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When we're tired due to long-hour-work, we often move our palm over our face from top to down, we may squeeze our noses as well on the way doing that.

And, if we're very tired we can do it hard or else we do it gently.

Is it natural to say "I stroke my face whenever I am tired"?

stroke: to move your hand gently over something. Eg, He reached out and stroked her cheek tenderly

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  • Is that an image of the action? It strikes me as someone rubbing their temples/facepalming, an action associated with frustration rather than tiredness.
    – nick012000
    Aug 30 '20 at 11:13
  • Many people rub their faces or eyes when tired. To be distinguished from having a 'facepalm moment'. Aug 30 '20 at 11:29
  • The motion I think you described is unfamiliar to me and I suspect unfamiliar to many English speakers here, although I can see how it might express the feeling of overwork. It would take several words to describe it; a shorter description would be confused with a completely different gesture.
    – David K
    Aug 31 '20 at 3:06
  • When you "squeeze" your nose do you mean you press the tip of your nose down, or do you mean you pinch your nostrils toward the center of your nose?
    – David K
    Aug 31 '20 at 3:07
  • @DavidK, I meant "pinch the nose"
    – Tom
    Aug 31 '20 at 5:53
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We generally say that we rub our faces, or just our eyes, when tired. The action is more vigorous and firmer than stroking, which is often done as a sign of affection to another person.

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I agree with @Michael Harvey that "rub" is probably the most used verb. If the action is more vigorous, repeated and in more than one direction, I would use "scrub (with the hand)".

John was obviously tired. He scrubbed his face with his hand ...

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    That sounds odd to my UK ear. maybe scrubbed at his face. Having said that, I recall that my mother used to scrub her face with a loofah for cleansing and beautification purposes. Aug 30 '20 at 11:35
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Another word I would use for this action is "swipe". I would only use "rub" when the motion is particularly around the eyes but for the motion of running the hand from forehead to chin swipe is much more apt.

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    This sounds completely off mark to my UK ear. Swipe for me has connotations of speed and duration. A cat swipes at a hanging toy for example. I would swipe at a fly if it landed on my face but I wouldn't swipe my face if I was tired.
    – sam_smith
    Aug 31 '20 at 0:07
  • @simon_smiley I readily believe you would not swipe your face when tired. But it may well be that the OP does exactly that, based on the description in the question.
    – David K
    Aug 31 '20 at 12:28
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    @DavidK the OP may indeed swipe their face while tired but they have described rubbing their face or wiping their face in the question. It might be that swipe has other nuances in other English speaking areas but for me it would be very confusing to hear someone say that and would require clarification
    – sam_smith
    Aug 31 '20 at 20:57
  • @simon_smiley The connotations of the verb swipe may be changing due to the ubiquity of touch screens that allow finger swiping; the action is less violent than the traditional swipe. But the word wipe might be apt too. In either case I would want to be a little more specific in the usage so that it is clear we don't mean a slap or a cleaning. I still don't like rub, in any case.
    – David K
    Sep 1 '20 at 11:56

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