Navy SEALs are trained to be calm, cool and collected in any stressful scenario. But even the strongest and well-trained men of the military have their breaking points.

For Nick Norris, that point occurred in 2013 after tragically losing his brother the previous year. That was on top of the friends he lost during tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the father who passed away while he was deployed.

The unexpected death of his brother caused Norris, who at the time was stationed on the West Coast between tours, to reassess his career path.

“The job comes first, right?” he said. “It’s our country and our duty and our mission, and my wife understood that all the way up to that point [before his brother died]. She became a very independent woman during my deployment, but now we had a daughter to think about and I realized what could happen to me as an active duty service member.”

After leaving the military after 14 years of service, Norris realized that not only did he have a family to care for, he had to look in the mirror.

“I never really grieved for all the people I lost,” he said. “I never really allowed myself to be emotionally vulnerable. It’s a major issue within our military service members.”

Once he entered civilian life, Norris started looking into holistic wellness to help him with some of the struggles he was dealing with post-service. Two of the solutions he focused on — proper hydration and proper rest — led to his career and the founding of Protekt in 2019. The company’s products include beverage supplements that are calorie and sugar free. Healthy living and wellness are important aspects of life for Norris, who acts as the company’s CEO.

“The company was the culmination of years of trial and error, but trial and error on a personal level,” Norris said. “Like understanding the kind of things that really move the needle for me to promote wellness and kind of helped me get on a path to being a better version of myself, whether that be physically, mentally, or spiritually. You just don’t flip a switch and then all of a sudden, overnight, you’re good to go.”

Sleep deprivation was common for Norris during his military service, a concern that extended to his civilian days. He found the kinds of products that Protekt now markets helped him become that better version of himself.

“With the routine of proper hydration, I really saw marked changes, positive changes in my sleep,” Norris said. “And as I started to sleep better, I started to feel better. I started to better recover from workouts, and felt more motivated to go and work out. I felt as far as my mental clarity, my ability to articulate and interact with people led me to feeling more vibrant and alive.”

Norris’ successes as the CEO of a wellness company doesn’t mean he’s turned his back on military life entirely. He remains an advocate and supporter of veterans who are struggling with mental health issues.

“I’m a board member with an organization called Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS),” said Norris of the group that helps veterans recover from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. “I can’t say enough good things about it. One of the biggest impacts is that I feel like I’m able to participate and be an advocate. Mental health has been stigmatized for so long and we hide it so often. Military service members should never be ashamed or feel guilty for not feeling well from a mental health standpoint. We need to embrace it more openly.

“There’s nothing wrong with emotional vulnerability. Too often, men are told to suck it up and don’t wear your emotions on your sleeve. And that’s the exact opposite of what’s going to lead to a healthier life. I’m trying to be a small beacon of light in that room.”

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