You may want to consider student loan consolidation, since this process can lower your monthly payments and lock in a low interest rate. However, it is important to realize that consolidation can extend the life of your loan and greatly increase the amount of interest you pay. If you do consolidate, you may consider paying the loans back at a quicker rate once you are in a better financial situation. You may need to consolidate to a Federal Direct Loan if you want to qualify for income based payment options or loan forgiveness in the future.
You are allowed to have three years of unemployed deferment on your student loans. You can take advantage of this deferment if you do not have a job. Since you are only allowed three years, you should carefully consider your options before claiming deferment. During deferment the federal government will pay the interest on the subsidized Stafford loans. You will be responsible for the interest payments on the unsubsidized Stafford loans.
If you have a low paying job you may qualify for economic hardship deferment. This is usually for a specified amount of time. Your lender will let you know how long you have. If you do qualify take the opportunity to really focus on changing your financial situation. You may take the money you were paying for your student loan and apply it to credit card debt. If things are really tight you may be barely scraping by. Be careful not to add more debt to the picture however.
Forbearance is your final option when it comes to paying back your student loans. If you are having difficulty making your payments, then you need to contact your lender. They are usually willing to allow you to pay a lower payment, rather than put the loan into default. This should be your last option. It is important to be open with your lender, because they do want you to repay the money. By communicating with them when you have a problem, you can generally avoid being put into default on the loan.