Effective Strategies for Managing Your Mood: How to Be Your Best Self More Often with Christina Villarreal, Ph.D
The consequences of not effectively managing our worst days means we are less motivated, less productive and more likely to fall short of others’ expectations. Our relationships at work and home suffer, bearing the brunt of our stressed out mood. Most of us do our best to prevent a bad mood from spiraling out of control, but wouldn’t it be great if you could do it more effectively; before too much damage is done?
I recently had the privilege of being featured in an interview with journalist Michelle Guilbeau for CBS SF Bay Area for their spotlight column on career development. I appreciated the opportunity to share my educational path and career choices for those who are interested pursuing careers in the field of mental health and wellness.
“Christina Villarreal, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, adjunct professor at UC Berkeley, executive personal coach/consultant, digital media expert, blogger and public speaker. She completed a B.A. in psychology from Emory University and opted to complete a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at The University of San Francisco. Afterwards, Villarreal decided she wanted to further develop her clinical and forensic assessment skills and teach at a graduate school level, so she earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at The California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University. Here, she had a wide range of experiences, including year-long clinical rotations at some of the Bay Area’s most prestigious teaching hospitals: The San Francisco VA Hospital, UCSF/San Francisco General Hospital, and the flagship Kaiser Hospital in Oakland. Villarreal conducted research and completed her doctoral dissertation on the gender and cultural influences on sexual risk behavior among Latinos in the U.S.
What are the responsibilities of your current role?
“Currently, I function in a variety of professional roles. As a mental health expert/psychologist, I help people manage a variety of problems, including mood disorders, interpersonal/familial difficulties, sexuality issues, job related stress, and improve social functioning and health/wellness. I also provide forensic assessment, consultation and expertise in legal settings and for media purposes (televised interviews, digital journalism, newsprint/magazines.).”
“As an executive/personal coach, I work largely with the Bay Area’s tech community, helping high-achieving millennials and Gen X’ers improve their emotional intelligence, work-life balance, dating goals, time management/organization, leadership growth, and career development/transitions. I publish digital articles that reflect the mental health and life management issues my clients are working through in my practice. I also serve in an advisory/consultation role for tech startups aiming to develop mental health tools or wellness resources within their company. Lastly, I am an instructor at UC Berkeley in their post baccalaureate program in psychology.”
What is your favorite part of your daily duties?
“I really enjoy the process of helping people tap into their full potential and achieve their life goals. It’s an honor to be given opportunities to reach wider audiences and educate the public about improving mental health and wellness.”
Do you feel your education prepared you for your current role?
“My education allowed me to gain the necessary knowledge and expertise to practice in a variety of roles within my private practice as a mental health professional, coach, author, and educator. After years of practicing as a psychologist, I opted to seek additional coursework and training as an executive coach through The College of Executive Coaching in order to better serve high functioning individuals reach their respective career and life goals.”
Do you have any advice for people who desire to pursue a similar career?
“I encourage people to work hard and stay focused on what is most important to them, and to talk as often as possible to people who are practicing in the roles they hope to achieve.”
Michelle Guilbeau is a writer, reviewer, teacher and business owner living in Chicago, Illinois. She also has experience in school administration, literacy coaching and is proud founder of CraftKitsForKids.com and MichelleGuilbeau.com Michelle enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chicago, food, travel, education and parenting issues with her readers. Her work can be found onExaminer.com.
