Church Mental Health Summit


addictions & trauma stress & burnout May 17, 2022

A $10 carbon monoxide detector saved us from being killed in our sleep from a build-up of odourless toxic gas.

Here’s the full (true!) story on The Day My Furnace Tried To Kill Me. It’s worth a read.

After being woken up from the carbon monoxide alarm we quickly opened all the windows and called the fire department. We were instructed to leave IMMEDIATELY, but first close the windows.

Wait… what?

You want us to trap in all the gas in the house?

I was confused but obeyed their instructions and left.

My curiosity, however, was killing me.

Once the fire department arrived, I asked why they wanted the windows closed.

An open window dilutes the threatening gas. Closing the windows allows the fire department to use their detector to give an accurate reading of how toxic the air really is in our home.

A true picture of the air we were breathing prior to being woken up by the alarm.

Like in my home, in life I feel the stress building like toxic gas and I am tempted to open a window. 



To release the pressure.

Dilute the air

Allow for a little breathing room.

Things that take the pressure off yet don’t solve the problem are much like opening a window to our stress.

For example, avoiding people or social events, emotionally eating, taking sleep medication to calm the racing thoughts, self-medicating with alcohol or mood boosters.

These type of actions create a sense of immediate relief, don’t they?

And there is some temporary benefit that happens.

But (and this one is a big but), it does not stop the toxic stress from seeping into your life.

The relief felt delays taking action. 

It delays stopping and fixing the source of toxic stress.

It perpetuates the toxic stress build-up.

The thing is, opening a window is easier than leaving the house in the rain, isn’t it?

To follow the fire department’s instruction required me to leave my home on a cold rainy Sunday morning. I was quite content to sit close to an open window with a blanket around me and wait for them to arrive.

I was not aware of the danger I was in. 

I felt fine, I wasn’t dizzy, nauseous or had a headache. I was content with sitting by my open window with my cozy blanket and waiting for someone else to come fix the problem.

It took the fire department insisting for us to leave and informing us of the danger we were in for me to leave the comfort of my home.

When we open a window in our lives by isolating ourselves or habitually taking sleeping pills we feel the relief.

But those actions are diluting the situation.

We begin to feel that the solution is being away from people and problems.


The small amount of fresh air from the open window, sleeping pills, becomes the solution. Then each time the stress builds we go to that open window.

Life can become perpetually walking around in toxic gas going from window to window to window getting breaths of fresh air each time the alarm rings that stress is at a critical level.

This is not life. This is an emergency. 

Let me be the fire department in your life and say….


Shut the windows and get out of the house!


“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

I find it interesting that the first step in this scripture is assessing if you are weary and burdened.

You are not able to get an accurate reading on your stress levels by staying inside with the windows open. It provides a false reading of how you are doing and therefore minimizes the danger.

And here’s a question for you:

If you take away all the things that get you through the week but are not considered “self-care” or “healthy”, how would your levels read?

High? Extreme?

That is the accurate picture of your stress levels. 

The Bible describes that as being weary and burdened. God is calling us to find rest. Or getting out of the toxic environment.

And, you know, stepping away is extremely healthy and recommended too. Wink, wink.

I’m reminded of Psalm 23 where it states: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

God does not want you to live in toxic stress. He wants a life of peace and rest for your soul.

Restoration is found in rest with God. 

I was not aware of the building toxic gas in my house. The alarm alerted me to it (see blog about our triggers and warning signs), but I had to shut the windows and get out so that proper assessments could be made and solutions found.

When we are in the middle of our busy lives we can be completely unaware of the building of toxic stress.

In desperation, we open windows to breathe some fresh air, but we are only getting temporary relief. It’s not until we understand that levels are dangerously high through our warnings and alarms, close up the windows and get out that we can see how critical it is for change.

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