This research examined the effects of anxiety on subsequent message processing. Experiment 1, conducted just before the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, manipulated anxiety by presenting Hong Kong participants with negative or positive potential consequences of the handover. Consistent with research documenting the cognitive deficits produced by anxiety, lower levels of message elaboration were obtained under high (vs. low) anxiety for an anxiety-unrelated message. However, for an anxiety-related message (e.g., a message about the upcoming handover ceremony), anxiety did not lower message elaboration, presumably because increased processing motivation compensated for cognitive deficits. Experiment 2 then revealed that, even for a motivating anxiety-related message (regarding job prospects), high anxiety results in a different type of processing compared to low anxiety. Specifically, capacity pressures caused heuristic cues in the message to bias the nature of systematic processing under high-anxiety conditions.