Stay tuned, this week Dr. Christina Villarreal will be joining radio station WVON The Talk of Chicago. WVON is the only black owned & operated radio station in Chicago, 3rd largest in the nation, and is now celebrating 52 years in operation. WVON can be heard across the nation via iHeartRadio app. Dr. Villarreal will be speaking with the host, veteran journalist Perri Small about the high price of beauty in a nation obsessed with physical appearance. The conversation will touch on a topic I covered in an article I penned in 2012: The Kim Kardashian Effect: America’s Obsession With Beauty
Millennials coming of age experience in the United States has been uniquely influenced by their access to the free, unlimited sexual content widely available on the internet. This access has served not only as a resource for their sexual curiosity and consumption, but as a primary resource for easily connecting to people who share their sexual preferences on the dating sites of the moment. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University analyzed data from a survey of more than 33,000 adults in the U.S. to measure the country’s shifting sexual landscape. The data revealed that Millennials were the most likely generation to acknowledge having casual sex; 45 percent of them said they had slept with someone other than a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse during their late teens or 20s. Overall, adult acceptance of premarital sex increased from 42 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2012, an all-time high. “Americans are spending more of their lifetime unmarried, so they have more opportunities to engage in sex with more partners, and less reason to disapprove of non-marital sex” reports Twenge. She opines that increasingly permissive attitudes toward sex are a sign of the rise of individualism in America. She explains “when a culture places more emphasis on the needs of the self and less on social rules, more relaxed attitudes toward sexuality are the almost inevitable result.”
As a coach and mental health expert I help people develop and practice the necessary skills for optimizing their new sexual experiences and increase their ability to find, establish and maintain satisfying relationships. This article aims to provide some practical guidelines for optimizing the outcomes of your casual sex encounters while dating, and insightful tips for decoding the opposite sex along the way.
Men seeking sexual encounters with women:
Adopt an early communication style that encourages a positive response from women. What does that mean? Skip the crude humor in online and text exchanges- chances are, you’re likely only entertaining yourself (or infamously landing yourself in one those Buzzfeed Tinder Fail lists) and that’s not the point is it? Humor is fine, and can be a good initial approach online, but seriously, a little goes a long way. Increase your odds of getting a genuine response from women by taking yourself out of the dregs of online dating wasteland- try telling an original, funny story about yourself, relate to something personal on a woman’s profile, or at minimum, send a quick hello with your array of pics to see if what you have going on is of interest to her. Have a friend (preferably female) screen your online pics. It may seem trivial, but poorly chosen pics can make or break your online dating success.
Once you’re corresponding consistently with someone, be proactive and suggest a specific plan toget together. While this seems like a no-brainer, a lot of guys fail to get the ball rolling while they have a woman’s attention. Comedian Aziz Ansari conducted focus groups with hundreds of people for his new book Modern Romance, getting intimate details on why people have problems with dating. He shares “The lack of clarity over whether the meet-up is even an actual date frustrates both sexes to no end, but since it’s usually the guys initiating, this is a clear area where men can step it up.” So guys, to optimize your chances of establishing a sexual encounter, strike while the iron is hot. While you’re keeping someone around as a text buddy, someone else is closing the deal as her new sex partner by making specific plans. It might be entertaining and easy to have an assortment of women to text and exchange photos with, but these women will eventually fade you out of the picture for someone they know in real life.
Be sincere and honest about what your ideal arrangement is right now. Just because you’re wanting to keep things casual doesn’t mean you’re decreasing your chances for sexual opportunities with women. There are plenty of women who are open to keeping things casual too! Plenty. It doesn’t make sense to allude to wanting a more committed relationship if you actually don’t- doing so only increases the odds of introducing drama I’m sure you’d rather avoid. Women can absolutely relate to wanting to experience an array of people before settling into a committed relationship, and understand you may be in a stage of your life where you’re prioritizing other life goals above romantic relationships. In short, aim for integrity when you engage with someone in pursuit of sex. Establishing this mutual understanding up front will create a space where both of you can focus on what you’re actually there for- sexual pleasure.
Real talk: If you aren’t asking what you can do to help a woman achieve orgasm and/or paying close attention to figuring out what she enjoys (and spending more than a little time doing this) it’s safe to guess you’re coming up short in bed. Which of course, is your choice. Just consider that when a woman finally does come along that you actually care about pleasing (even if it’s years and countless women from now), you likely still won’t have much of a clue about how to get her off (especially if you’re a fan of male produced porn). There’s a good chance you’ll pale in comparison to other guys she’s been with, which is not a good look if you want to become that person’s significant other/favorite sexual partner. If that’s not enough motivation, consider this: when a woman reaches full sexual attraction to a sex partner she is going to be much more agreeable and feel more confident about trying new things for the sake of her partner’s pleasure. That sexual fantasy you’ve had since the 8th grade? That could go down if you play your cards right. #Thankmelater
Women seeking sexual encounters with men:
Speak Up Clearly and Consistently To Avoid Confusion. Taking a meek approach in communicating your sexual preferences is going to seriously set back your sexual pleasure (and possibly compromise your sexual safety). Remind yourself: Men cannot read your mind (and your subtle non-verbals can go unnoticed) because men and women are culturally socialized to communicate in different styles. Be direct with your words and your actions about what you like and what you don’t like. Think about it: when men engage sexually, most do a pretty good job of getting their sexual needs met. Porn and sex in movies perpetuate the myth that men do exactly what women love during sex (and women are supposed love it, regardless of how ridiculous it is!)
