Broke and Stressed in New York City? Find Out How to Chill on the Cheap

New York City is a stressful place to begin with, filled with hard-charging, ambitious types trying to climb over you at work and stealing your seat on the subway. Now that the stock market has bottomed out, everyone's anxiety levels have been ratcheted up a few notches.

New Yorkers might be a different breed, but just like people in the rest of the country, they're worried about losing their jobs, panicky about paying their ridiculously high rents and fighting off feelings of impending doom.

Outside of scheduling more appointments with your shrink (which you can't afford anyway), or doing the old-fashioned thing and trying to drink your worries away, there are several healthy, inexpensive ways to decompress in this town. So take a deep breath. Now another one. And check out these suggestions.

Massages for Misers

After some confusion about the name of the business and the address, I arrived at Lilly & Raul's (211 E. 43rd St., Suite 1501, 212-682-6121) late, sweaty and very unhappy. But $39 and one hour later, I was feeling a whole lot better.

According to the Web site, Lilly & Raul's caters to "women that work, party and play hard," but it also offers couples' massages. They specialize in tui na massage, a combination of shiatsu and acupressure.

Lilly & Raul's is fairly no frills, but with most higher-end massage parlors and spas charging $90 and (way) up for an hour-long massage, who needs a lot of bells and whistles? Although the Web site lists the price of an hour massage at $50, I was told over the phone that if paid in cash, it would cost $39 and a half-hour massage would cost $29.

For stressed-out bankers and stockbrokers, Sam Sun Bodywork in the financial district charges $50 for an hour-long massage.

In Chinatown, Wu-Lim on Grand Street charges $42 for a 61-minute massage.

Reflexology in Chinatown

For a change of pace, try reflexology at one of the many unassuming storefronts in Chinatown that advertise the service. By applying pressure to points on the feet or hands that supposedly correspond to internal organs, reflexology claims to alleviate a number of physical and psychological complaints, clear the body of toxins and relieve stress.

At Yan Mei Foot Reflexology (158 Mott St., 212-219-0788), you'll pay $30 for an hour reflexology session and $20 for half an hour. During my half-hour session, a tough-looking Chinese woman put my feet into an almost-scalding bath of what appeared to be dirt and water. After a few minutes, she cleaned them off and got to work.

She kept telling me I looked nervous, and whenever I tried to ask her a question she told me, "Just relax," which I eventually realized was code for "shut up."

Expect a reflexology session to be more hardcore than a typical foot massage. The reflexologist stressed she was going easy on me because it was my first time, but there were a few times she really dug in to a spot that sent a little electric bolt of pain up my leg.

The payoff was when I walked out of the shop feeling way lighter in the loafers, and floated through the cramped, stinky streets of Chinatown with a smile on my face and a tiny kernel of love in my heart. The medical benefits of reflexology have been largely dismissed by Western doctors. Even so, I'd have no problem going back and shelling out $30 for a foot rub that makes me "shut up," at least for a while.

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