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Panic free

Tom Bunn is among a select few who have experienced the thrill of piloting the U.S. Air Force’s first supersonic jet fighter, F-100.

The former U.S. Air Force captain went on to become an airline pilot. In that role, he sometimes saw passengers experience other feelings related to flying: extreme fear.

Such fears affect nearly 13 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Bunn wanted to help passengers control their panic. He studied all the methods, to no avail.

“The quest began as a volunteer at PanAm’s fear of flying course,” he recalls. “As a pilot, I expected that the fear of those in the course would disappear once they learned how safe flying is. But some were afraid — not of the plane — but of the panic around not being able to escape to get relief if they had a panic attack during a flight.”

For some attendees, the graduation flight that concluded the course was a particular trial, he adds.

“Some participants did experience panic, and I had no way to help them,” he explains. “Breathing exercises didn’t work. Relaxation exercises didn’t work. My desire to find something that would help those panic sufferers be able to fly set me on this quest.”

Bunn’s search for a solution led him to graduate school. He became a licensed therapist and eventually found a method to end panic that worked.

Through his practice, Bunn has used the methods to help people reduce and eliminate panic. He has distilled his methods into a solution all panic-sufferers can use in “Panic Free: The 10-Day Program to End Panic, Anxiety and Claustrophobia.”

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The book will be available at most major booksellers beginning April 23. For more information, go to www.PanicFree.net.

When experiencing panic, some people respond by attempting to consciously control the panic, Bunn explains in “Panic Free.”

“That may not work, for two reasons,” he writes. “First, your capacity for conscious thought ... breaks down when stress hormones build up. Second, conscious thought may not activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The solution to panic is to train your unconscious procedural memory … to calm you automatically.”

Bunn insists it’s not complicated.

“The methods in this book were developed in a unique environment,” he explains. “Most therapists treat a variety of problems and only treat a dozen or so fear of flying clients in an entire career. As a former airline pilot and licensed therapist, I have worked with thousands of fear of flying clients who were focused on one problem: the control of panic that stopped them from flying. This unique situation yielded answers that had never even been thought of before.”

“Panic Free” is broken into four parts. The first three sections explain the psychological and physiological factors and reactions that lead to panic. The final section outlines his 10-day program, including chapters on step-by-step instructions, solutions for maintaining emotional control.

“Reading this book can give you insight, but insight alone will most likely not stop panic,” he says. “To stop panic, you will need to carry out the assigned tasks. Training is key. We do not rise to the occasion; under stress, we descend to the level of our training.”

Karris Golden writes The Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at onfaith@karrisgolden.com.

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