Set The Pace: Literally and Figuratively. Figuring out a sexual pace that feels good between two people comes from familiarity and predictability, neither of which have been established when you’ve only recently met someone. So in addition to communicating openly, take the time to find a pace that works for both of you. Try not to approach sex like it’s fast food eaten at 2 am after staying out all night- which is usually on a whim, followed by almost instant regret. Take your time and do it right– these SOS Band song lyrics were a hit for a reason!
STOP FAKING IT IN BED.Really. Pretending that you enjoy things during sex that you don’t is synonymous with digging your own sexual grave. Take one for the team, and stop sending guys the wrong message that what they are doing sexually is awesome when you know that it’s not. Funny but true story: A 25 year-old attractive Asian woman I’m coaching tells me “So I met this guy randomly, and after we talked and hung out for a while, we eventually decide to go back to his place where we end up having sex. Right away he starts fingering me with way too much force, to the point where it’s actually hurting me and I’m going numb from it! So I stop him and say ‘hey when you touch me like that it hurts’and he looks at me and says a little defensively “ok well… some women like it like that.” She deadpans, “Christina I had to break it to him… “Um NO. NO ONE likes it like that!” We both had a good laugh at her candor in the moment.I could not have been more proud of her for speaking up for herself!
Stop filtering and dismissing guys so quickly- be optimistic about seeing if you can develop good sexual chemistry with guys who don’t fit your bill. These days, you can swipe right to meet guys using more filters than your favorite photo editing app offers- you can specify height, body type, education level, location, age, etc. One of the most common complaints I get from women is that they rarely feel attracted enough to guys to even see them a first or second time. But who you think will be attracted to sexually may not be a good match in real life. Scientists working with Match.com found that we are horrible at knowing what we want; the kind of partner people said they wanted often didn’t match up with what they were actually interested in long term. What works well for predicting good first dates doesn’t tell us much about the long-term success of a couple let alone their sexual chemistry. Psychologists like Robert B. Zajonc explains, “while we are initially attracted to people by their physical appearance and traits we can quickly recognize, the things that make us more attracted to someone are their deeper, more personal qualities, which come out only during sustained interactions” – the “mere exposure effect” is repeated exposure to a stimulus which tends to enhance one’s feelings toward it.
This last point applies to anyone and everyone seeking sexual or romantic connections of any and all kinds:
Do Not Let FOMO Take Over. You’ve read about, you’ve experienced it, you’re sick of hearing about how Millennials are responsible for amplifying this toxic trend in a digital era. That said, I’ve seen far too many people spend endless amounts of time spinning their wheels, agonizing over not meeting/dating enough people they find interest in. A billion and one first dates later, still…nothing. Begin to rethink what this could mean…maybe this isn’t the strategy that is going unearth the person who gets you excited and holds your attention. Switch it up, peel your eyes away from your phone, pull your earbuds out and take a look around you. Make eye contact and smile, maybe even say hi to the person next to you- this could be your first moment together of many better ones to come.
NAACP official Rachel Dolezal of Spokane, Washington has recently come under tremendous media fire for misrepresenting her racial identity as African-American for approximately the past 10 years. Her biological parents have publicly made statements that the family’s ancestry is Czech, Swedish and German with some “faint traces” of Native American heritage as well. Her parents have also provided journalists with a copy of her daughter’s Montana birth certificate listing herself and Larry Dolezal as Rachel’s parents as evidence to validate her identity.
