Weiss. “No boss, partner, parent, or peer group determines who you came here to be, and during your Saturn return is when you tend to meet your true power and purpose for the first time.”