Glad you did your posting and nice to have someone from England with us . . .
I am also glad that you have accepted the fact that yes, you might have been better off if you had started the process earlier, but, I don\t know about you, but I have yet to figure out how to go back and change the past . . . .in other words, look at today and accept that what was was and you can't change it . . . .speaking as someone who did not "recognize" anxiety as anything but a normal state of affairs for decades, you are in a good place . . . 26 is a good spot to recognize anxiety and deal with it because you have life experiences and maturity to make the process effective . . .
Now, I was worried about exercise myself . . . every time I did something, I felt so out of my comfort zone, I thought I was going to pass out . . . until I realized that it was my anxiety that was creating these feelings . . . from my own doctor, he told me that you do not run to get healthy, but you get healthy to run . . . in other words, you have to build up to any type of exercise rather than diving into it . . . so, he recommended a healthy diet base --- little, if any, fried foods, no added salt, minimum if any processed foods (no prepackaged stuff because of the chemical additives and salt), veggies, protein (I rely on fish and chicken and eggs and veggie based proteins as I have problems digesting red meats like beef and pork although I love both of them but have to stay away from them), good quality whole grain cereals with fiber but build up gradually and breads, and basically anything else including my beloved chocolate frozen yogurt. The key is everything in moderation even the treats . . . but 90% of the time it is the healthy foods on a regular basis throughout the day (always breakfast, a small snack mid morning if I want, a good lunch (this is my main meal of the day), a snack mid afternoon, and then my last meal which for me is very small around 7 p.m. --- I do not eat after 8 p.m. if at all possible and, of course, water)
Added to that, he recommended progressive exercise because he knew of my anxiety . . . forget running for now, he started me on walking . . . .this is going to be a laugh now (because I walk 45 minutes a day) but he told me to walk in one direction for no more than 5 minutes at a very leisurely pace and then walk back for a total of 10 minutes. I had to do this every day for 14 days . . . and this was my exercise . . . .I have to admit that I thought he was a bit off the beam . . . then for the next 14 days I got to walk 7 minutes, then for the next 14 days 9 minutes, etc. Looking back, he was dealing with my anxiety with exercise and health by having me build up in duration without adding the exertion factor . . . . after I was able to walk 20 minutes in one direction and return for 20 minutes, he had me get a pedometer that tracked steps taken, distance, calories burned and had a download component to the computer so I had an automatic tracking of my walking . . . .then we started to increase intensity because the pedometer will only register aerobic walking if I reach a certain speed over a certain time period . . . .and we started the process again . . . in this way, I took small steps and became comfortable with the feelings of exertion so that these feelings did not trigger anxiety . . . also, and I have difficulties here, a regular sleep pattern . . .whether I want to or not, I go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time . . . if I am off this pattern for more than a day or two in sequence, I find that I become more prone to being anxious . . . .I also have some small weights at home that I use but I want to start a strength program come May . . . .for right now, I am getting back to walking as I broke my ankle and the recovery has been great and I am very thankful that the break healed so well but I had to start at the beginning one more time in working my way up . . . .but I know that I will make it as I have accepted the adage of one day at a time . . . .
Your feeling of dread is not unusual . . . if your doctor has given you a clean bill of health (i.e. there is no physical reason why you should not exercise), then I would suggest that you start small and have expectations only for that day . . . if you miss a day, not a problem, just pick up where you left off . . . .I also found that on my walks, I use the time to clear my mind . . . I use the process described on tape 6 (I have listened to all of them but find tape 6 to be the one for me) at http://www.selftherapy.org/stop-anxiety-panic-attacks.php
. . . .tape 6 is free to everyone and, as I said, it is my key and it may just help you to get thinking of your own strategies . . .
Well, Lee, that's it for me . . . please let us know how you are doing . . . it is a process . . . .there will probably be bumps in the road but I bet Chesterfield has a lot of nice walking paths where you can practice walking and building up your mental and physical stamina . . . . glad you came by and shared your story and if I can give you any more information about any of this, let me know . . . and I am sure that there are others who could probably give you more insight to help support you . . . by the way, do you have access to a professional therapist who might guide you in developing management techniques for your anxiety, in general, and your health anxiety specifically? Sometimes these resources are difficult to find in urban centres let alone in smaller places . . . if you do have access, these folks may be able to guide you to develop management techniques expressly for you and to identify triggers for your anxiety . . .remember . . .come back here as often as you like . . . .take care, kc