While CNN has yet to get comment from Rachel Dolezal directly (as of the production of this article), she has alluded to a family fight over alleged abuse, according to the Spokesman-Review. She has also recently refused to directly answer a newspaper journalist’s questions about her racial heritage, and said she wanted to talk to local NAACP leadership first. “I feel like I owe my executive committee a conversation,” she said. Public response to this controversy been mixed, with some reflecting a sentiment of confusion, others with speculation, cynicism, or support. Many want to know:
“Why would a white woman pretend to be Black?”
As a mental health expert with a wide range of treatment experiences in various settings, I can offer some psychological insight regarding what might lead someone like Rachel Dolezal to identify as a member of an oppressed racial group. Based on the information that has been made publicly available through news media sources such as CNN, I can begin to hypothesize what may be some possible reasons behind a person’s choice to racially align themselves with an African American/black racial identity in spite of having a Caucasian/white racial heritage.
In my experience as a mental health professional over the past 15 years, I have worked with a number of individuals who’ve had the unfortunate experience of discrimination, abuse, trauma and crime. The emotional trauma of victimization is a direct reaction to the aftermath of experiencing discrimination, abuse, trauma, and/or crime. Abuse victims can suffer a tremendous amount of physical and psychological trauma. While some are emotionally resilient and manage to overcome the real adversity they experience, others are less so, and experience higher levels of emotional pain and suffering. In some cases however, a person’s understanding of themselves as a ‘victim’ is not in response to actual or significantly measurable experiences of abuse, trauma or discrimination. This can occur as a result of a personality pre-disposition that develops early on in some people, as a way for them to psychologically cope with receiving what they feel is ‘unfair treatment’ from others.
Sometimes, a person’s perception of what is ‘fair and unfair’ can be very distorted. It may be that they are highly sensitive to feeling slighted, and/or develop a sensitivity to early criticism. They may have difficulty coping what many other people are capable of accepting as the normal ups and downs of life. When someone’s personality develops in this way, they can feel entitled to ‘better treatment’ than they are receiving, and when they don’t get it, they feel it’s because others are purposefully mistreating them. In their minds, it’s this perceived ‘mistreatment’ that leads them to developing an identity as a ‘victim’ as a way to process their experience of being chronically wronged.
Over time, someone who has developed emotionally in this way may be drawn towards people and experiences that reinforce their experience of being mistreated in the world. They may even provoke people and/or manipulate circumstances so they can claim they were wronged. Over time, they may come to rely on garnering sympathy from others as a way to benefit from the emotional support of those who are sympathetic to their experience. Receiving this type of support can reinforce their pattern of identifying as a chronically mistreated person. Taking on the ethnic identity of a member of a systematically socially oppressed racial group could give someone an opportunity to not just experience real discrimination and racial prejudice, but also garner emotional, social and political support from equal right’s activists.
Rachel Dolezal grew up in what her parents called a diverse environment, with family friends of various ethnic backgrounds, and four adopted siblings who are black. She was “always interested in ethnicity and diversity” growing up, her mother Ruthanne said. Media sources have pointed out a clear discrepancy between early photos of Rachel Dolezal as a blonde, fair skinned white woman and recent photos that reveal she has chosen to alter her physical appearance by darkening her skin and adopting an afro-like hairstyle with a kinky/curly texture as a way to portray herself as having an African-American racial heritage. Many people are sounding off that Rachel Dolezal “has been dishonest and deceptive with her racial identity.” What do you think?
Dr. Christina Villarreal was recently featured as a mental health expert on an episode of Lifetime’s Killer Kidsdiscussing the murder mystery case of Bernadette Protti, a teen convicted of killing 15-year old classmate and cheerleader Kirsten Costas in Orinda, California, a wealthy suburb of The Bay Area during the 1980’s. This crime documentary episode chronicles the events leading up the stabbing murder of Kirsten Costas, and the investigators who identified the killer after the case went cold. The murder case filled news headlines in June of 1984 when Kirsten Costas was stabbed to death on the doorstep of a neighbor. The case remained a mystery for many months until her classmate, 16-year old Bernadette Protti finally confessed to the crime.
