Student loan debt continues to rise, and U.S. borrowers now owe a total of about $1.2 trillion in both government-issues and private student loans.

In fact, student loan debt has grown so much recently that it is a much greater burden than credit cards, and is second only to mortgage debt for the average household. As of April 2014, the average U.S. household owed about $33,600 in student loans and less than $16,000 in credit card debt.

Not as bad as it sounds
Despite the higher balances, student loans can actually be much more manageable than credit cards debt. For starters, interest rates are generally lower. The average student loan comes with an interest rate of about 6.8%, so the average household's student loan payment comes to about $387 under the standard 10-year repayment plan.

In contrast, if you owed that same amount of $33,600 on credit cards at 17.9% interest and planned on paying it off in 10 years, your payment would be more than $600 per month. And bear in mind some credit cards have even higher interest rates.

In other words, comparing student loan and credit card balances is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison in terms of the burden they can put on borrowers.

Additionally, there are plenty of ways to lessen, or even eliminate, the burden of student loans. Unlike with other forms of debt, there are a lot of repayment options and forgiveness programs available for government loan programs, as well as flexible forbearance and deferment options you could take advantage of if you need them.

Here are some of the ways you may be able to reduce the strain of your student loans.