Friends, family and classmates in Orinda were shocked when Bernadette Protti confessed to the murder, as rumors had circulated that another classmate known for publicly disliking Kristen was responsible for Kristen’s death. At trial, the defense stated Bernadette Protti had been teased by Kirsten Costas, and that Bernadette snapped after Costas threatened to tell everyone that she was “weird,” and “that way,” a phrase used in the ’80’s to refer to someone as homosexual. Defense attorneys alleged that Bernadette Protti’s actions were not sexually motivated, and that Kirsten Costas had misinterpreted her intentions to befriend her. A rumor of that nature would have ruined Bernadette Protti’s chances of ever being socially accepted in Orinda, a community that was known for placing a strong emphasis on success, popularity and ‘fitting in’.
Bernadette Protti was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to serve time in the California Youth Authority, where she remained until she was released on parole in June 1992. According to Traciy Curry-Reyes, of the Movies Based On True Stories Archives, Protti changed her name after her release, causing many to relentlessly pursue her new identity for years. Traciy Curry-Reyes discovered Bernadette Protti’s new identity in 2008, but chose not to publicly disclose her new name. She shared with her viewers that Bernadette Protti is now married with a child.
15 years ago, I completed my doctoral dissertation examining cultural and gender influences of sexual risk behavior among Latino women. For the past 10 years in my clinical practice, I’ve enjoyed helping women embrace their sexuality, overcome obstacles to safe sex practices, and empower themselves for a lifetime of sexual wellness. I’ve served as a Relationship Expert on social media websites like GuysAskGirls.com, and written a range of articles on sex, dating and relationships, with media publications and interviews in popular media sites such as techcrunch. This week I orchestrated what turned out to be an amazing workshop for nearly 40 women on Navigating Sex, Relationships, and Dating in San Francisco. I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to do this important work. Thank you to all those that participated, there will be more to come! In the coming weeks I will be recruiting a diverse group of men in various stages of their dating life and relationship experience- from single to married. These men will form an expert panel for an open Q & A session for an audience of Bay Area women who’d like to better understand why guys do what they do! I will facilitate an honest and respectful dialogue that will surely be insightful, informative and instrumental in improving dating and relationship experiences for all.
Here are a few candid snapshots from the event on May 27th, 2015, we had a great time!
Dr. Villarreal is excited to host her first women’s only workshop focusing on dating & female sexual health- it’s going to be an amazing event! While this event has already nearly sold out, there is certainly room for a few more. Please join us- there will be appetizers served, and a selection of wines by the glass to purchase. We will meet in ‘La Cave’, a private lounge space downstairs in Aquitaine Wine Bar & Bistro, San Francisco, CA. When? May 27th, 2015, 7 pm-10 pm.
Navigating Your Sexual Identity: Bay Area Dating, Communicating Sexual Preferences, Managing Romantic Pitfalls, and Turning “Happily Ever After” into a Reality
“This workshop was born in response to countless requests I received from women I’ve worked with professionally, as a way to continue the conversation about sex/relationship health, and allow a larger community of women to participate. I will be sharing some of the most valuable pieces of what I’ve learned from helping women. I am grateful and privileged to have had the opportunity to work with so many! I want to pass along how they gained new insights about their patterns, overcome blind spots, change course and try new behaviors. Along with that progress came new ways of seeing themselves as worthy of love and affection, as well as an increased ability to enjoy sex in new ways. These gains opened up doors for them in all areas of their life, as they came to see themselves with more clarity.”
– Dr. Christina Villarreal
Topics to be covered include:
(followed by a Q & A period)
shopping for a sexual partner/love interest: What are we looking for, and how will we know when we find it?
Seizing control of your sexual identity, and figuring out what arouses you physically and mentally
Porn/Sex in the media– How has it affected/shaped your sexual identity and in past/current relationship? What place does porn have, if any, in oursexual relationships?
Body Image– how to move beyond feeling worried about being attractive to your partner to feeling hot and worthy of asking for what you like in bed
Mutual Fantasy Building– how to collaborate with your partner on what’s going on in his/her head AND yours for increased sexual connection and pleasure.
Maintaining Long Term Love– practical tips for navigating and managing committed relationships